Microsoft should abort Windows Phone

I use Apple Maps on my iPhone. Like tens of millions of other users, at least. Despite what you’ve heard, it does not suck. In fact, for me, Apple Maps is far better than previous versions of Google Maps on iPhone. It loads faster, looks better and gives me turn-by-turn navigation (in the US). I suspect that for most people, however, Google Maps on an Android is superior to Apple Maps on an iPhone, for now. The battle between Apple and Google for the future of personal computing is by no means over. Small wonder, then, that the two giant combatants do whatever they can to undermine the other.

Google wants to record and sell all my personal information, even the data captured from Apple’s platform. Android handset makers seem intent to copy everything Apple does. Apple wants to kill off Android, whether by patent wars, copyright or other means. The dogs of war have been unleashed. The smartphone wars are go! Apple and Google are worthy combatants. For Microsoft, however, I think their platform, Windows Phone (8), is destined for a fate similar to Palm – oblivion.

The market has spoken, over and over again, The market wants app phones, not tiles. The market wants iPhone and Android, not Windows Phone, not Lumia. Android is the smartphone market share leader, iPhone is the profit leader. Microsoft remains an also-ran, with a global smartphone install base of approximately 2%, less than Samsung’s own Bada OS. The future is not bright. Even sales of the Windows Phone flagship, Nokia Lumia, have fallen quarter-over-quarter.

While this may be due to buyers holding off on Windows Phone 7 until Windows Phone 8 handsets appear in large numbers, the overwhelming reality suggests that, unlike the PC wars, where one platform – Windows – dominated, the smartphone wars will sustain two separate platforms. Only two, Android and iOS; these are your winners. Microsoft’s alternative platform is simply not needed and almost no one wants it. Indeed, things have gotten so bad for Windows Phone that there is a good chance that Microsoft will offer its own “Surface Phone” using WP8. This, also, will fail.

Microsoft should abort the Windows Phone platform. – now. There is a better path. Microsoft must abandon the very notion of controlling (a) platform. Concentrate instead on making the very best software (and apps) for the dominant personal computing platforms on the market. Make no mistake, smartphones are personal computers and Android and iOS are the dominant platforms. This will continue probably through this decade, at least. Instead of a computer on every desktop, we will have a computer in every hand. Instead of a billion PCs, we will have at least 2 billion smartphones, probably by 2016, maybe sooner. Then three billion, then four billion…

Microsoft still offers the best “office” applications. They still make a solid web browser. They have excellent email and calendaring programs. They build leading software for every business, for very large businesses, for government and for consumers. They could have the leading applications – software – on both iOS and Android.

Focusing on building a new platform, one that cuts across PCs, which are dying, and tablets, a market owned by Apple, and smartphones, which have now solidified around iOS and Android, is a strategy doomed to failure. Microsoft’s future is in user software, not in controlling the underlying operating system. The world went mobile, quickly, and Microsoft simply missed the revolution. Chasing Apple, by building their own devices, offering music and movie services, and constructing copycat stores is a dead end. Hoping they can magically catch up to the massive (and growing) Android install base is a fool’s errand. This will not happen.

For a generation, Microsoft has controlled the personal computer. Their Windows install base rose to just over one billion units. It is a different world now. Android and iOS are already approaching that magical billion install number, perhaps they’ve already surpassed it. We are in the midst of a personal computing revolution. The extant Windows install base has no bearing on the future. Having a Windows PC in no way will help Microsoft sell appreciable numbers of Windows tablets or smartphones, if any.

But software for others, for iOS and Android, is a very real opportunity. Already, several analysts have suggested Microsoft will offer Office for both iOS and Android sometime in 2013. I would like Outlook on my iPhone and the very best Skype experience. With smartphones leading the BYOD revolution at work, the integration of work and consumer applications will be huge. This is Microsoft’s opportunity.

But will this opportunity be big enough?

I think this question misses the point. There simply may be no other realistic future for Microsoft. Apple has already sold about 100 million iPads. Apple offers its integrated iPad iWork suite for $30. For years, Microsoft has been able to charge well over $100 for the PC version, and often much more. They will not have such price making power in the future. Still, they will have the opportunity to make more software and put that on more devices. Instead of 1 billion PCs, we will have billions and billions of smartphones and tablets. Only, instead of Windows – any flavor — almost certainly these will be using iOS or Android.

