An era Microsoft would soon like to forget has just come to an end. After spirited attempts at breaking into the smartphone market, including a disastrous acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, Microsoft has officially ended support for Windows Phone 8.1, only three years after it was first introduced alongside Cortana.
As of this week, Microsoft will no longer issue updates or provide support for Windows Phone 8.1 — if there are any new security exploits that crop up in the future, those phones will be unprotected. That means most Windows Phone devices will no longer get updates — analyst estimates suggest only 20 percent of phones running Windows software run Windows 10 Mobile. While those phones have the benefit of being on Microsoft’s unified Windows 10 platform, Microsoft hasn’t introduced new Windows phone features in a long time, and they aren’t likely to start anytime soon.
While Windows 10 Mobile is still being supported, it might be dead in the water — after all, no one (not even Microsoft) is making Windows phones anymore. The last one we saw was the HP Elite X3, although Acer and Alcatel also have made Windows handsets. None of them have moved the needle, with iOS and Android now controlling 99 percent of the market.
The mobile news we have seen from Microsoft usually involves their iOS and Android apps, so it’s probably safe to say that, for now, Windows 10 Mobile is going to sputter on. It might be on the way out, too — a long time ago, January 2018 was marked down as the end-of-life date for that platform.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Microsoft has given up on getting into smartphones. After all, Windows Phone wasn’t exactly a bad operating system. Live Tiles were way more useful than app icons, and the OS was lightweight and fun to use. It was just stuck in a vicious cycle — too few apps, which led to too few users, which led to too few developers wanting to create apps. That’s the problem it looks like Microsoft is trying to solve. They announced that iTunes and Spotify are both coming to Windows 10 this year at their Microsoft Build Developer’s Conference, and the new Windows 10 S operating system puts the Windows Store front and center. If Microsoft can successfully encourage app development for Windows 10, they could be in position to relaunch their mobile efforts (perhaps a Surface phone) in a year or two.
Via The Verge