In memoriam: Windows Phone

Microsoft has written off Windows Phone. The company has announced that support will be suspended in December: No new life will be given to the operating system. With this, Apple and Google ultimately draw the longest straw. How did it come to this?

In October 2010, actor and author Stephen Fry couldn't hide his enthusiasm when he was put forward by Microsoft to promote Windows Phone in London. Fry was previously known as an iPhone fanatic, but was immediately convinced of the potential of the new operating system.

He had good reason to be excited: Microsoft's operating system was way past its time. Where iOS and Android worked with stately icons, Microsoft innovated with dynamic tiles that gave live information about the next appointments in your calendar and your missed calls. You also saw examples of incoming messages. Only later did such options and display functionalities come to today's known smartphones.

It is quickly forgotten that phones with Microsoft's operating system felt superior to the competition in several ways: the on-screen keyboard generally worked excellently and the display of notifications was elegant and very useful. Microsoft scored points especially on ease of use, for example by linking many services to each other. In that regard, Microsoft, like Apple, understood that users want one solution for all their devices.

There were some strong phones, including the Samsung Omnia 7 with a 4-inch OLED display, the Dell Venue Pro with a sliding keyboard and the HTC 7 Surround, which scored highly with the integrated speaker. But especially in the following year, Microsoft's operating system really came into its own, with the arrival of the Windows Phone 8X and 8S from HTC and the Lumia 800 from Nokia. In addition, the Lumia 1020 set the tone for phone cameras. A lot of Windows Phones were not perfect, but on important aspects such as appearance, battery life and design, phones with this operating system scored points.

Then why did it go wrong?

Presumably mainly because Microsoft invariably failed to attract app developers. Every time Nokia released a new phone, it had to justify why, for example, there was still no support for the Instagram app. Google achieved much greater success in providing the most essential apps and managed to build a more successful app ecosystem.

YouTube, in particular, was sorely missed on the Windows Phones, and that's no surprise. Google and Microsoft discussed the video app for years, but Google continued to hold back: the YouTube app would never come to Windows Phones. It is speculated that the internet giant wanted to prevent Microsoft's operating system from becoming a formidable competitor to Android.

By 2014, all the good news about Windows Phone appeared to have dried up completely. In that year, Microsoft made a major acquisition and paid approximately 5.4 billion euros for Nokia's telephone branch. What followed was a series of new models and repositioning attempts (Windows Phone became Windows Mobile), but the damage was already done: the competition thundered past.

In 2015 it was clear: iPhone and Android devices continue to play the largest role in the smartphone market. According to research by Gartner, in 2015, 96.8% of all smartphones were running on Android or iOS. Microsoft then had to make do with a market share of 2.5%. The percentage is likely to have fallen further.

In October 2017, the high word came out: Microsoft's operating system is dead. Windows Mobile guru Joe Belfiore brought the bad news himself on Twitter.

End of support

Windows Mobile development may have been halted. Microsoft still supported Windows Mobile after its announcement in October 2017. However, in January 2019, Microsoft announced that that was also coming to an end. Microsoft will continue to support Windows Mobile until December 2019. Microsoft recommends switching to Android or iOS afterwards.

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