The platform war, from Microsoft’s perspective, is over. Yes, milk the aging PC base as long as they can. But Microsoft must look to the future. The future simply will not come with devices that are dependent upon Microsoft. That was last century’s war. Microsoft was the personal computing champion of the twentieth century, not the twenty-first. Spending precious time, resources and management focus on futile efforts to re-establish personal computing platform dominance is a non-starter. Microsoft has already lost.

But they can do so much. Who has more software experience in the enterprise, the small business, the household, than Microsoft? Such efforts can also bring focus to the company. Consider Windows, Surface, Windows RT, Windows Phone, Xbox, Windows Media, Xbox Music, Microsoft, Office, Skype, Zune. The company has become lost. Where Steve Ballmer sees cohesion the market senses confusion. All the work to hold onto a dying PC platform and create new platforms has made them ineffectual everywhere. No tablet sales, no smartphone sales to speak of, and Apple’s Mac OS whipping Windows quarter after quarter, year after year, in growth.

Yet imagine Skype on 500 million smartphones. That will not happen unless Microsoft works hard to optimize it for iOS and Android. Same with Office. Same even with Xbox Live, for example. Apple and Google have both shown that if you compete directly with them, with their smartphone platforms, they will do whatever they can to cap you at the knees. Is it possible that Microsoft, once so feared, once the company that stopped others from having a key role on its platform, could soon become the ‘neutral’ provider of the best applications on the best devices? Yes, but not if they continue work on a competing smartphone OS that will – trust me – never amount to anything.

Do not be fooled. Do not think that Microsoft – finally – has all the pieces in place. This is a delusion. Microsoft spent ten years allowing others, primarily Apple and Google, dominate digital media, the cloud, smartphones, tablets. Microsoft will not catch up. But they can change, they can go ‘back to the future’. They can once again become a great software company. PCs will never again be the dominant platform. Microsoft will never again control the primary personal computing OS. Never. But more than ever, the world needs great software.

Author: Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at www.brianshall.com.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514097850 Florent Gjonbalaj

    cite your sources, child.
    correction.
    cite your CREDIBLE sources.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    This site includes articles by many different people covering the mobile industry. Boycott me if you wish but you’ll miss out if you boycott the site.

  • Uyen Do

    I have totally about 15 so called computing devices in my house and my office. 13 windows 7 (laptops and desktops), 1 ipad3, 1 Android phone. In a very short time, it is going to be 13 windows + 2 Surface tablets + 2 Lumia 920. Dont know what to do with the Ipad 3 and the Android phone… maybe for sale on Ebay.

  • ArgamArtashyan

    The main mistake of the author is that the smartphones won’t be the future–we’ll be using mobile handsets like tablets or something else. So it’s obvious Windows will beat all its rival thanks to dominance in the PC market. And I am sure the Surface is the tablet that devices of the future will look like (http://www.teqno-logical.com/1485/microsoft-surface-will-dethrone-the-ipad/)

  • jeapstop

    Windows 739.78% Windows XP37.91% Windows Vista5.31% iPad3.24% iPhone2.30% Mac OS X 10.62.06% Mac OS X 10.72.05% Mac OS X 10.81.41% Linux1.10% Android 2.30.99% Java ME0.83% Mac OS X 10.50.61% Android 4.00.58% Windows 80.26% Pike v7.8 release 5170.23% Android 2.20.19% BlackBerry0.16% Symbian0.15% Mac OS X 10.40.14% iPod0.13% Android 3.20.07% Windows 20000.06% Windows Phone OS 7.50.06% Kindle Fire0.04%

  • jeapstop

    I did not even read the 2nd line of this article which was written by a sheep

  • ashwin

    wtf :D….this guy is a apple lover for sure and for all the wrong reasons… but I am glad windows phone is getting ridiculed…. every amazing inventor or invention was first ridiculed… it means its gonna be a success :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/fernando182 Ferdinand Ta

    Just skip the article, the good stuff are the comments and the author bashing them, what a looser, worst journalist ever.

  • Shashi

    R u in US…. I see that folks in US think the only market out there is the US Market and come up with such weird analysis…. the fact the iOS is Shrinking, Android has captured the world market, Windows is just launching… the only big looser is iOS.. reason they stopped innovating and started Marketing Pseudo Innovations.. With really good Keynotes that are loosing the shine….
    I use an iPhone, Mac & iPad and i’m bored with same UI since 2009. Now i’m moving to Android with the next Nexus.

