Microsoft is done with the mobile operating system business. The man in charge of Windows 10, Joe Belfiore, announced the end of the mobile version in a tweet. Like Bill Gates, Belfiore switched to Android.
Current Windows mobile users – both of them – will continue to get security updates and other tweaks, but development of the system has ended. The market just wasn’t there, Belfiore tweeted…
We have tried VERY HARD to incent app devs. Paid money.. wrote apps 4 them.. but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest.
According to IDC, a research company, it was a very small volume indeed – three one-thousandths of a percent – 0.03% – of the global market in the second quarter of 2017. Put another way, out of every 100,000 phones sold from April through June, only three shipped with Windows mobile installed. That’s despite Microsoft’s best efforts and megabucks. Even buying Nokia and making its own phones didn’t help.
Android and Apple’s iOS own the market. Blackberry is making Android phones. Sailfish and Tizen are barely handing on. Tizen is making a place for itself as an embedded operating system for consumer electronics devices; Sailfish is struggling to find a niche as a super-secure platform for the terminally paranoid.
There’s a good article by Vlad Savov in The Verge that tells of all the things Microsoft did right – not least, the tiled, flat user interface it introduced was picked up by web developers and became a design staple.
But the one thing it couldn’t shake was the perception that Windows is your grandfather’s operating system and Microsoft is the Ninth Circle of cubicle hell. Developers preferred to live under Apple’s ultra cool fascism or jump in the Android mosh pit dug by Google. Likewise, handset makers found a comfortable home in the relatively open Android environment.
Microsoft already turned down the path of becoming a platform-agnostic service provider. Now it can accelerate the pace, and push ahead in the mobile market without the distraction of Windows.
The’s more to mobility than moving around the conference room.
This week’s coming out party for Windows 10 confirmed Microsoft’s slow shift from a shrink wrapped products company to a service provider.
The company will not execute that strategy quickly enough or effectively. To be a universal platform for desktop and mobile computing means mobile telecoms carriers and manufacturers will have to make a major shift away Android and adopt the Windows operating system and all the cloud services that surround it.
It’s true that there’s grumbling about Android. Samsung continues to develop the open source Tizen operating system and is introducing it into product categories that are still in the early adopter stage and lack a market consensus on standards – smart TVs are a good example. But that discontent is driven by Google’s role in managing the open source Android platform, and not particularly by defects in the system.
If smart phone manufacturers or carriers are queasy about Google’s arm’s length control of Android, do you honestly believe they’re going to rush into Microsoft’s embrace? Even if Windows was the ultimate mobile operating system – and it’s not by a long shot – it’s still a closed, proprietary system owned and developed by a company with a poor record of playing well with others.
One of the (relative) innovations announced on Wednesday was a plan to provide Windows as a service – manage the operating system on user devices in real time, at least to the extent of pushing out updates. There’s no reason it would stop there, though. The concept works great for a vertically integrated company like Apple, but would be a nightmare for third party manufacturers.
Tying a world of cloud services to the OS is even more problematic. The pitch to carriers and manufacturers becomes: hey, if you put Windows on your phones, you won’t have to worry about the hassle of selling all those pesky add on services and upgrades. Right.
One stop shopping for computing services might appeal to the corporate and institutional IT managers with whom Microsoft already has a relationship. The Samsungs and T-Mobiles of the world won’t be interested.
Winning depends on the pitch staying playable.
The launch of Microsoft Office apps – Excel, Word, Powerpoint – for the iPad has been hailed by some as a turning point for the company and a bold leadership stroke by new CEO Satya Nadella. If anything, the excitement is a fair measure of Microsoft’s problem: the best it can do is port thirty year old software to the market leader’s tablet.
Ironically, Excel and Powerpoint were originally developed for the Mac OS. Only Word began life on a Microsoft operating system – Xenix – and then later made its way to MS-DOS and Mac OS. The three eventually came together as the core of the Office package on Windows, but for the most part have also been a mainstay of OS X. In other words, Office is not a mere sub-set of Windows and has always been cross-platform software.
The strategic point of departure for Nadella is the requirement to buy an Office 365 subscription in order to use the apps on an iPad. You can download all three for free, but they’re just glorified read-only file viewers without the subscription – you can’t change anything or create new documents. The subscription price starts at $100 per year for home users and $150 for businesses (there’s a $60 annual Office 365 package, but it doesn’t include desktop or tablet apps).
Nadella’s strong suit is said to be cloud services, and that might be the rationale behind Office for iPad: forget about Surface tablets and Windows phones, and start selling software and add-on services for any user, on any operating system. It’s a great idea, as Google would have told you nearly ten years ago when they started doing the same thing, except they’re still giving it away for free to basic users, which are most of us.
