There are reports that Microsoft is currently testing a new Windows Mobile UI that is totally different from what we have seen on Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile. Even more, this new branch of Windows Mobile is being tested on new hardware. The new software and hardware are reported to be in early testing phase.
Microsoft has repeatedly failed to corner a significant chunk of the mobile market since its Pocket PC glory days (Windows Mobile had 11% percent of the global smartphone market back in 2008). In recent times, the newer iterations of Microsoft’s smartphone platform have lost this hold it had. A partnership with Nokia and a subsequent acquisition of Nokia’s mobile business bought Microsoft’s smartphone ambitions a lifeline which has clearly come to an end. But the American company is refusing to give up on mobile.
A New Windows Mobile UI
A new branch of Windows Mobile sounds like another round of incompatibility issues for existing users similar to what has happened in the past. When Windows Phone 7 was launched, older Windows Mobile phones were left out in the cold. And when Windows Phone 8 was launched, WP7 users were left out again. Windows 10 Mobile arrived with only a select handful of newer Windows 8 devices being compatible.
Will the many jaded ex Windows Mobile users bite this time? That is doubtful. Microsoft’s repeated bridge-burning with its previous software reboots have left much damage. Still, when one is in a hard place, one can only try again. And there is no question about the fact that Microsoft is in a hard place right now in the smartphone market.
Universal Apps And the Egg-Chicken Problem
Microsoft has a brilliant plan that involves universal apps. The idea is that both desktop and mobile apps share one code, so Windows developers can create apps that are compatible with both. The expected result is that Windows 10 Mobile should have as many apps as are available for Windows 10. In theory, this is brilliant. In practice, it hasn’t yielded much results.
Developers are making apps for Windows 10 but not putting in the effort to implement the mobile part. And that is understandable. With less than 0.3% of the smartphone operating system market, there is little incentive for developers to bother with Windows 10 Mobile.
How do you get developers to make apps without a sizable marketshare and how do you grab a sizable marketshare without apps? The classic conundrum.
In the last few years, Microsoft has stayed relevant in mobile by making available its apps across Android OS and iOS platforms. That move cannot be faulted. Services that are not available on the platforms that make up close to 100% of the smartphone market will be forgotten and will experience a loss of users. Microsoft’s apps – Outlook, Word, Excel, OneDrive, Skype, and others – are recording hundreds of millions of downloads in Play Store. This is great.
Microsoft is doing well in the entreprise tablet space with its Surface devices. In a period in which Apple’s iPad keeps recording a decline in sales, the Surface keeps selling more units. But in terms of marketshare, the Surface isn’t close to matching the iPad yet.
Microsoft wants to own a viable smartphone platform. And the software giant continues to push for that. We will see how the development and testing of a new Windows Mobile UI and hardware plays out. How will Microsoft handle the issues that have held it back from achieving its goals of conquering mobile? Don’t expect anything concrete soon though. Like the report says, these are early days.
Windows Mobile is currently insignificant. BlackBerry OS is dead. Firefox OS is dead. Tizen Os is a blip. All the Android forks are just as insignificant as Windows Mobile is. For now, the smartphone market continues to be ruled by Android OS, with iOS playing a distant second fiddle. You can read the original report about Microsoft’s new mobile UI at Thurrott.