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=1363727960 Storm Holloway

    “Microsoft’s alternative platform is simply not needed and almost no one wants it.”

    This is the kind of “reality” you’re talking about? Almost no one wants it? I’ve just ditched my iPhone for a Lumia. I canceled an iPhone 5 order to wait for the 920. I expect there are plenty of others like me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363727960 Storm Holloway

    Buddy, you’re a troll, not a journalist. Your articles do nothing but stir the pot. Your argument is predicated on a) that the market says they don’t want live tiles and b) the underdog shouldn’t try because they’re an underdog. There isn’t much logic there.

    When I, as an iPhone user, first saw the live tiles platform I loved it instantly. I didn’t switch because I didn’t see a killer device on the market. I’m switching this time around because the 920 is simply a better device than the i5. But how are icons better than live tiles? What advantage is the wasted space and lack of displayed information? If Apple adopts a similar model (seeing as how their OS is 5 years old and hasn’t undergone any radical changes) then you will eat your words.

    And your idea that because MS has a small market share it should back out entirely is ridiculous. Why should they back out? Everything you’re saying could have been said about the Xbox back in 2001 in the face of its competitors. That logic is flawed. Please write an article, seriously, that generates intelligent discussion rather than this fluff/filth. It’s unbecoming of a grown man.

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

    Nope. PC sales are slowing, globally. They are being replaced by iPads (and Macs to a lesser extent).

  • Kyle

    What a silly point of view. Even single digit market share translates to millions of units sold. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that. There will always be people who are bored with Big 2 or who go for price or underdogs. What a waste of time reading this article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/magneto.hunk Magneto Hunk

    apple sheep

  • byebyespammers

    Lol. I couldn’t figure out how to do this, so instead, I clicked on the settings icon in google news, Personalize Your News, Advanced, Adjust Sources, Add Source Unwired View, and then drag the Slider to “never”. Thanks for the idea vmgunz, lol.

  • bashmohandes

    WOW this is actually hard to read, I hate to say it, but sir, you are absolutely wrong, and need to get out of the Apple bubble and see the world.

  • Enflu3nza

    i stopped reading at ‘I use Apple Maps on my iPhone…it does not suck.’

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

    MS should abort? and this author should jump off a bridge. I’ll bookmark this article for further reference (further laugh)
    For each apple device in the world there are more than 90 devices in the world running some type of Microsoft software, that soon will be an overwhelming reality as well in the mobile industry.

  • cubs223425

    You should be fired for holding such a strong bias that it ruins any hope of journalistic integrity from you, and perhaps the entire site.
    You say hat no one want Windows Phone? Go look at the fact that Italy’s Lumia 920 pre-order stock has sold out FOR THE SECOND TIME. With the initial run of Windows Phone, the Lumia 900 was barely out the door before it was announced that its HARDWARE made it incapable of getting the Apollo update, though it would get as many updates that didn’t require the Windows Phone 8 kernel/hardware as possible.
    In Europe, it is said that the hype for the Lumia 920 is greater than that of the iPhone 5, probably because Nokia is a Finnish company (in case someone as unintelligent as yourself does not know, Finnish = Finland = Europe). You should abort your also-ran “career” as a journalist, because it is inconceivably bad.
    I will congratulate you on actually bothering me with your poor “reporting” skills to such an extent that I left a rather rude comment that I do not even care to apologize for because I find you such a bad “writer.” At least you got some attention.

  • pjcamp

    That is due to a variety of factors, not the least being that PCs have been around for over 30 years now and no market can grow explosively forever. The only people “replacing” actual computers with iPads are people whose needs are so limited they never needed a real computer in the first place. Most iPad purchases are as second computers, not primary ones. In any case, a maturing market is not the same thing as a dying market.

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

    LOL to the “Imperialist” part. Lb over kilo is a good way to spot a close southern North American mind.