Batting second is usually considered an advantage in cricket, Nadella’s game of choice. Google scored well in its innings, making it a long chase for Nadella, who has to hope the field of play doesn’t wash out from under him while he’s at it.
Plenty of leg, but no ARM at Pepcom.
If you were wondering why Intel and AMD released downbeat quarterly reports this week, you only had to look at their products. The difference, though, is that AMD has control of its own destiny, while Intel will have to rely on the kindness of strangers to survive.
The two chipmakers showcased the hottest products rocking their silicon at Pepcom’s Holiday Spectacular in San Francisco on Wednesday. That’s not the same, though, as saying they were showing the hottest products on the market.
Both companies were heavy on Windows 8 PCs and mobile devices. The former are slowly sliding toward kitchen appliance appeal and replacement cycles, and the latter seem to have gone underground. Intel did have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 running Android, but that was it. Everything else – HP, Acer, Sony, Toshiba, MSI, Dell, ASUS – was bog standard Windows. (To be fair, Dell also had a Pepcom display with a couple of nice bargain priced Android tablets front and center).
All the devices at both displays were powered by chips using Intel’s x86 architecture, which AMD also licenses. Intel doesn’t have a choice, of course. But AMD does. It’s making ARM-based processors for the server side of the industry, and the client-side might not be too far away.
“We’ll continue to work with [ARM] where we think the market asks for it,” said Sarah Youngbauer, AMD’s spokesperson at Pepcom. Given that the market is emphatically demanding mobile products, that might be the same as saying we should be expecting a product announcement soon.
Blackberry and Windows are the bedrock of the mobile world.
A year from now, this past week will be looked upon as the point when we shifted from one mobile operating system epoch to another. Two dinosaurs – Blackberry and Windows – appear irrecoverably stuck in a tar pit of tumbling market share and industry confidence, while two warm-blooded open source upstarts – Ubuntu Linux and Firefox – are walking tall.
Blackberry’s latest results show widening financial and subscriber losses. After CEO Thorsten Heins proclaimed “we are confident in the ongoing success of our transformation in the coming years,” the share price plummeted. The only question remaining for Wall Street analysts is exactly which hallucinogen he favors and where can they get some.
With Microsoft reduced to promising that the next version of Windows, due out this fall, will suck a lot less, Samsung unveiled a tablet that can run both it and Android. Just in case Steve Balmer nibbles a bad shroom the next time he trips through the Washington woods.
Mozilla and Canonical, on the other hand, talked this week about deals with major mobile carriers as, respectively, Firefox Mobile and Ubuntu Touch, move from development to implementation. The breakout for Firefox phones looks likely to happen in the spanish speaking world as Telefonica prepares to launch devices in its markets. Ubuntu isn’t nearly as far along, but several big European and all three major Korean carriers have joined an advisory group to prepare for its introduction in coming months.
Firefox, a light client that relies almost completely on server-side support, and Ubuntu Linux, which aims to be the single, unifying operating system for phones, tablets, computers, televisions and other consumer devices, are targeting the thick and thin ends of the spectrum. Android and iOS sit comfortably in the middle, leaving no room for twentieth century thunder lizards.
Microsoft is pulling out of CES after this year, presumably because the show doesn’t support its corporate and brand marketing goals. CEO Steve Ballmer’s farewell keynote was an hour-plus company sales pitch delivered at the top of his lungs, with a parade of product demonstrations by his executive team.
It was if he was saying “here’s why we don’t need you guys”. At least he didn’t mention the horse we rode in on.
Top of the list of reasons why Ballmer is happy following Apple out of CES is Windows 8. “There’s nothing more important” to Microsoft’s future, he said.
He and his team demoed the new Metro user interface. Assuming it will do what they say it will do, it’ll take it a step further down the Apple user interface roadmap than Apple itself has yet to go.
The concept is to have a seamless UI experience across PCs, game and video boxes and mobile devices, including phones and tablets. Apple is moving in that direction, but is doing it with two separate operating systems, iOS and OS X. Windows 8 is intended to do the job of both.
Microsoft continues to edge away from its former near-monogamous relationship with Intel. Ballmer said Windows 8 is designed to run just fine on x86 chips, from both Intel and AMD, but it’s built from the ground up to support ARM processors from NVIDIA, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm too.
Ballmer acknowledged that Microsoft is under pressure, particularly in mobile products, but said “competition is a great thing and I’m glad we have Windows”. Custer might have said the same about the 7th Cavalry.