Credit Microsoft for trying, but the Windows Phone experiment is done in its current form, and it’s wreaking havoc on a lot of lives as a result. This week, Microsoft wrote off yet another massive loss and announced another round of job cuts in a move that essentially ends Microsoft’s involvement with Nokia’s handset division, which they purchased in 2013.
The process began last year, when Microsoft wrote off an incredible $7.6 billion in assets and cut 7,800 jobs, many of which were in Nokia’s native Finland. That’s where the pain will be most keenly felt this week, too, as Microsoft writes off another $950 million and cuts 1,850 more jobs. This comes only a week after Microsoft sold off the feature phone (non-smartphone) division of their Nokia purchase to FIH Mobile, with 4,500 employees affected by the change in ownership. This makes the Nokia handset division purchase one of the biggest acquisition disasters in tech history, with nearly 10,000 jobs lost as a result.
Even at its best, the Windows Phone platform could never get past 3 percent market share, consistently trailing the juggernauts of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. To be fair to them, Microsoft wasn’t alone — the past few years haven’t been kind to any mobile OS besides the big two. BlackBerry is nearly non-existent today, WebOS is a distant memory, and the Firefox OS never really got off the ground in the mainstream market (although it’s questionable whether or not it was ever meant to). Windows Phone suffered from the same problem as everyone else — lackluster development support. It became a vicious cycle, where a lack of apps led to declining consumer interest, which only convinced developers that they were right to stay away from the platform in the first place. It was never lucrative enough to get developers to invest time and money into coding for a completely different platform.
Microsoft has stopped short of saying that they’ll be exiting the phone business entirely. There have been rumors that the Surface division is working on a Surface phone, although if that phone runs Windows 10 Mobile, it’s unclear how a Surface phone would be anything other than a Lumia with another name. Short of being able to run Android apps natively, it’s hard to see how Microsoft cracks a smartphone platform market that increasingly looks impenetrable.