In its five years of existence, Windows Phone (formerly known as Windows Mobile) has managed to garner only 3 percent mobile market share. Microsoft's tiled operating system is still struggling to give Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS a serious challenge. But if you thought the Redmond-based company should be looking for an exit strategy by now, you will be surprised with what Microsoft has in mind.
Over the last few months, we learned that Microsoft is increasingly concerned about closing the Windows Phone’s infamous "app gap" problem. Referred to as the Plan A, as per a report by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft intends to do this by introducing support for universal apps which will allow developers to quickly turn their Windows applications into Windows Phone apps with minimal effort.
It’s been a while since Microsoft launched a flagship smartphone. The company is seemingly more focused towards making cheap smartphones and pushing these low-end devices to emerging markets. In the latest attempt, the company today launches the Lumia 430. Priced at $70 USD before taxes, the Lumia 430 is the "most affordable" Windows Phone smartphone to-date.
But surprisingly, the hardware offered by this dirt cheap smartphone isn’t as bad as one would expect. The Lumia 430 sports a 4-inch display with WVGA screen resolution. Inside the smartphone there's a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor coupled with 1GB of RAM and 8GB internal storage which could be expanded up to 128 gigs using a microSD card. The device is powered by a 1,500mAh battery, which is rather small, but the company promises up to 8.4 hours of talk time on a single charge or up to 19 days of life in standby mode.
Meet the new Microsoft. Maybe the company really charts a new course under CEO Satya Nadella's leadership. Colleague Mark Wilson reports that even software pirates can upgrade free to Windows 10. Seriously? Reward the thieves who rob revenue from the platform's cradle? Hand robbers sacred possessions at the door? Give them the house keys and ask them to lock up after they take the tellie, silver, and jewelry?
Outstanding! I really am not being sarcastic, just pretending to be. The strategy is simply brilliant and too long coming, assuming nothing changes before Windows 10's summer release or Microsoft clarifies licensing rules to mean something different. Without even stressing a single synapse I can conjure up more good reasons for the upgrade plan than the fingers on my hands. But I'll keep the list a bit shorter for this post.
I'm not going to open the 'which mobile operating system is best' can of worms -- let's get that clear from the offset. This is not me trying to push my preferred operating system on you, or trying to convince you that you're wrong about the OS you've opted for. This time it's over to you. What you do want?
Do you want things handed to you on a plate, or would you prefer to be granted more control over the operating system on your phone and tablet? Is there mobile platform that meets your needs at the moment, or would you like to combine elements from Android, iOS, Windows Phone and even BlackBerry OS? Just what is it that makes the perfect operating system for your phone or tablet?
I'm going to make a startling confession -- I've never seen American Idol. Why didn't I watch such a wildly popular show? Because I'm not into the lame music that the show puts out. Quite frankly, I'm not sure when such terrible music became acceptable, but I never participated. With that said, I do like some of Carrie Underwood's songs; "Before He Cheats" is an epic classic.
While I've never seen The Voice, I have more respect for it than American Idol, as the judges are kind of cool. The current judges, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Pharrell Williams are all accomplished musicians who have created extremely popular music. Today, Microsoft announces that Windows Phone users are getting an official app for The Voice. Users of Microsoft's phone-focused operating system are often neglected, so this is a very pleasant surprise.
Apple may be about to launch a new phone trade-in program in a bid to encourage more people to invest in iPhones. Hand over your old Windows Phone, Android handset -- or even a BlackBerry or aged iPhone -- and you could receive a gift card that can be used as part payment for an iPhone. The news comes from the usually-reliable 9to5Mac where it is suggested that Apple Store employees will place a value on handsets before handing over a gift card in exchange for it.
It's not a completely new venture for Apple; the company has previously run programs to encourage iPhone users to upgrade to the latest version of the handset, but this will be the first time the scheme has been opened up to rival smartphones. While previously this was an incentive to upgrade, this time around it's little more than a bribe.
A little while back rumors surfaced suggesting that Microsoft was on the verge of investing in Android. Not directly, you understand, but via Cyanogen Inc. In August, Cyanogen Inc met with Satya Nadella but it seems that the talks amounted to nothing.
The company is on the verge of raising $110 million of financing, but Microsoft will not be involved. According to a report by Bloomberg, Microsoft will not be contributing to the funding, but could still be interested in perusing commercial ventures with Cyanogen Inc to help push Microsoft apps onto more Android devices.
OK, I'm starting to get worried now. I've been working my way through each of the public previews of Windows 10 and, on the whole, I've been fairly impressed. Not blown away, but generally satisfied. But some of the recent screenshots that have been leaking out have me a little concerned. -- there's more than just an air of Windows Phone, and that turns my stomach.
