This week, Microsoft announced that they were cutting another 1,850 jobs and about 1,350 of those were coming from Finland. Where Nokia originated, which Microsoft bought in 2013 (with the deal closing in April 2014). Microsoft bought the smartphone business from Nokia (not to be confused with the Nokia that bought Alcatel-Lucent last year). Microsoft hasn’t said that they are pulling out of the mobile industry, but when you continually cut jobs in that area, it’s tough to stay in business. They did say that they would be continuing to make smartphones for business customers. As those are the customers that have shown interest in their smartphones. This acquisition of Nokia is likely going to be one of the more costly acquisitions that Microsoft has ever done. It’s right up there with the Sprint/Nextel acquisition, as far as questionable acquisitions go.
So where did it all go wrong for Microsoft? Well it was a number of mistakes that Microsoft made through the years with Windows Mobile or Windows Phone. In 2011, Nokia ditched Symbian and turned to Microsoft’s mobile platform, making smartphones exclusively using their mobile OS. That was probably a big mistake for Nokia in the long run, as they ended up losing money each quarter, and nabbing a pretty small market share all the way up until 2013 when Microsoft bought them. Nokia, undoubtedly, makes some amazing smartphones. In fact, we’ve seen many people getting excited about Nokia making Android smartphones in the near future. But limiting their resources to just Windows Mobile was not a good idea, especially seeing as they were the smallest ecosystem, behind Android, iOS and BlackBerry.
A big issue that Microsoft has had with their mobile OS for years, is the fact that they don’t have enough apps. There are a number of apps that are not available on Windows Mobile. It’s often times the most common complaint from Microsoft users. Now Microsoft has done a few things to help court some app and game developers over to their platform, but nothing has really worked for them. Largely due to their market share. Since the second quarter of 2012, Windows Phone has not seen their market share go above 5%. And for many app developers, that’s not enough users to justify spending time developing apps for those users to use. While Windows Phone did get some apps, they often weren’t updated often, or at all. When compared to their siblings on iOS and Android.
Then there’s the fact that Microsoft didn’t push OEM’s to use Windows Phone in lower-end smartphones. In 2014, Microsoft was actually giving away Windows Phone to device makers to use in their upcoming smartphones. But that didn’t seem to do much for making Windows Phone a bit more popular. For the most part, the only company making smartphones running on Windows Phone was Nokia. Seeing as HTC and Samsung had turned to focusing on Android, as that was where the majority of their users were. If Microsoft had pushed OEM’s to put Windows Phone into everything, they could have made quite the impact.
While the low-end smartphone area is not one that any mobile operating system really wants to dominate, solely, it is one that could have helped boost Windows Phone. Especially seeing how popular these low-end smartphones are in emerging markets like Brazil, India, and Indonesia. This could have opened up Microsoft’s partners eyes, and persuaded them into making smartphones running on Windows 10 Mobile when that launched in 2014. Microsoft has said that they aren’t giving up on Windows 10 Mobile right now. But they are shifting focus from doing consumer and business smartphones, to just business smartphones. Targeted at enterprise customers. HP actually announced a 6-inch phablet at Mobile World Congress in February that runs on Windows 10 Mobile. This is a 6-inch smartphone powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, with 4GB of RAM, along with a 4150mAh battery and IP67 water resistance. Definitely an impressive smartphone. But with Microsoft focusing on enterprise customers now, it’ll be interesting to see if this smartphone ever actually makes it to store shelves.