What it is: Today, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows Phone 8.1.
How did one of the most dominant computer companies in the world manage to completely miss the mobile computing market, despite being a leader in that market? Easy. What Microsoft did at first was duplicate their Windows desktop business model by licensing Windows Mobile to multiple phone manufacturers. Windows Mobile used the Start menu interface introduced in Windows 95 and essentially put the Windows desktop interface on a mobile device.
Not surprisingly, this wasn’t an optimized user interface for mobile phones so when Apple introduced the iPhone, Microsoft suddenly found themselves trying to sell an outdated user interface to compete against the iPhone. This would be like trying to sell a more advanced horse carriage while everyone else is buying a car.
So the first mistake was simply coasting along with Windows Mobile and offering incremental improvements to a poorly designed user interface. Then Microsoft made a second mistake by taking so long to offer Windows Phone 7. By the time Windows Phone 7 appeared, most of the world had already adopted Android or the iPhone.
Here’s where Microsoft compounded their mistakes. To create Windows Phone 7 apps, Microsoft chose Silverlight, their Flash clone. That’s because Flash was slowly losing popularity and Silverlight was dying too. That meant Microsoft needed to find another use for Silverlight and they chose to make it into the Windows Phone 7 development language.
So as Silverlight died along with Flash, Silverlight only had a future as a Windows Phone 7 programming language. Then Microsoft made another mistake by introducing Windows Phone 8, which was incompatible with Windows Phone 7 and relied less on Silverlight and more on C# to create apps. That meant all those developers who used Silverlight to create Windows Phone 7 apps had to rewrite them in C# to get them to work on Windows Phone 8.
Then Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 8.1, which still didn’t attract much market share. With a sliver of market share, Windows Phone 8.1 couldn’t attract many customers. Without customers, developers had no one to sell to. Given a choice between learning to write Windows Phone 8.1 apps or make more money writing Android and iOS apps, most developers chose to follow the money and develop for Android and iOS instead of Windows Phone 8.1.
Then Microsoft switched things around with Windows 10 Mobile. Now Windows Phone 8.1 apps couldn’t work on Windows 10 Mobile, forcing developers to rewrite their apps yet again. Not surprisingly, most developers gave up constantly rewriting apps for a nearly non-existent market.
It’s no surprise that Windows Phone 8.1 is officially dead. It’s been unofficially dead since its arrival. Microsoft’s mobile strategy now focuses on making apps for Android and iOS. Windows 10 Mobile still exists, but it’s unlikely to grab any significant market share any time soon. Expect Windows 10 Mobile to quietly fade away. Look for any developers and most will be creating apps for Android or iOS. There’s no room for another mobile operating system at this point. The era of Windows Phone is over for good and Microsoft’s mobile phone operating system strategy looks like it’s gone for good as well.