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Fiction: Who Killed Windows Phone? (mondaynote.com)
52 points by KKKKkkkk1 on July 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

Clearly, Microsoft killed windows phone. Between Windows mobile 6.5 devices not being able to upgrade to WP7, and then again from WP7 to WP8, they weren't doing well to support existing users. WP8 was pretty good on low spec phones though, so you got a lot of new to smart phone users buying the cheapest thing; yes, a lot of apps were missing, but a lot of those run so bad on similarly priced androids that it's almost better not to have them.

WP8.1 added some good things, but also added the ability for the homescreen to swap out; loading... when starting a backgrounded app was bad enough. Anyway, there were new cheap options that were decent and shipped with WP8.1, so.

Then came WP10 -- the promised upgrades for WP8 devices didn't really pan out, the majority of WP8 devices aren't eligible because they don't have enough ram, and very few of the rest were offered the upgrade through the update system, you have to jump through a bunch of hoops.

That's really for the best because the first year of WP10 releases seem like nobody actually tested them on a phone, until Creators Update, which was actually pretty decent -- except for Edge, which is so much amazingly worse than IE, but Microsoft didn't want any other browsers on their store. It doesn't help that there's only about 5 phones available that ship with WP10, three of which are high end, and the low end ones are more expensive than the WP8 phones upgradable to WP10, and have at best, equivalent hardware.

I'm not saying a good WP10 release would have somehow gotten windows phone into 2nd place (even worldwide, where Apple is way behind Android), but it would have kept them out of speculation for which platform would finally fail first -- Symbian, Blackberry, Blackberry 10, or Windows Phone.

Edit to add -- each flavor of Windows Phone strongly encouraging developers to throw out the SDK and start again doesn't help either. There may never been more WP10 users than there are WP8 users right now, rewriting the app to better support WP10 is a waste of effort, and the proposed update to WP10 to stop supporting apps that can also run on WP8 is a great way to kill both platforms.

"In this alternate reality, Microsoft easily kills Android with one simple headline: Windows Phone Now Free"

It's worth noting that Microsoft did actually do this in 2014 - they made windows free for devices sized 9 inches or less: https://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-officially-makes-windo...

Granted, this is long after Windows Phone 7's initial release back in 2010.

I was in the Windows CE space (the basis for Windows Phone 'til appx. Windows Phone 8) a bit when Windows CE was mostly killed; so sad to see the MS employee blogs withering on the vine filled with comments from helpless developers as Microsoft kept moving the cheese.





I blame Experiment 19: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/experiment-...

The prototype proved that Windows NT and the CLR could deliver better performance than Windows CE and the .NET Compact Framework on identical hardware. Within months of the completion of Experiment 19, Microsoft launched efforts to build what would become Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT for ARM tablets.

Yes. They lost in 2004-2007 when they decided to stop investing in the growing CE platform. I still don't understand why. It's got to be one of the biggest business blunders of all time.

> I still don't understand why.

AFAIK, they wanted developers to use native code and Windows API. This is especially needed for games and other resource-demanding apps.

Windows CE is just too old. The security there is comparable to Windows 9.x, i.e. almost no security. It was very hard to design a CE-based OS that would allow arbitrary native code to run, while denying the ability to access user’s private data and break the device.

WP7 only allowed C++ code for close MS partners. Regular developers had to use .NET, which has its own very advanced security model built-in.

Probably, MS thought that once they allow C++ development, third-party developers start to port their older Windows games to WP 8 + Direct3D 11 feature level 9.3.

Eventually the plan didn’t work. MS bought Minecraft, convinced Rockstar to port GTA San Andreas, but the platform still hadn’t gain enough traction, and most third party developers passed.

> I still don't understand why.

Look at Apple and compare the iPhone and Mac versions. They share the same architecture and a lot of code and that is not just on the surface but for real. This allows Apple to have one very, very good codebase for their OS. Microsoft did not have that solid foundation and additional challenges particularly in the area of security. There was no way for them to catch up if they maintained multiple platforms. To see where trying to have multiple platforms lead just study Nokia.

