In a Fox News interview in the US last month, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, admitted that he no longer uses a Windows-based mobile phone. It was an admission of massive proportions. Windows 10 Mobile has been floundering in the marketplace with only 0.03 per cent of all global smartphone shipments in the second quarter of this year.
That percentage actually translates to over 112,000 sales in the quarter with global smartphone sales hitting almost 1.5 billion last year, but when Microsoft started down the mobile path, they were aiming directly at iOS and Android and trying to take those two mobile platforms on.
No matter which way you dress it up, a market share of 0.03 per cent is a complete and miserable failure. If the admission from Gates was not enough, only days ago the corporate vice president for Windows, Joe Belfiore, also admitted to using an Android phone and, in a series of tweets, said that the company would continue to provide fixes and patches for the mobile version of Windows but developing new features was no longer the priority. After several years of trying, including a botched acquisition of Nokia and many failed attempts to get the developer community to support the platform, Microsoft have run the white flag up on what many saw as a move into mobile that was too little and definitely too late.
Once a user has invested in the ecosystem of their mobile platform with apps and a store and familiarity, it is hard to change what that user has become accustomed to. There has to be a compelling reason to change – and price isn’t that reason. Microsoft did try hard from a pricing perspective but they just never had enough killer features to drag users over from Android or iOS. Microsoft will survive this minor blip but this is sad news for consumers. Competition is good. Competition drives innovation up and prices down. With the current smartphone market, we now have Android and iOS as the only serious players in the market. Whilst there is nothing wrong with either operating system and a lot right with both, it is very easy for complacency to creep in.
Just think of a few years ago when the world was ruled by Nokia mobiles and now the company doesn’t exist. They didn’t ever envisage a day when Nokia would not be the number one phone provider and then some pesky company named after a fruit went and re-invented the entire market with a smartphone.
iOS and Android, owned by Apple and Google respectively, represent the largest and fifth largest tech companies in the world with a combined market capitalisation of almost 1.5 trillion dollars. There is always a chance of a duopoly to influence the future direction of the operating systems.
My hope is that there is a small and agile company waiting in the wings somewhere developing a new mobile operating system as we speak. One that will challenge the market power that these two companies have and one that re-invents the segment as we know it. History says that this is a more likely outcome than the two current players remaining the dominant operating systems forever. Who it is and what it will offer I have no idea at the moment but I can hardly wait to see the big two challenged. This is an entirely selfish view because I want all of these companies to keep driving innovation and keep looking over their shoulder at what else is available – to try and match and better it. For the moment though, if you are one of those incredibly small percentage of people with a Windows 10 Mobile phone, it is time for you to look at what new ecosystem you will invest your time in.
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