What it is: After Apple introduced the iPhone, Google quickly reworked their Android operating system to mimic iOS. Meanwhile, Microsoft stopped development of their Windows CE operating system to develop Windows Phone.
Before Apple introduced the iPhone, the most popular smartphone was Blackberry. That’s why Google initially made Android into a Blackberry clone. The moment Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Google immediately realized that the iPhone, not Blackberry, represented the future of the smartphone. Google wisely rewrote Android to mimic iOS.
Meanwhile, Microsoft once held 20-30 percent of the smartphone operating system market with their Windows Mobile operating system. When Microsoft saw the iPhone, they realized that Windows Mobile operating system was hopelessly outclassed so they decided to create a new operating system from scratch called Windows Phone 7. The idea was that Windows Phone 7 could challenge both Android and the iPhone for the smartphone market.
Unfortunately, Microsoft lacked vision. Microsoft simply made Windows Phone 7 into a decent operating system with few compelling features to convince Android or iPhone users to abandon their current smartphones and switch to Windows Phone 7. Even more crucial were two mistakes Microsoft made.
First, Microsoft made Windows Phone 7 into a smartphone-specific operating system. Google had made that same mistake too with Android because as soon as Apple introduced the iPad, both Google and Microsoft realized that their smartphone operating systems needed massive reworking to run a tablet. In comparison, Apple had designed iOS with the iPad in mind originally and shrank its size to fit within the confines of a smartphone, but iOS was already designed to run on both smartphones and tablets from the beginning.
Android and Windows Phone 7 were not designed to run on tablets. That’s why Google had to hastily release a version of Android called Honeycomb specifically to run on tablets. One of those first Android tablets was the Motorola Xoom, which bombed in the market place because it offered few advantages over the iPad and plenty of disadvantages such as inconsistent performance.
While Google quickly fixed their mistake by broadening Android to run on both smartphones and tablets, Microsoft decided to keep Windows Phone 7 strictly on smartphones and create a new operating system solely for tablets called Windows RT. The first mistake Microsoft made was that Windows Phone 7 apps couldn’t run on Windows RT tablets (and vice versa). In comparison, iPhone apps could run on the iPad, which meant that the iPad had the entire iPhone software library to choose from. While many of those apps weren’t optimized for tablet use, they could still run and work on a tablet.
So not only did Microsoft not broaden Windows Phone 7’s scope to let it run on tablets, but Microsoft also forced developers to create Windows Phone 7 apps using their Silverlight technology, which was based on Adobe Flash. When Flash proved unable to run on mobile devices, the popularity of Flash plummeted dramatically, which also meant that the market for Silverlight plummeted dramatically.
By trying to force developers to use Silverlight, Microsoft guaranteed that they would be stuck using obsolete technology as soon as Microsoft announced that they were halting development of Silverlight. Without relying on Silverlight to write Windows Phone 7 apps, Microsoft encouraged developers to learn an entirely new software framework to crate Windows Phone 8 apps. That meant developers had to rewrite their Windows Phone 7 apps almost from scratch so they would run on Windows Phone 8.
Then Microsoft pulled the rug out from developers and users alike when they stopped development of Windows Phone 8 and replaced it with Windows 10. The idea is that Windows 10 can adapt to run on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. This meant that Windows Phone 8 developers had to learn an entirely new framework to create Windows 10 apps for smartphones. So each time Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 10, developers had to rewrite their apps from scratch. And then Microsoft can’t figure out why developers aren’t rushing to create apps for the tiny Windows smartphone market.
Even worse, the ability to write apps once that can run on smartphones, tablets, and PCs makes little sense for smartphone apps. A popular Windows Phone app called Here Maps discovered that if they wanted to offer a Windows 10 version, they’d have to essentially rewrite their app from scratch. Given the small market of Windows 10 smartphones, Here Maps decided the effort wasn’t worth it so they decided to abandon Windows 10 on smartphones.
The problem is that Microsoft lacked a long-term vision for smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Instead they kept changing strategies and offering different solutions, then suddenly changing their mind and offering another batch of solutions. This meant that developers had to keep relearning new ways to develop apps and rewrite their apps from scratch each time Microsoft introduced a new version of their smartphone operating system. Instead of embracing Windows 10, many developers are simply ignoring it on smartphones.
Microsoft’s wishy-washy, flip-flop strategy of developing smartphone operating systems that require developers to rewrite everything from scratch is a sure path to limited app availability and developer disinterest. After so many years of offering developers a vision, only to yank it away from them at the last minute like Lucy cruelly yanking away a football from Charlie Brown, Microsoft has simply lost the trust of so many developers.
Given a choice between developing for the far larger, more lucrative, and more stable markets of iOS and Android, or trying to support yet another Microsoft operating system, many developers are taking a wait and see approach with Windows 10 while rushing to tap the certain profits of iOS and Android. Microsoft only has themselves to blame for their lack of vision and the end result is their shrinking market share in the smartphone market.