Developing on WinCE in the early 2000s and developing on Windows based server apps at the same time was actually somewhat efficient. APIs had some consistencies between the platforms -- not mentioning shared toolsets.

The WP7 -> WP8 thing was unforgivable.

Windows CE will live on for the foreseeable future in the form of those terrible, terrible inventory scanguns.

I thought most of those were being replaced by iphones in cases or docks...

Slowly but surely, yes. But definitely slow enough that there's still a significant amount of the Windows CE powered hardware around.

Swapping the hardware is the easy part but integrating new components with your SAP powered warehouse (with custom things your $1k+/day SAP specialists have flown in and written and left undocumented) itself is generally a massive project.

Well, I personally still just miss Metro UI, the Windows Phone 7 and Zune HD iterations of it. No UI quite looked as pretty since.

I never considered a Windows phone because it failed to provide a substantial value prop vs Android and iOS. They could have competed on price, physical quality (we still have no truly waterproof phones), battery life (as in not a few more hours but actual weeks of battery, or warranty. That last one would have been the easiest: offer substantially better warranty than Apple (are there any Android phones that have original comprehensive warranty? I mean not through the carrier or Best Buy.)

The other thing to do would have been to offer Android app compatibility. I wonder if it would have been possible to spend that money they paid developers to port apps on developing a decent compatibility layer that would have made the porting unnecessary. Or provide tooling that made APK -> Windows app compilation super easy.

As is, they had a sad story of a phone with some neat features but no big steps forward, in a market already saturated by good-enough competition.

> we still have no truly waterproof phones), battery life

Aren't iPhones and galaxy "active" or something are waterproof?

There are "survival" type phone that have weeks of battery life and shock/water proof, but it's not what the market wants, there is a minority of people who would sacrifice the look/dimensions/weight of he phone for the N week batter life. Most consumers would go for the looks and portability I think. That's why iphone sells as much and those "survival" phones don't. Do you think if iphone would stick a twice as thick of a battery in its next iPhone many people would buy it? I certainly would not

I don't know what other people would buy if they were advertised heavier, but I'd buy a phone with about a 4.5"-5" screen, and 1.5x thicker than my current one, as long as the edges aren't sharp. Something like a Galaxy Nexus with a bit of battery bulge, updated components, and a micro SD slot would be close to perfect.

What prevents you from buying a battery case for he nexus or iPhone?

The Galaxy Nexus that I have is for the wrong carrier, its version of Android doesn't receive security updates, and has a tiny amount of storage with no expandable memory option.

iOS lacks a lot of the features I take for granted (MTP for arbitrary file types, support for app stores like HumbleBundle, ability to run different browsers and servers like ssh on-device). The iPhone hardware itself: non-removable battery, no external storage, and current models don't have a headphone jack. I'm not a fan of wireless audio devices. I'd have a fair amount of software to re-purchase. I've got an iPhone 6 available to me, that was originally a work phone. It's nice, in a lot of ways. Not something I'd consider for my "daily driver".

So, what prevents me? The fact that those devices would still be unsuitable, even if I got a battery case. I would've considered the Sony Xperia X Compact, if it had been released when I was last phone shopping. Seems Sony's got a bad habit of not updating their phones, I doubt their commitment to supporting them, and that's a particularly niche model, anyhow. Not much third-party support.

They are water resistant, which is as good as you are going to get.

Not sure what this guy means by water proof, but you will never have a truly 100% water proof phone, since you can't really have a truly water proof any expensive electrical device. Since nothing can withstand the water at really low depths/high pressure, even submarines.

Sure you can, but not in a thin easy to manufacture package while also using mechanically acceptable materials that are also light.

Waterproof is not the same as pressure proof. Typically the rating is set by the seals used. If hard seals were used or single piece ultrasonic welded cases, the device would really be waterproof. Soft seals will start leaking water because the seal material compresses.

