Supporters of Microsoft’s Windows Phone mobile ecosystem, now on to the somewhat new Windows 10 Mobile, have a number of differentiating features to look to in their OS. Windows 10 Mobile features Continuum, a technology that makes it easy to make your phone pretend it’s a computer, and Microsoft is reportedly even thinking about allowing users to run full desktop Windows apps in this mode. The HP Elite X3, for example, includes this functionality in a very early form, but the apps are virtual and run far slower than they would on a native x86-based system. There has been talk of an actual x86-based Windows Phone running full Windows 10, and that wouldn’t be too far-fetched – many a phone actually have used Intel’s processors in the past, and some LTE Windows tablets in sizes almost considered small enough to be a phone do exist, but that’s a suboptimal solution for those looking for a true all-in-one device. Microsoft’s other non-traditional hardware platform, the Microsoft Band family, also has its concerned fans, saying that a lack of new features and updates has let the Microsoft Band unable to compete with similar solutions on the market.
With these concerns in hand, shareholders at a recent meeting demanded that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explain how the company plans to address these issues and bring their non-PC hardware lineup up to speed with the rest of the industry. In response, Nadella said that Microsoft is focusing on what makes their mobile ecosystem different, playing to its strengths in a bid to make it more appealing to users who would normally go for more niche entries in the Android world, or for iOS devices. Features like device security and content and function interlock with other devices often draw users to the iOS and Mac ecosystem, or to Google’s tightly-knit Android and Chrome OS ecosystem, and Microsoft is hoping to appeal to these users with the features unique to the Windows ecosystem. One of the problems with that, however, is a limited app ecosystem, and that’s a problem that Microsoft actually seems to be contributing to. Apps like Outlook have ended up being available on Android and iOS before Windows 10 Mobile. According to Nadella, however, this is intentional; Microsoft holds “from the ground up” control of the current Windows Mobile ecosystem, including the hardware of Lumia phones. This allows them to integrate into the system the kind of functions that are baked into dedicated apps on other mobile ecosystems. There is, however, still the issue of waning developer interest; essentially, without some kind of mass appeal to developers, surge in user numbers, or adding in x86 and Win32 compatibility, the Windows Mobile ecosystem will always be inherently limited compared to the competition.
Essentially, it seems at this point that Nadella is determined to turn Windows into a cohesive ecosystem like the Google and Apple worlds, rather than the bastion of one-size-fits-all utility that it has been in the past. With more and more users jumping ship from the traditional Windows ecosystem as apps that had bound them to it make their way to other ecosystems, Microsoft is left scrambling to catch Windows up in other ways in order to see the ecosystem and OS flourish. Right now, accessing all of your files seamlessly across your phone and computer is something that users of all ecosystems can do, but it may be difficult for an Android user with a Windows PC or a Mac user with a Windows phone, which can help to discourage people from using Microsoft’s ecosystem because of Windows Phone’s arguably limited functionality. There are a few ways that Microsoft could reverse this trend, and Nadella seems set on playing to the ecosystem’s inherent strengths to draw users, which would in turn attract developers. Only time will tell if this gamble will work out.