  • peadarwagon

    So..because of A and G’s commanding leads there is ‘no reason’ for people to choose WP. That is the dumbest line of thinking. Flashback…..well there is this new innovative thing called a computer, but everyone is using a typewriter, let’s just stick with that for all of eternity like mindless drones. Your argument has me convinced you may be a juvenile. If your argument is truly what you believe, that is so sad and defeating. I am switching to WP because it is different in a great way. Don’t be scared, you can still use you iThings and watch time and time again as they play catch up to others. Maybe someday the iPhone will get better, but Apple dosent have to innovate if all of its sheep are happy with whatever they turn out.

  • Miguel Pinto

    I can’t even count the number of crappy articles that unwiredview has been posting lately. Where are the brand agnostic articles that you used to have? But I see a common point on all the crappy articles, Brian S Hall. I think it is time for unwiredview to rethink their posture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=514097850 Florent Gjonbalaj
  • Leonardo Cardozo

    After reading this article I almost had a heart attack so hard I laughed. People, he is getting the attention he wants on his page. Please just block this “S Hall” on your Google News and don’t comment. He is a MS hater and this is not the first time he writes cr@p like that to increase the hits on his page. The best we do is boycott this entire website just for hiring this “S Hall”.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    Microsoft is a great American company. I am proud of them. I certainly do not hate them. But I think that focusing on their own smartphone platform ecosystem takes away from where their true future lies, in building software for personal computers. Smartphones are the new personal computers. I see no realistic way that Microsoft ever captures more than about 5% or so of the global smartphone OS market. Windows Phone is a failed strategy.

  • wpcentral

    guest? the author forgot to sign in

  • wpcentral

    how can there be “no room” we as consumers have the choice. we aren’t assigned one or the other, or nothing? where did you come from?

  • wpcentral

    How many people do you think work at Microsoft?

  • wpcentral

    Oh OK I understand now, I didn’t get the memo. Does everyone understand that? If there is something already in place, there is no reason for anything new to appear. So Brian, are you happy with Apple Maps because it works just fine with your horse and buggy? I’m assuming you don’t have a car because there was no room for them in the marketplace with carriages and stables everwhere.

  • wpcentral

    what did he disagree with?

  • iohoig

    Just like Lumia 800 was a pre-oder success in Europe…

  • Maddeness14

    Wow…talk about missing the mark. I wish I could get back the time I spent reading this article and actually giving it a fair chance. Let me ask you a question. Has Microsoft EVER had a smartphone that so closely mimics the operating system of a standard PC? NO! Guess what, Windows 8 is going to succeed and when you tell consumers that they can purchase a tablet AND a phone running the same platform, they are going to do it (especially at the enterprise level). There is nothing more attractive than having your documents/pictures/music etc. hosted in the cloud and bringing it down to any device that you are using.
    Also, you must take into account that there are so many more Microsoft developers out there vs Android and Apple. Microsoft has made it so easy to write an app that not only works on your desktop, but your tablet and phone as well.
    And to your reference about tiles. You’re telling me you would rather have a simple shortcut (where you have to load the entire app, just to see if you have new data) vs. a smart live tile that efficiently listens for new data and at a glance you can see what is going on?
    Hey, at least your new iPhone got taller so you can have 1 more row of shortcuts. Not to mention, you got a sweet new proprietary connector…I bet nothing makes you happier than buying new chargers and adaptors.
    Have fun in the past, buddy. Demand for the Nokia is already higher than the iPhone 5 in Europe.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    In the smartphone wars, the frontlines are in the US, China, India and soon Africa, Brazil and Indonesia. Whether demand in Europe is greater for Nokia than iPhone 5, which I doubt, is not terribly relevant to the larger picture.

  • cannuckinus

    Nice of you to delete my comment fatso

  • Kranthi Kiran

    “I think Windows Phone will remain as a very minor platform.”
    Is that all the logic you’ve got ? Belief ?

    Being “better” doesn’t often change the reality.
    Then what does ?

  • cannuckinus

    iOS is only 2.87%

  • http://twitter.com/netatude Fernando

    English please

  • John

    Vote up if you agree Brian S Hall should abort blogging.