Submarines are waterproof unless damaged. They have a crush depth though.

They did compete well on price. Winphone ran well on the kind of specs that made Android pure misery to use. They also had some fun software features, like unifying a contact's social networking and messaging log into the contact app. Android should steal that approach to make up for their balkanized communication apps.

> The other thing to do would have been to offer Android app compatibility.

After Nokia switched from Meego to Windows Phone with the Microsoft deal a group of Meego devs left and ceated the new company Jolla, where they developed the Sailfish OS as a branch of Meego.

Sailfish has a built-in Android emulator, it's a version of Alien Dalvik. I've actually found it quite good, although there's a slight input delay, it uses additional battery power since it's emulating the apps, and it's getting a bit out of date now (it supports a relatively old version of Android, although I think they're currently working on updating it to some extent).

> The other thing to do would have been to offer Android app compatibility.

Supposedly, the tried and gave up - but whatever effort was spent doing that eventually resulted in WSL.

I remember the push to be able to take existing Android/eyePhone code and port it directly to Win Mobile. IIRC Microsoft scrapped both sets of API (based on community feedback) and focused on Android, but that project too was scraped.

There was a 3rd party BlueCard project that attempted to bring Android apps to Windows 8, but it only supported older versions of Android at the time.

As a windows 10 user, I would have definitely moved to a 'windows phone' anytime before ~2010. What would have gotten me to move would have been some sort of seamless 'handoff' from my desktop computer to my phone. I still think the opportunity is there for them to do that. I dont mean the ability to run desktop apps of course, but maybe some new take on 'remote desktop' which had a ios like UI. I just imagine leaving my house and going to work where I take my phone out and just plug it into some dock and I magicly have my home environment. And when I am on the go, I have some 'ios-ified' version of my home setup.

The only other phone I know of that kind of tried to do this was the atrix, which afaik was a failure

I'm sticking with the combo of being late to the party and not having even a solid fraction of the top apps on iOS/Android. I believe Windows Phone could've survived if it had enough of the top app support. A distant third. But still enough to warrant continued investment.

So in my eyes if they could've gotten top app support from coming out with W7 earlier or just somehow getting that support when they did release things, it would've salvaged things. The insane Nokia purchase price would still need to be heavily written down along with a lot of layoffs. Just not as much as what actually happened.

Ah well. Most of all I will miss webOS, then Windows 8 Mobile.

A platform is only as good as the applications that are available for it, and we live in a world where some of the best applications are made by one company named Google.

For many users, the everyday experience of using the Internet surrounds watching videos on YouTube, finding their way with Google Maps, and communicating using Gmail.

Google's mission statement, of course, is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"... however, that is an abridgment: the full version continues in a whisper with "(except on Windows Phone)".

What follows are a selection of stories of Google's process of systematically isolating Windows Phone, each backed up with articles of the time (though it is of course trivial to find references: even mainstream media started to realize that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and started questioning the underlying motives).


Microsoft was forced to write their own YouTube application, which did not show ads and so was blocked by Google. I will note that Apple also effectively did this, though working with Google (a key difference), so this isn't crazy on the face of it: the original iPhone came with a copy of YouTube written by Apple that did not play any advertisements.


In the aftermath of this debacle, they wrote a new one, working along with Google this time (as far as I understand), that did show advertisements and was designed to satisfy Google's other demands... but Google seriously waited until it was not just completed but fully released and then went ahead and blocked it anyway.



Recently, Google decided that users of Gmail would not be able to access their email using Outlook on Windows Phone... even though it isn't like Microsoft is bad at email of all things.


However, this isn't the first time that Google messed with Windows Phone on email: when they removed the Exchange ActiveSync protocol, it was seen by many as a direct attack on Windows Phone.



And who could forget the saga of Google Maps, which was blocked by Google on Windows Phone, even though it was accessible on other phones which used the exact same web browser engine, and even though the renderer was shared by the desktop version of IE.




