The mobile operating system will only get security updates now. Is the Surface next for the chop?
Microsoft is finally stepping out of the mobile operating system market, declaring itself finished with Windows Phone.
Joe Belfiore, Redmond's global VP of operating systems, told followers on Twitter yesterday that Windows 10 Mobile, the latest incarnation of the company's mobile OS, would no longer receive feature updates, or new hardware.
"We'll continue to support the platform.. bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/hw [hardware] aren't the focus," he admitted.
He added: "As an individual end-user, I switched platforms for the app/hw diversity. We will support those users too! Choose what's best 4 u."
The Verge took that to mean Belfiore, like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has switched to Android.
In a bald admission, Belfiore explained Microsoft had attempted to incentivise developers to build apps for Windows Phone, but that the pool of users was just too small.
Windows Phone has always had a small slice of the mobile operating system market, but that share fell from 0.8% in March 2016 to 0.1% in March 2017, according to analyst firm IDC.
Microsoft bet big - but late - on the mobile market when it bought Nokia's phone business for £4.6 billion in 2014, but has failed to make a success of it, writing down the investment the next summer.
In the meantime, Microsoft is creating iOS and Android versions of its software, such as its Edge browser, and Belfiore hinted Microsoft is bringing its Windows 10 Mobile keyboard to those operating systems via SwiftKey, which it bought back in 2016.
Is Surface on the way out too?
The news comes amid predictions that Microsoft may axe its successful Surface hardware range by 2019, according to Canalys CEO Steve Brazier.
As reported by The Register, Brazier said Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella is a “software guy, a cloud guy”, meaning the company’s tablet and laptop range is likely to go the same way as its smartphone division.
Nadella’s affinity for software isn’t the only reason Brazier gave for the coming demise of the Surface, though. Despite being highly rated by our own reviewers and others, Microsoft has struggled to make money on it.
“When the capital expenditure challenge that Satya Nadella has taken Microsoft down becomes visible to Wall Street, everyone will ask him ‘Why have you gone to a low margin business?’” Brazier said.
The Surface range, he said, will be “the first target” in an apparently inevitable cost-cutting effort to reverse this low-margin trend.
Brazier’s predictions were backed up by Gianfranco Lanci, corporate VP and COO of Lenovo.
“Microsoft is making a lot of money on cloud, making a lot of money on Windows and Office, but losing a lot of money on devices,” he said.
“Frankly speaking, it is difficult to see why they should keep losing money. For them it is a very difficult exercise to run hardware products business, they need to be careful about every single detail as the margin on this is so thin.”