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

    RB, You are obviously ignorant, MS doesn’t create apps (only a few), but third party developers. e.g. Angry Birds, YES there is Angry Birds for windows phones.
    since you know nothing about developing apps let me tell you a bit.
    Windows 8 (full PC/tablet version) will be running in around 400 million devices by the end of 2013 (more than all iOS devices ever sold) Developers go where the money is. Apps for the W8 plataform can easily be ported and/or coexist/interact with WP8 apps, it is only a matter of months for apps in the windows store to outnumber apple store apps. Add to that all the existing professional software for full windows instances e.g: CS6 adobe software (Photoshop, Dreamweaver) and other stuff that adults use for work.
    Brian Hall, you never see any respected columnist answering back all the feedback. You are obviously outnumber and disliked.

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

    Unlike you, I will apologize for this article — if in a whole year from now, Windows Phone’s share of the global smartphone market share is above 7%.

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

    Best comment ever made here.

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

    Apple has sold over 400 million iOS devices. Not counting all the Macs, by your math, Microsoft has 400,000,000 x 90 = 36 billion! Back to school for you!

  • cannuckinus

    “PCs will never again be the dominant platform. Microsoft will never
    again control the primary personal computing OS. Never.”

    Never again?

    It still close to 90% of the world computers

    iOS 2.87%
    MacOSX 7.48%

  • mbson

    Fanboy alert! I’m not sure how well WP will do, but It will certainly not fail completely.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1070643487 Mark Bagley

    Is there any way I can sue Stasys Bielinis to get back the five minutes of my life that I just wasted reading this piece of shit article?

  • cannuckinus

    I am surprised they are slowing down. I would have thought they would be nill especially in the last quarter. Why would anybody buy a new PC when you know Windows 8 is coming. As for iOS (iPad +iPhone) they are together at 2.87% and it has been over 5 years since its release

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

    I don’t know whom your’e talking to, but I have a desktop and a laptop running Windows 8, yeah maybe you meant WP8 but yes even if Nokia’s Lumia is collateral damage, it is not the only device to see the light this October, HTC, Samsung, Nokia and others have multiple devices selling like pancakes before the end of the month.
    Revenue? think what this means for MS, it costs nothing producing copies of Windows Phone 8 software. It is not a tangible object. No need for poor Chinese sweatshops breaking their backs to produce cheap iPhones that apple will overprice to the end user. MS will always be a win-win

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

    Is this the best thing you could come up with? I said “Some Type of MS Software” not Operating systems.
    Tons of Office and “Virtual PCs” instances installed in Macs and other devices such as Linux.
    BTW MS operating systems are still running 80% of the world devices using an operating system.
    Back to school for you, start with learning how to read.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/ablelawrence Able Lawrence

    You are as ,much or more of an idiot to call android a copy which shows you have never used an android to know what it really is. Once you use and “get” android, you will never use an iDevice and wished everything else you touch was like it. iOS will go the same way as RIM since innovation stopped long ago and apple will be back to its original 5-10% market share. I believe Microsoft has a good chance of replacing iPhone and becoming the number 2 platform after android. Eventually we will see desktops running android and microsoft will become a primarily enterprise player with integrated mobile devices and servers

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/ablelawrence Able Lawrence

    Look at his face and you can read the expression. Really high up I guess

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

    “Tablets and smartphones size of Windows PC”? troll or ignorant?
    http://stats.wikimedia.org/archive/squid_reports/2012-08/SquidReportOperatingSystems.htm

  • vincent

    He mentions “no one”. I actually hold buying any phone till Lumia 920 comes out, except I am no human.. Maybe I am robot?

  • vmgunz

    Hey thank you.. I just find out how to block stupid article from appearing in Google News.. :)

  • http://twitter.com/DinoSuitGirl Leilei Pan

    omg trolololol… I want my 5mins of reading this garbage back

  • vmgunz

    It’s not all about market share.. Do you want to suggest to Apple to drop their MAC platform few years ago when their market share is below 5%, and just focus on iOS platform? That’s the most stupid idea..

  • vmgunz

    And Android has similar problem for few years when it first comes until Android 2.1 Eclair or 2.2 froyo. If you are the boss of google and follows your advice, Android does not exist.. And LUCKY you are NOT!!

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

    Apples (ha) vs oranges. Even with a 5% market share, as a *hardware* company, Apple can do fine. Microsoft makes software. That’s where nearly every penny comes from. Software is a business of scale. By focusing on their own platforms (in this case, Windows Phone), they take away their focus from getting their software onto as many ‘personal computers’ as possible: iPhones, iPads, Androids/Nexus.