At one point Google's AdMob started to see a massive drop in revenue... only on Windows Phone. This was later claimed to be a "bug", but of course took Google a long time to come up with a fix, undercutting developer revenue on the platform.



Of course, Google refused to bring any other software to the platform, such as for Google Voice; and while you used to be able to use this from the web, once Apple relented and allowed Google Voice in the App Store, Google mostly stopped bothering maintaining their web version.


This wouldn't be so bad, but Google also tends to throw its weight around to get third-party clients for their products pulled from places like the App Store... now, I personally think they have no legal basis to do this, but Apple goes along with it (as Gooogle does support their platform ;P) and it creates a chilling effect on people writing their own clients elsewhere.


Regardless, someone did write a third-party Google Voice app for Windows Phone, and Microsoft (who had even been frantically writing their own third-party apps) let it stay around. So, Google had to change their terms of service and figure out how to block it on their server, as again: their unabridged mission statement clearly reads "(except on Windows Phone)".


Your account is true, and I'm not disputing it or that Google took nefarious actions here, but the OP's thesis is that Windows Phone was doomed as a platform years before even the release of Windows Phone 7, the fist "modern" version that dropped compatibility with Windows Mobile/Windows CE.

I think Google could have only employed this strategy against an already failing adversary: they haven't tried the same against the iOS platform.

If the choice is between a company that inconveniences its own users for profit -- which I think the antitrust case against Microsoft proves that it was -- and a company that inconveniences other companies' users (e.g. Google inconveniencing Windows Phone users), I far prefer the latter. At least if the inconvenience constitutes not supporting a competitor's protocol.

Microsoft isn't paying Google to please its users, so I don't see how MS can reasonably expect Google to do so. They are competing, for-profit companies. Google isn't responsible for the Windows Phone platform, Microsoft is.

The funny thing about your statement (which I generally agree with) is that it applies in Microsoft's favour on the desktop.

As a user I quite enjoyed the UI concept of Windows Phone. It felt refreshing then especially because of its apparent simplicity, and focus on typography, which was a stark contrast from the skeuomorphism of iOS then.

Too bad there were never enough apps, IE mobile was buggy, and I felt that my Lumia never had the build quality Nokia was once famous for.

I sold my S7 Edge and Lumia 1520 just today.

I loved the Lumia 1520 device. It was beautiful, felt extremely good in the hand, was only slightly hefty, and the IPS display was phenomenal -- no AMOLED screen can compare to a Lumia IPS display when it comes to reading text. It was so good.

However, it was a death by a thousand paper cuts -- as many others have already pointed out. Even though I adored the device, I couldn't help but notice how useless it was. I was lucky enough to find several apps that I wanted to have on both my S7E and the L1520 but in the end, they were written by enthusiastic underpaid devs and were lagging behind in features, and some of their bugs I continuously observed throughout my full year with the device.

I was saddened to sell it but hoarding tech whose death clock has been running for a while is not sensible.

Windows phone 8 was pretty nice to develop on. Microsoft's experience on building OS and a developer environment was also pretty visible on the product. IT was probably a little bit too late, though.

The people.

No one asked for another restricted platform.

At the time Windows Phone came out, Android was more restricted as far as user experience went, with all the forced apps shit. In fact, Android's still worse in that case for most users (people able to root or otherwise mod their phone don't count). Windows Phone made a big deal about letting end users decide which apps would be there.

The UI is still arguably more advanced. Instead of just another take on the old desktop model, a sea of icons, it had useful tiles. It has neat features like when disabling WiFi, it'll ask for how long -- something I always forget in Android, ending up costing me mobile data.

But hey being too late to market and coming out with underwhelming devices then abandoning them repeatedly... no thanks. Didn't help their app story was weak, and their app store filled with shit - (Windows Store STILL is). Used to be that a search for "Netflix" would result in fake Netflix apps. Even now, searching for HBO or Game of Thrones results in fake apps.

I'd pin it all on the marketplace starting horrible, being horrible for a long time and somehow managing to be come even more horrible after its figurative-death with xbox thing tacked on.