Yes, I know that there's meant to be a merging of paths between Windows for phones and Windows for the desktop, but for Microsoft to veer towards the look and feel of Windows Phone is a huge mistake. I only hope that the screenshots currently doing the round from build 10036 are not representative of the build we're waiting to be released.
Despite my colleague Wayne Williams' eloquent suggestion that the naming conventions used for Lumia devices is part of the reason for the low uptake of Windows Phone, the platform still has a serious problem when it comes to apps. Whether there is a real problem or not, the perception is that Windows Phone -- or Windows 10 for Phones -- is rather lacking in the app department. Fear not... Microsoft has a solution.
Rather than pumping out a glut of new apps of its own, or encouraging developers to produce third-party apps, Microsoft is adopting a slightly different tactic. At MWC 2015 this week the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL were revealed, but Microsoft also announced that web apps will be permitted in the Windows store. Could this be what app-hungry consumers have been waiting for?
Let’s face it, you’ve picked the mobile operating system you like. Whether you’ve opted for an iPhone, a Lumia handset or a device running Android, the chances are you’re not going to switch allegiances no matter what others may do or say to try to convince you otherwise. At the same time, few people would argue that their handset of choice is perfect.
You’ve picked your side when it comes to OS, but what about the handset itself? Apple, Samsung, HTC et al keep releasing slightly tweaked versions of last year’s handset, perhaps adding a faster processor, a larger screen and more memory. One thing is constantly overlooked, however -- battery life. And it’s time for things to change.
My colleague Brian Fagioli was right to reject Microsoft’s laughable claim that Windows Phone is experiencing 'impressive growth', and to also brand the tiled mobile OS as a failure. Android and iOS completely dominate the mobile space, and Microsoft -- which owns the desktop -- is nothing but a bit player.
If you ask anyone why Microsoft has failed to succeed they will probably say "apps". The Windows Store has a fraction of the apps found in the Apple App Store and Google Play (aside from the main names, few of the many apps I used regularly on my iPhone are available on Windows Phone) and there are dodgy clones and fakes to be found throughout the store. But while that is definitely a factor I think the real blame for Windows Phone’s failure lies elsewhere.
Every mobile operating system would have you believe that it has the best built in keyboard. It's clear that plenty of people disagree judging by the number of alternative keyboard apps that exist in the Windows Phone, Apple and Android stores. Sometimes even the best software keyboard isn't good enough, but few people are enamored with the idea of carrying around a full size Bluetooth keyboard.
There are numerous mobile keyboards that are particularly suitable for use with smartphones and tablets, and today at MWC in Barcelona, Microsoft threw its hat into the ring with the Universal Foldable Keyboard. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to a large money wallet, this svelte device connects via Bluetooth to whatever mobile device you happen to be using -- including the newly announced Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL.
As you’ll already know, the 2015 Mobile World Congress (MWC) is going on right now, and most of the big players are announcing and launching new handsets. Samsung and HTC have announced new versions of popular phones, and Microsoft (in the form of Stephen Elop, Julia White and Neil Broadley) is set to take to the stage imminently.
Thanks to a premature news posting on Sunday we already know some of what to expect. A headline that made its way into feeds tells us the tech giant will be revealing the Lumia 640 and 640 XL, devices which, the company says, will keep "you prepared for anything".
Windows Phone is a failure. Of course, the term "failure" is subjective, so let me explain. Very few consumers are buying them compared to Android and iPhone, and very few developers are creating apps for it. Yes, some people are buying them, and some talented developers are developing, but "some" does not make a success.
Ultimately, on all platforms -- desktops, mobile devices, game consoles, etc. -- it is the apps and games that move the hardware. Right now, there are no killer apps on Windows Phone compared to Android or iOS. In other words, what is the benefit of using Windows Phone to the average consumer? There arguably is none. Today, Microsoft chooses to proclaim that the platform is seeing "impressive growth". Like "failure", the word "impressive" is subjective, but I think everyone can agree, nothing about Microsoft's mobile platform is currently impressive.
Microsoft Garage is home to all manner of innovative projects from Microsoft employees, and today a new batch of projects has been unveiled. As Garage is a cross-platform venture, there are apps for Windows Phone, Android and desktop Windows, and the myriad tools cover everything from app development to the weather.
On the productivity front, Mouse Without Borders is a name that might seem familiar. Strictly speaking, this is a re-release rather than a new release, and the utility makes it possible to control up to four computers with a single keyboard and mouse by acting like a virtual KVM switch. If this isn’t your sort of thing, there are plenty more tools to explore.