  • http://twitter.com/iliepalie2012 Ilie Patros

    apple maps not sucks ? oh man, take it easy , lol

  • Maddeness14

    The Nokia Lumia 920 is also going to be available in China where Microsoft has recently launched an online store to promote it’s new Surface tablet. Any thoughts regarding that?????
    You really think consumers are going to purchase a windows 8 tablet and stop there? No, they are going to double down and really re-think their avenue for their mobile device as well. You would probably respond with, well…Microsoft won’t sell enough tablets. Fine, consumers will still consider a Windows 8 mobile device if they upgrade to Windows 8 on their PC.
    You still have not come up with any answers to my comments in my previous post.

  • wvvllvvw

    BAD article. Wow – PC isn’t a dominant platform? Describing microsoft as a “failure”? Does someone have apple so far up his @ss, that absolutely everything else cannot be considered? What is it with Apple Fanboys? I just don’t get it… to put so much passion and energy behind your precious phone… IT’S A F**KING PHONE. Can you try and relax? (or do they have to make an app for that?)

  • Maddeness14

    Since you “doubt it”…I’ll back up my previous statement about demand.
    “According to SeekingAlpha, the Lumia 920 phones are already sold out before it became available in Italy. It seems that many Italians would rather wait some weeks for the Windows 8 phone than buy the iPhone 5, which is already available. The Windows Phone operating system already has a market share of 10 percent in Italy, which is one of the highest rates in Europe and North America.
    As for France, larges phone seller Phonehouse said that there is a high demand for the Lumia 920, which is more than the iPhone 5 even though Apple’s new smartphone caused a lot of ruckus in the market.
    “Not only the phone’s demand has passed iPhone 5, but the phone also became the top seller in the website,” SeekingAlpha reported.
    If demand will be as high in the U.S. for the Lumia 920 as it is in Europe, Nokia has a good chance of having a strong holiday season.”

  • hohum

    Brian,
    I think it is the ignorance and selfish apple narcisism
    that will be apples undoing as it has in the past.
    No-one has a interest in making apple a success. This is what is happening. Alienating the very people that provide 95% of the innovations is a pathway to market marginalisation.
    You really are way off-base on this.

  • Dylan Harlow

    Brian look. I know you like the iPhone. But not everyone does. Hell, i hate it. It’s pretentious and lacks any amount of innovation since the original. There are many people that want windows phone 8. Microsoft has plenty of money to spend on this “Oblivion doomed platform” (way to be dramatic). Windows Phone is one of the most innovative entrances into the mobile market ever. So what if it has low market share? At least they are trying something different. To sum up this very mature comment, i would like to finish by saying that you are an ignorant apple fanboy, and that i hate you. Good day.

    (P.S. My name is Dylan Harlow (Since you like to call people out for not including their name) and i use a Droid Razr Maxx android phone. Now please stop writing articles.)

  • Izzy A

    Actually you should return the Windows 7 Phone you just got. Windows Phone 8 is coming out in a month, and none of the Windows 7 Phones will get the upgrade. I got a Windows Phone 7 device (Dell Venue Pro, the only phone truly designed to be a Windows Phone 7) when they first came out, so I’m already out of contract.

  • ninshin

    that’s not their primary source of revenue. just with windows and office they generate so much money from sales to consumers and businesses, it’s ridiculous. they’re not dying at all. microsoft surface is as much as xbox was in the beginning. a foray into a market they didn’t participate in before. they might not succeed, or they might, but it’s just plain incorrect to say that microsoft is failing because one or two divisions aren’t doing as well as the top competitors.

  • MF

    Brian S Hall doesn’t even pretend or try to sound intelligent in this garbage of an article.

  • Geek at heart

    Microsoft is a tech bohemouth. People want to use their platform for desktop and mobile. It makes total sense for Microsoft to have a phone platform. This is more of the same rubbish.

  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002VH8ECQ Brian S Hall

    I think the idea of a fully integrated desktop and mobile phone makes sense. But I think Apple is years ahead of Microsoft here. Also, we simply do not need to choose Windows Phone just because we use Windows on the desktop. That’s my point. iPhone and Android are more than enough. Thus, Microsoft should stop wasting resources on building a alternate phone platform and instead concentrate on building software/apps for the dominant phone platforms, Android and iOS. Windows Phone is a wasted effort.