So this week has been one of the many in which I honestly wonder what Microsoft is doing in mobile.
There has been this growing feeling (on my part) that Microsoft’s retrenchment was a major miscalculation; and one that is just another link in the chain of misery that has followed Windows Phone.
It is as if Microsoft has been hoping if it says nothing and does nothing, Windows Mobile will just die and they can start over (or not).
Microsoft has said in the past it plans to maintain its mobile platform and it has sent out patches and has updated the OS as part of the larger Creator’s update. But the company has also not done anything new for the platform.
There are two concrete truths as I see it. One is Microsoft is concentrating on its successful platform and distancing itself from the unsuccessful one. Two, mobile is to important an environment to be dependent on being a software vendor.
There are parts of Redmond who believe their mobile focus should be on gaining a stronger foothold on iOS and Android. Which is why Office was first available on iOS and why there is DeX optimized version for the Samsung Galaxy S8. I think this is a good idea in half; they need to be on those platforms but not ignore their own.
Microsoft needs a mobile platform; a place to showoff services in a way they simply can’t on the big two systems. No matter how much integration they can get on Android it’ll never be a Microsoft device. I know some like Paul Thurrott think it is time for Microsoft to focus on Android as their platform but that, in my opinion, would be as effective as the retrenchment strategy.
It’s time for Microsoft to stop deluding itself that it can avoid mobile.
If Microsoft’s pullback was to access the future of whatever they think mobile is, they need to share the results.
If they are aiming to get out of the market, go Android or be an ISV, or go a different direction they need to say something. What is occurring now is unprofessional and a disservice to users and developers.
Microsoft’s blunders in mobile, the ones in their control, were avoidable. They weren’t avoided because Microsoft spent crucial years in internecine conflict. Their decision to retrench mobile and focus on the devices they had traction (PC) with has only delayed them and put them further back. Microsoft hasn’t and is not doing the work needed for a come back to the mobile market. They haven’t got a vendor to pick up the low end market where Windows Phone had traction. Companies like BLU or ZTE aren’t there with devices. Also their refocus on enterprises hasn’t gone farther than the NYPD and the HP Elite x3.
Microsoft should have treated mobile in the same way it has treated Azure and the cloud; as the future of its fortunes. Instead it was treated like the Zune; a me too product never brought into the larger portfolio.
And the biggest sin Microsoft has committed has been silence.
The weak statements of commitment have been followed up with signs that mobile is being winded down. The number of devices have been reduced. And the feature set between PC and Mobile is inconsistent.
Windows may mean less to Redmond’s bottom line but that doesn’t detract from the need for it to continue to do well. There is also the need for Windows to continue its transformation away from desktop computing.
Whether they like it or not mobile needs to be resolved. I just don’t think Microsoft can hold off on it forever.