Wait, what? Did I just say that Microsoft selling 4.5 million Lumias in a quarter is good news? You’re goddamn right I did.
After Microsoft reported their earnings and the abysmal number of Lumias that they sold, most analysts said something to the like of “there’s no way that anyone could put a positive spin on this.” Tom Warren of The Verge pronounced Windows Phone to be dead and every tech blog that covers Microsoft chimed in with their own version of that story. Even I wrote a story called RIP Windows Phone: Death without Life.
There’s an entirely different side of the story to be telling. Here’s another article I wrote on July 13, 2015 called Why Windows Phone will Never Succeed. Let’s consider some of the theories in that article for a moment.
Point #1: Windows Phone Must Displace Android or iOS
There is never a room for a third major platform in technology. There is always room for small, open source contenders such as desktop Linux, but never a third major contender.
PCs have always been Windows and Mac OS. Phones have always been Android and iOS. Then there’s consoles, which prove that it’s possible for a major third platform to displace one of the main two. Consoles were Atari and Nintendo, Nintendo and Sega, Nintendo and Sony, and now Sony and Microsoft.
The point is that there has never been a healthy third alternative for any technology medium. The only way that Windows phone can ever be viable is for it to displace one of the top two, iOS or Android.
Point #2: Windows Phone Can’t Displace iOS
People often tell me, “I don’t need Windows phone to be #1. I just want it to sit at a healthy 15-20%, just like iOS.”
Here’s the thing. Apple users spend money. iOS may have a lowly ~15% market share, but every one of those devices was a flagship device at some time. People who have over $700 to spend on a phone usually have $0.99 to spend on an app, which is why developers choose to develop for iOS, often before Android, which has a market share in excess of 80%.
Apple is extremely good at what they do. They make a really good product and they show no signs of slipping. Windows phone cannot take this on.
Let’s be clear about something though. If Windows phone did displace iOS at around 15%, it still wouldn’t be enough.
Point #3: Consumers need Choice
Apple doesn’t have the business model to ever be the majority of anything. They don’t license their OS to third party OEMs, they make two lines of phones, and the fact is that consumers need choice.
There’s about 1.5 billion smart phones in use today and it’s absolutely impossible to get 1.5 billion people to want the same thing, let alone get 1.5 billion people to be able to want and afford the same expensive thing. This is why Android has been so successful.
Point #4: Windows phone Doesn’t Provide Choice
Here’s another article I wrote called Is Microsoft Hurting Windows Phone with Lumia? When Windows Phone 7 launched, we saw offerings from HTC, Samsung, LG, and Dell. Over time, we saw more from smaller companies as well such as Yezz and Blu. The most important entry here was Nokia with Windows Phone 7.5.
Nokia was the only OEM that went all in on Windows Phone. Microsoft bought them so they wouldn’t go out of business so now we have Microsoft Lumia.
When I reviewed the Yezz Billy 4.7, I was stunned by how amazing of a phone it was. I still stand by my word that it’s the best sub-$100 Windows Phone on the market. When I published my review, I saw interesting comments that said things like, “No thanks. I’d rather stick with a real Windows Phone”, meaning Lumia.
I think it’s clear that as far as Windows Phone consumers are concerned, Lumia is the only real Windows Phone. This is a real problem for the platform. Trying to be Apple isn’t going to help anything because Apple already exists.
So Why are Microsoft’s Abysmal Numbers a Good Thing?
There have been a lot of rumors as of late about third party Windows 10 Mobile devices coming out. Sony, HP, Acer, and many more are in that mix. At the same time, Microsoft is backing down from the hardware race.
I’ve been saying for some time that Lumia was hurting the platform, but it was always a dilemma. Microsoft was pretty much the only one making Windows Phones, so they really couldn’t stop making hardware while assuming that third parties would pick up the slack.
We live in a world where the line between tablets and laptops are becoming blurred. In a few years, the line between laptop/tablet and phone will become increasingly blurred as well. Windows 10 Mobile devices are PCs now, so bringing in PC OEMs such as HP and Acer makes sense.
I really hate to be the typical Windows phone fan that says that it’s all part of some grander plan and it very well might not be. I just thought it might be nice to try to put something of a positive spin on those numbers for once.
When The Verge said that Windows Phone is dead, they weren’t talking about Windows Phone. They were talking about Lumia. After all, it was based on Lumia sales.
Except Lumia doesn’t equal Windows Phone. We just think of it that way because Lumia is the only “real” Windows Phone.
Personally, I’m really excited to see a rich ecosystem of third party Windows Mobile devices. Hopefully, they’ll sell.