The Rise and Fall of Windows SmartPhone

Windows SmartPhones are no longer in the market today. In this article, I will discuss the rise and fall of the windows smartphone by looking at the smartphone race that killed the Windows Phone. 

The World was introduced to the first smartphone started in 2007 when  Apple introduced the first generation iPhone smartphones On June 29, 2007.

The first iPhone came in two models; 4GB  ROM ($499) and 8GB ROM ($599). The iPhone was the most unique phone ever seen. Not only did the Phone run on the iOS operating system (OS), the iPhone was the first touchscreen mobile phone in history.

A year later, Google launched Android OS on September 23, 2008. Notably, the introduction of Android OS marked the start of the smartphone race. The start of the phone race battle was now based on phone quality and user experience.

Apple’s marketing strategy was based on quality and user experience that iPhones had to offer. Android had a different strategy. Google’s Android strategy was to offer cheap and onboard as many phone manufacturers as possible rather than manufacturing their own phones.

All this time, Microsoft realized the missed opportunity is wasted. Microsoft was better placed to lead the mobile industry having experience dating back to 1996 When Bill Gates introduced the handheld pc.

Afterward, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Phone Evolution, Hand-Held PC (Windows CE 2.0), Pocket PC 2000, Pocket PC 2002, Windows Mobile 2003, Windows Mobile 5.0 in 2005, and Windows Mobile 6.0 in 2007.

Windows Mobile 6.0 and Blackberry phones were the most popular phones in 20007. There other popular brands then were Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, LG, and Sony Ericsson. None of these phones were touchscreens.

 When Apple introduced iPhone, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (2000-2014), mocked Steve Jobs and laughed at Apple’s introduction of a $500 phone that had no keyboard. Below is a section of his comments:

“500 dollars, fully subsidized, the most expensive phone in the world and it does.. business customers because it does not have a keyboard”.

By 2007, Microsoft surpassed Blackberry after attained 15% Market share second after 63% Nokia Symbian at the time. This clearly blinded Microsoft who did not see any threat when Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone the same year.

When asked how he planned to compete Apple, Steve Ballmer said the following:

“Right now we are selling millions, millions, billions of phones per year. Apple is selling zero phones a year”.

It was clear that Microsoft never visualized any threat from Apple’s iPhone but was blinded by its Annual sales back then. It was ridiculous how Microsoft CEO was visionless and could not see beyond sales.

However, Microsoft continuously lost market share after launching of iPhone for in the coming year. Similarly, Nokia’s market share declined from over 60% to 50% in less than a year.

Only blackberry market share was rising that gave them a comfort zone. It was clear that the iPhone had shaken the phone market.

Upon realization that the market was shrinking, Microsoft began research to introduce a touchscreen phone later in 2008. After two years, Nokia CEO Steve introduced the Nokia Phone 7 series in 2010 at The Mobile World 2010 in Barcelona.

Microsoft was very strict on the specification of the phone manufacturers who adopted Microsoft windows. Therefore, Microsoft phones were very powerful in terms of hardware and admirable user experience.

Despite the milestone, Microsoft had one disadvantage. Apple manufactured the phones by themselves while Microsoft did not. Therefore, Microsoft relied on the willingness of the Manufacturers to adhere to the specifications.

On the other hand, Google was less strict on the specifications so long as the phone worked just fine. As a result, most phone manufacturers opted to partner to use Android as their Mobile Operating System.  

The New Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in September 2010 was big relieved to Microsoft. Elop’s main agenda was to turn around the declining Nokia market.

His first step was to scrap Symbian OS and adopt windows phone, a move proven tragic later. Nokia launched the Nokia Lumia 800, the first windows phone in 2011. Another Microsoft blunder emanated.

While Nokia paid license fees to Microsoft, Microsoft advanced Nokia, a $250 Million support fee every quarter. This meant Nokia almost used the platform free.

This scared away other phone manufacturers since they did not see the need to pay fees while Nokia got the license for almost free.

Another big blow to windows phone was neglect by App developers. Barely 3 years after launch, no one was keen to develop window phone APPs.

Windows phones lacked key Apps like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram a reason why many phone users avoided Windows phones.

In 2013, Nokia’s price had fallen by 75% and Nokia shareholders contemplated firing Elop and abandoning Windows OS.

Before they succeeded, Microsoft purchased Nokia Mobile manufacturing unit for a whopping $7.2 Billion in 2014. The Nokia Smartphone re-branded to Microsoft Phones.

In 2015, Microsoft invested $7.6 billion to fast track phone manufacturing. To cut cost, Microsoft embarked on a restructuring process fired over 8,000 employees.

Despite massive investment to rescue the mobile manufacturing unit, the Microsoft windows never gained traction in the mobile market. 

Eventually, Microsoft terribly failed to convince manufacturers and developers to adopt Windows phones.  The market share barely went beyond 2% 10 years after launch.

Microsoft would eventually abandon windows phones in 2017 after it announced it had stopped support for windows phone going forward.

Those who used windows phone can testify that the Windows phone was very unfriendly compared to Android phones.

Particularly, Windows SmartPhones lacked many Apps that were available on Android Smartphones. Perhaps, as explained, many manufacturers and developers shunned windows platform. The windows phone stopped supporting WhatsApp on 31st 2019.

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