Microsoft who originally launched their first smartphones back in 2002, compared to both Apple and Google (launching in 2007 and 2008 respectively) have been in the smartphone game a lot longer than their main competitors, but looking at their current marketshare they look more like the underdog.
By 2007, Microsoft’s smartphone platform was the most popular in the US, but this quickly faded after Apple and Google entered the market. Today, these numbers are at an all-time low with US marketshare of Windows Mobile (and Windows Phone) down from 4.8% in early 2015 to just 1.6% at the end of December 2015. In the UK, Microsoft is in a much healthier position of 9.2% with iOS at 38.6% and Android taking the lions share with 51.9%.
With Microsoft continuing to struggle in its home turf and its marketshare slipping away in spite of the launch of its new Windows Mobile 10 platform and phones late last year, the question again arises – what does the future of Windows Mobile look like to Microsoft?
Despite both the loss in marketshare and revenue from Windows Mobile, taking a look at Microsoft’s more recent tablet-laptop hybrid Surface Pro may provide some answers.
In their recently announced quarterly fiscal results they revealed an impressive $1.35 billion in revenue generated by their Surface line, up from $1.1 billion the same time last year. The now very successful Surface line is headed by Panos Panay who also recently took the lead on their Windows Mobile division. The most recent Microsoft flagship phones the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL launched under his leadership, however they would have been designed and developed before this time. On its announcement, the new feature which had the most time under the spotlight was Continiuum, which lets you plug up the phone to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and use it like a PC. The apps you have access to in this mode are the same as those available when using a phone and these will scale as needed to the screen plugged in.
Looking ahead to where the future of Windows Mobile lies, there have been rumours for some time of Microsoft working with Intel to get Windows Mobile working on x86 processors (the same ones that power their laptops and PCs) and even more recently x86 support was listed on their manufactures design guideline specification for Windows Mobile, although this information has since been pulled from their site.
With Panos Panay currently developing future Windows Mobile devices, alongside the next Surface models, we may see the next Windows Mobile flagship branded with the Surface stamp, reserving the Lumia name for both low and mid-range devices in the future.
A Surface flagship phone could see a Surface-like premium metal build and include an x86 processor, meaning when in Continuum mode, it can also run full PC applications in addition to scaling mobile apps. As well as using full PC apps on your phone, a more unified brand could make Microsoft flagship phones easier to market and sell to consumers with the simpler name ‘Surface Phone’ compared to the current ‘Lumia 950’.
The future of Windows Mobile may look bleak now, especially in the US, but with such a heritage with smart devices and the very successful launch of Windows 10 on PCs they can’t be dismissed.