  • Lincoln

    This article was the biggest waste of time.

  • publicelement

    “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. ” ROFL ROFL ROFL ROFL

  • cubs223425

    And wasn’t it shown that any time an Apple device is connected to a computer, it oads all of the GPS data to the computer?

  • cubs223425

    Regardless, you say that Microsoft shoul “abort Windows Phone,” based on the information that:
    –From Q1 to Q2, there was something like a 1.5% increase in marketshare. Where I read that said that Q3 numbers were not available, but I would fully expect them to have slipped a bit from Q2 to Q3, as that is when you got the announcement that legacy devices would not get Apollo, but rather 7.8.
    –In Italy, Windows Phone allegedly has something like a 10% marketshare.
    –In Italy, Lumia 920 preorders have sold out TWICE, with the second batch selling out in 3 days (no information on the time for the first one)
    –In both France AND Italy, Lumia 920 hype has allegedly exceeded that of the iPhone 5.
    –Best Buy’s preorders for the Lumia 920 (but not the HTC Windows Phone 8X Squared HD Maxx) were taken down, with the belief being that they also sold out in a single day.
    –Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 share base code, making it relatively easy to port apps from one ecosystem to another, giving the potential Windows Phone app store a shot at a HUGE developer base
    –Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Apollo devices, meaning it will launch with 100,000+ apps, not exactly a tiny sum for a platform with ONLY 3.6% marketshare
    To sum that all up, your logic is that Microsoft should finally get a REALLY good head of steam, both domestically and internationally, then they should pull the rug out from under everyone and piss off what likely amounts to MILLIONS of potential customers, probably to such a great extent that it cuases a massive crash of customers on the Windows 8 side, which would also lead to a pretty substantial drop in stock value.
    Let’s just say that I am ecstatic that you do not run Microsoft, because they would probably be bankrupt by now.

  • cubs223425

    You mean like how Sony and Nintendo had such commanding leads that the Xbox could never compete?

  • cubs223425

    Yes, I’m sure Windows Phone would be put on iOS and Android…WHATISTHISIDONTEVEN

  • Sam Charara

    WoW I have never seen such an iTarted iSheep article in my life! How can this guy not believe that a company like Microsoft is not capable of a comeback when they are in far better shape than apple was when it made its comeback. This guy is just a dumb apple fan boy typing this article on his Macbook in a Starbucks and then reading it on his iphone on the way out. Do us PC fans a favor and don’t write about Microsoft anymore you are clearly to bias to be a true reporter.

  • ihatestupid

    I’m going to do the same. Maybe in the near future Unwired View will
    consider closing shop when they realize there are much better source for
    unbiased technology reviews and their share of readership comes down to
    2 people a day.

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

    yea… says the sold out microsoft surfaces in the USA and UK.

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

    define “objective fact”

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

    agreed. good points salman.

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

    agreed. im switching from t-mobile to at&t just for the lumia 920.
    these apple fanboys are not normal people. theyre sheep.
    baaaaaa sheep, baaaaa

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

    …says the journalist, i mean BLOGGER, who thinks microsoft is failing.

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

    he’s no journalist. just like this isnt an article.
    this is a bloggers post. just like a huge percentage of web-based material.
    everyone and their mother has a voice now. this guy’s no different.

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

    are you retarded or just on a 24/7 high?
    not only do you write stupid blog posts, but you give idiotic business advice– to MICROSOFT! hahahaha
    id get it if it was pizza hut or something- but this is microsoft.
    let me rephrase that– MICRO….
    SOFT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363727960 Storm Holloway

    This is the same argument I’ve made on this topic. If a product is clearly better then people will adopt it, regardless of whether it has a small market share.

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

    too bad. i guess BS Hall disagreed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363727960 Storm Holloway

    And should MS have aborted Xbox as well? By your logic, they should have, but now they’re on top in that market. Explain how this case is fundamentally different from that one.

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

    ferdinand ta wasn’t talking about iOS devices.
    back to preschool for you.
    in other words…
    for every single APPLE product (macbook, iphone, ipod, isuck) ahhh screw it. nevermind. youre too stupid.