There was definitely demand for "Windows, but on my phone", which would have been a "restricted platform" but in the way that people actually wanted.

Well I mean sort of, these days it's gotten worse but one of the nice things about Windows vs OSX was that Microsoft never really seemed to give a shit about what you did once you gave them money. Windows was (and of course is) proprietary but it was pretty damn unrestricted.

Makes you wonder if on one of these business meetings they discussed the location of the start button.

Who killed Ubuntu phone then?

Time traveling UX designers to prevent a future catastrophe.

No way. Time traveling UX designers are the ones designing Linux DE's today.

Are there any manufactures building phones I can just install some form of Linux on?

Update: I mean, other than Android :)

Update: I'm reading about Tizen now and Sailfish

It seems like the Sony Xperia X is becoming a sailfish option: https://blog.jolla.com/sony-xperia-project-update/

Now if only I could work sony's naming scheme. Apparently the x series is the replacement of the z series (what happened to the y series?). Then looking at local retailers, all I can find are the XZ phones, so who knows what they are. Haven't looked at specs yet because I'm lost in code names. I really wish buying from any other manufacturer was as simple as buying from apple.

check postmarketOS, but it's not officially supported by any vendor.

Probably the focus on building a whole new DE that just mimicked Gnome for the most part, that probably wasted a bit of their engineering time instead of just building on top of Gnome which was extensible already. A plugin for a DE is easier to maintain than a whole DE I would think. Anyway, that's just my small theory. I was annoyed to find out it finally died. I would of bought a Ubuntu phone if my carrier had ever offered one here in the US.

The first Ubuntu phone was not released until February 2015.

By that time, 1 billion Android devices had already been sold. The first Android phone was sold in October 2008. The iPhone was released in June 2007.

Ubuntu entered the market six years later and had to take on these two market giants, as well as other competitors like Microsoft still trying to get a seat at the table.


Thinking about it, the entire MS business model was to pay royalties on hardware that is now often made by ODMs in China. It is very likely that the next economic collapse will result in a decline in PC sales. Of course, shareholders rely on MS stock to go up every time PC sales increase.

What killed Windows Mobile/Phone? The iPhone (the first one) did.

Windows Phone was complicated, and all about the enterprise. The business model was all about selling more server licenses, and everyone having a phone that tied them into that ecosystem was good.

Once Apple put out a phone that normal (non-techy) people could use, it really was over. Their UI was much, much better, and although it had less features to start, all their features worked.

It was all downhill from there.

And yes, I agree with the story that culture was the real culprit:

> We know who/what killed Windows Phone, and it’s not Android. We could point fingers at one or more Microsoft execs as the culprits, but that misses the point: Microsoft culture did it. Culture is dangerous; under our field of consciousness, it sneakily filters and shapes perceptions, it’s a system of permissions to emote, think, speak, and do.

I always wondered what Jean-Louis Gassée was doing after BEoS.

[in 2013] The company’s Lumia brand of smartphones offers respectable devices — I bought one — but...

Haha this closing admission explains entirely the goofy anachronisms and non sequiturs that comprise the rest of TFA. The dream of windows on the phone could have come true, if only it had been a decent phone OS, before either of the two actual decent phone OSes had been introduced, and also it had been completely free... JLG has lots of uncles but no aunts.

We still make fun of my brother's Lumia phone, that he "got for really cheap". Why was that, I wonder?

Loved the Lumia phones. Rock solid stability.

Yea I had one for a while. It was a good little phone. Durable. I liked the OS too. The Kindle app was terribly buggy .. if there was a version of Firefox for it I think I'd have been set.

Yea...Windows Phone OS is really reliable (2 restarts in 5 years). I've never felt it underpowered either. Yes, my biggest complaint is the terrible PDF apps. Seriously Microsoft? Full Excel, but no PDF?

This is not a basic problem, but it obviously stems from one. When you only get the apps that the platform vendor can be arsed to provide, you'll find that their priorities are not your priorities.

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