These days, it seems like the mobile environment is a two horse race between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android OS. Gone are the days of BlackBerry OS holding much market share, or HP’s WebOS that tried to extend Palm’s attempt at a mobile operating system contender. And today’s upstarts such as Samsung’s Tizen and Mozilla’s Firefox OS have yet to make much of a splash. Is there no hope for a third mobile OS with a sizable piece of the pie?
There is a small glimmer of hope: Microsoft’s Windows Mobile is clinging to a 2.7% market share at the end of 2014. To be clear, this is down from 3.3% in 2013 so Microsoft executives aren’t exactly jumping for joy, but there are new signs of life that show that they aren’t about to throw in the towel just yet.
1. Windows 10 was built with mobile even more at the forefront.
Recently, Microsoft gave a technical preview of the upcoming Windows 10 operating system, which basically iterated and improved upon all the successful mobile points in Windows 8.1. The user interface is slicker, speech recognition is better, and there are many more avenues for customization which is sorely lacking on current Windows phones. For example, you can finally change your background image.
This is good news. Sure, changing background images is a fairly minor feature but it shows that Microsoft is trying to appeal to the average user who just want a picture of their cat on their phone. Windows 10 will hopefully put usability first, and any updates to the operating system will be greatly appreciated by disgruntled fans.
2. Microsoft is sharing Office apps with Apple, Android, and more.
In the past year, Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint have been joined by Outlook, OneNote, and OneDrive apps on more Apple and Android phones. Not only that, Microsoft has opened up their apps to integrate with 3rd parties such as Box and Dropbox. Many have applauded this “new level of openness” from the company historically stingy with technology.
This move certainly has an air of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” to it, but it also shows a commitment to inserting Windows into the mobile conversation. MS Office is still ubiquitous and it’s a smart move to leverage this software to keep a foothold with the consumer. Not only do these apps provide a stream of revenue for continued mobile efforts, getting users hooked on your apps can lead to hardware sales. After all, many choose Android phones due to their love of Google Drive apps (Docs, Sheets, Maps), something Microsoft if very aware of.
3. Microsoft knows it has an app problem and is working on it.
Ask any Windows Phone user what their number one complaint is and you’ll probably get the same response each time: “there just aren’t enough good apps in the app store.” Though Microsoft has stated that the Windows Phone Store has over 500,000 apps, that number is still dwarfed by both Apple and Android boasting over a million. And that’s not even weeding out apps that simply don’t perform as well for Windows phones.
Luckily, executives at Microsoft are actively courting app developers to create more apps for their ecosystem. Recent reports show that outreach teams at Microsoft have been tasked with finding talent from startups, established companies, and students. Hiring is always a good sign that a company is taking something seriously, and we’re eager to see what new apps will arrive in the Windows Phone Store in the coming year.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Windows Phone becoming relevant again as their market share continues to decline. But these positive signs show that Microsoft isn’t giving up any time soon, and mobile competition is always great news for mobile consumers. For now, we won’t be counting Windows Mobile down for the count.