What it is: Microsoft officially announced the end of support for their mobile operating system Windows Mobile 10.
Before Apple introduced the iPhone, Google was trying to make a Blackberry clone called Android and Microsoft had morphed their Palm Pilot clone (Windows CE) into a phone operating system. Then Apple introduced the iPhone and redefined the touch screen interface for smart phones.
Google quickly rewrote Android to mimic iOS and Microsoft abandoned Windows CE in favor of creating a new operating system from scratch. That took time and by the time Windows Phone 7 came out, Android and iOs were already dominating the smartphone market.
Even worse, Microsoft decided to rewrite their mobile operating system again and come out with Windows Phone 8, which was incompatible with Windows Phone 7 apps. That meant developers had to rewrite their apps all over again for Windows Phone 8.
Then Microsoft changed Windows Phone 8 to Windows Mobile 10 and forced developers to rewrite their apps once more. Even worse, the official language for Windows Phone development was Silverlight, a Microsoft clone of Adobe Flash.
When Adobe Flash started dying since it couldn’t run on mobile devices, Microsoft Silverlight also died. Now developers had to rewrite their Windows Phone 8 apps to run on Windows Mobile 10.
With all this constant changing, is it no wonder that Windows Phone/Mobile failed? To make matters even worse, Microsoft was so fixated on Windows Phone that they failed to anticipate the iPad, which forced Microsoft to come up with a separate tablet operating system called Windows RT.
Now developers had to write separate apps in different languages for Windows RT and Windows Mobile 10. Instead, developers simply abandoned Windows RT and Windows Mobile 10. With few apps, users started to ignore Windows Phone/Mobile as well.
The lesson is clear. Mere copying of a successful product is rarely the path to success. The real path to success is originality. Come up with a new solution that’s better than existing solutions, not simply a copy of the same solution.
Microsoft Silverlight was a slightly better version of Adobe Flash, but solved nothing new. So people tended to stick with Adobe Flash and when Flash died, so did Silverlight.
Fortunately with Steve Ballmer out of the way, Microsoft no longer seems content to copy other successful products and hope it pays off in the long run like the Xbox. In the meantime, Windows Phone/Mobile wasn’t a bad idea, but it showed that unless you make a dramatic leap like the iPhone did over Blackberry and Nokia, there’s little reason to adopt it.
So rather than blatantly copy, companies should strive to solve problems that aren’t currently met by today’s technology. The iPhone’s touch screen interface solved the problem of tiny screens and physical buttons. Windows Phone/Mobile solved nothing over Android and iOS.
Nobody will miss Windows Phone/Mobile. Even Microsoft’s employees stopped using that operating system years ago. The lesson is copying rarely leads to success so strive for solving the problems of today, not the problems of yesterday that are already being met with today’s products. Just that simple lesson alone could have saved Microsoft billions of dollars and years of wasted development.