The Phone That Could
Blast from the Past
Long, long ago, I owned a Windows Mobile smartphone – the Palm Treo 700w. It was like a full-blown Windows XP, shrunk down to the size of a 2.5″ screen. It was okay – not stellar, just okay. If I had needed some of the more key features of Windows back then (i.e. Exchange), it might have been better. It was still cool, though, to basically have a computer in your pocket. Then came the iPhone (ominous music plays). It changed everything, literally overnight. Everyone was scrambling to come up with something to compete, but to no avail. And Windows Mobile – which was already cumbersome – looked patently archaic. Microsoft had rested on its laurels, failed to innovate and was now about the get its…precious parts…handed to it on a silver platter (and so was Palm). Palm got absolutely crushed, never to recover. Blackberry was basically a quadriplegic once the iPhone got going and Microsoft suddenly got quiet.
Google responded where Microsoft could have, quickly releasing Android phones to combat Apple’s salvo into the mobile world. Three years later, in 2010, Apple and Google would have a firm hold on the market – Blackberry holding on only because of its business clientele. It was then that Microsoft released Windows Phone 7, the long overdue successor to Windows Mobile. There was no real fanfare and the key driving factor in the mobile world, namely apps, were sorely lacking (even from Microsoft itself). The OS itself, though, was full of innovation and promise.
Late to the Party – The Advent of Windows 10
Fast forward to today. Google and Apple have solidified and polarized the market for themselves. Blackberry is jumping ship to the Android camp and Microsoft has (finally) released Windows 10 Mobile. Microsoft (also finally) has a new chief at the helm in Satya Nadella. Nadella has taken whole chapters from Apple’s strategy book, and continues to write a few of his own. Windows 10 is a unique chapter – it’s the OS that has a common code base across tablets, desktop PCs, smartphones and even the Xbox game console. It’s goal is to unify and expand Microsoft’s influence in mobile. And while the phones themselves have been solid, the OS, in many ways, still feels like a work in progress (it is, actually, but shouldn’t feel like one). The “app gap” remains and Microsoft has really given very little effort to Windows Mobile specifically, but that may not be as big a deal as everyone thinks with the strategy of “one Windows everywhere.” Some developers have already jumped ship and with the previous delays of Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft seemed to be really shooting themselves in the foot in terms of gaining any market share.
A Different Kind of Strategy for Windows Mobile
Nadella has continually reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to mobile, despite seeming evidence to the contrary. Indeed, some of the only key advantages of Windows Mobile (Office Mobile and even Cortana) have now been parceled out to Android and iOS. Now, just about the only thing that Windows 10 Mobile can do that Android and iOS can’t is Continuum (being able to use your phone as an actual desktop computer). Then it dawned on me what Nadella’s strategy for mobile actually is. He’s not worried about phone market share or designing new hardware; Microsoft has always known the money is in the software, which is why you find Windows installed on all kinds of hardware. Nadella is pushing Microsoft services and software as a service (SaaS) well beyond the tiny borders of Windows Mobile and into the much broader fields of Android and iOS. At the same time, with the consolidation of the Windows 10 code base, Microsoft is one step closer to the “dream” of being able to carry a full-blown computer in the palm of your hand and having apps that will run on everything from your game console to your smartphone to you coffee maker. Nadella is avoiding the tight margins of producing hardware and the protracted battle of increasing phone market share in favor of rolling out Microsoft products and services to billions of devices in the span of a few months. This is not just clever, it’s genius.
Change the World
Why I Switched
Even though the market share is pathetic, there is a huge app gap and Microsoft seems intent on sidelining the actual Windows Mobile handset, Windows 10 is the only mobile OS that has the potential to realize the dream of bringing our desktop with us wherever we go. It has the power to be the ultimate mobile productivity tool – the truly revolutionary all-in-one-device solution, giving us the freedom to go and be and do whenever and wherever we want. It’s the OS that is the closest to the future of mobile computing. I also love the interface, it gives me more information at a glance than Android or iOS. It’s flexible, innovative, easy to use and really hits the marks on what a smartphone should be. And that’s why I switched.