What it is: Windows Phone was Microsoft’s attempt to create a modern phone operating system in the wake of iOS and Android.
Back in 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, laughed it off. Later the iPhone would go on to make more money than every product Microsoft sold combined. In return for Steve Ballmer’s poor leadership, Microsoft gave him millions in compensation. Not only did Steve Ballmer help sink Microsoft, but Microsoft turned around and rewarded him for his efforts. That makes Steve Ballmer the smart one and Microsoft the real idiots.
After realizing that the iPhone was growing in popularity, Steve Ballmer decided to create Windows Phone, a new operating system for smartphones. While Windows Phone is actually a decent operating system, it arrived too late. After the world had already adopted iOS and Android, there was little reason to adopt Windows Phone. Beyond the tile interface, Windows Phone offered nothing new, better, or different than what iOS and Android could offer. As a result, there was little reason for anyone to ditch their iPhone or Android phone and switch to Windows Phone.
Even worse, when Microsoft introduced Windows Phone, they had few native apps of their own to offer. Instead, Microsoft encouraged developers to use Silverlight, Microsoft’s Adobe Flash clone, as a development tool. When Flash failed in the mobile market because it couldn’t run on mobile devices efficiently, Flash’s failure took down Silverlight. Now all those developers who had taken the time to develop Windows Phone apps using Silverlight had to relearn new tools to create apps for Windows Phone 8.
With the upcoming release of Windows 10, Microsoft is pulling the rug out from under its developers once more. All those developers who took the time to learn how to write programs for Windows Phone will now have to relearn those same skills to learn how to write programs for Windows 10 Mobile, the next generation of Windows Phone. If you were a developer for Windows Phone from the beginning, you were rewarded by virtually no market and the hassle of relearning new skills and tools to create your apps over and over again. Still want to take the time to learn Windows 10 Mobile skills to create apps for an operating system with virtually no market?
The pity is that Windows Phone isn’t a bad operating system. It’s just one that came way too late with no sense of vision or direction from Microsoft other than a knee-jerk reaction to compete with the iPhone. While Apple developed iOS originally for a tablet and transferred it to a phone, Microsoft narrowly limited Windows Phone to smartphones. When Apple introduced the iPad running iOS (and the entire library of iPhone apps), Microsoft got caught flat-footed again. Windows Phone was never meant to scale up to a tablet, so that’s why Microsoft came up with their other failure, Windows RT, to run on tablets.
Rather than look towards the future, Microsoft prefers to focus on copying the past and then wondering why it repeatedly fails to work. Microsoft’s latest boondoggle is their $7 billion dollar acquisition of Nokia which Steve Ballmer (who got rewarded handsomely by Microsoft for his boneheaded decisions) thought would help Microsoft stay in the smartphone market. At the time, Nokia was the only major manufacturer selling Windows Phone smartphones, so Microsoft bought them out to keep them from defecting to Android. That’s another $7 billion dollar mistake directly attributed to Steve Ballmer (who’d doesn’t care because he walked away with millions thanks to Microsoft’s generous compensation for executives who get paid whether they do anything useful or not).
Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s current CEO, now has to lay off thousands of people to clean up Steve Ballmer’s mess with acquiring Nokia for $7 billion dollars. All those people who lose their jobs have Steve Ballmer to thank for their unemployment status along with Microsoft for handing over millions to Steve Ballmer while giving them nothing in return but a pink slip.
Microsoft’s future in the mobile computing market looks dim, despite the promises that Windows 10 will run on a variety of devices. Anyone really want a Windows 10 Mobile smartphone? Steve Ballmer has done more to sink Microsoft than Apple and Google combined. Anyone who’s still using a Windows Phone smartphone will likely need to switch to a Windows 10 Mobile phone or most likely an iPhone or Android phone.
When companies lack a vision for their future, they’ll flounder and panic. You can never be a leader if you’re always trying to copy someone else. Instead of trying to lead the world into a future, Microsoft prefers to let others do it first and then blindly rush out to copy the leader in hopes of catching up later.
That strategy never works, which explains why Microsoft’s future in the mobile computing market (smartphones and tablets) is looking dimmer all the time.