Flashback: The birth and death of Windows Phone – the OS that killed Nokia

The old Nokia as we know it, had died a long time ago, and one of its executioners was surely Microsoft. When the company’s license for the Nokia name expired, we witnessed another great fall in the smartphone industry. Around the same time, Microsoft killed its Windows Phone operating system too.

Why did Microsoft create the Windows Phone?

At the very beginning, the new mobile operating system was intended to compete with other rising and already popular platforms like iOS and Android, although at the time there were many others. We still remember BlackBerry OS and WebOS, as well as Samsung’s Bada, which the Korean company had given up on time.

In the era of the booming smartphone market, it was hard to offer something different, so Microsoft tried a completely new platform – Windows Phone. To be honest, the design of the user interface was promising. The tiles instead of icons looked pretty interesting, especially live ones, which automatically changed colors and even turned into images. One could argue that it wasn’t sophisticated enough, but still, it offered something new, compared to the icon system we are used to on all other platforms.

Still, the main goal of the Windows Phone operating system was integration into Microsoft’s existing Windows PC eco-system, with the largest market share. The idea was very good, but it turned out that Microsoft had failed. In my humble opinion, the main reason was arrogancy, copied from Apple. We all know how loyal the consumer army Apple has. Microsoft apparently wanted the same, encouraged by its position in the PC market, where it actually has a monopoly.

Why did Windows Phone fail?

The first mistake Microsoft made was a bunch of restrictions. At the time, the company timed up with five manufacturers it signed contracts with, to produce devices with a new OS. Many limitations, led by Microsoft’s guidelines were the key obstacle for manufacturers to express their own creativity, so all phones were practically the same, at least in the software terms. The only difference was the casing design, just opposite to today’s situation.

So, people in Microsoft obviously thought that it had taken control of the whole ecosystem, just like Apple does, and dictated conditions to other companies. As the meme says, “it didn’t age well”. The problem was obvious to every person with an average IQ and with the least basic knowledge about market conditions. Apple could have had control over its eco-system because it’s one company, for God’s sake. How could Microsoft possibly create a closed ecosystem with five companies? Well, they thought it was doable, possibly because of Windows’s market share in the PC market.

It didn’t take long, one by one, the manufacturers gave up on the Windows Phone and continued producing Android phones, based on an open-source platform. This was obviously a wiser idea than listening to Balmer’s tantrums.

Windows Phone killed Nokia too

After concluding that Windows Phone won’t survive the game, Microsoft eased the restrictions with more flexible guidelines, but it was too late. The Windows Phone couldn’t reach even 2% of the global market share, and it was time for a new strategy. Then it once again came up with an idea to become the second Apple, so it should start producing its own phones. The only problem was that Microsoft didn’t have any production line, and no strategic partners to help it realize the project. The rest of the story is well-known as the “Nokia saga”. They first infiltrated their own manager Stephen Elop into Nokia’s leadership and then started with a new strategy by acquiring Nokia’s mobile division. Of course, first off, the value of the company had to fall deep down, so they took care of it by strategy which I explained in the article Nokia is dying again.

The final death of Windows Phone

When the time came, Microsoft bought Nokia and started to live a dream. They will produce their own phones with their own operating system, which they will successfully integrate into the existing desktop Windows eco-system. Yeah, right.

Years after, the market obviously didn’t care for Microsft’s plans, and the market share still couldn’t reach even 3%. I suppose that at that stage, some people in Microsoft already concluded that they were doing something wrong, but the leadership of the company was so arrogant that they simply didn’t want to admit their own mistakes. Soon after, it became obvious that Microsoft’s developers had given up, and the once-glorified operating system began to lose steam. Software updates and patches were often overdue, which resulted in further loss of interest of potential consumers. Finally, in 2016 Microsoft decided to terminate the Windows Phone project permanently.

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