Windows Phone, or Windows Mobile if you prefer, is well and truly dead. Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore recently shared the news through his personal Twitter account. Microsoft is no longer actively developing new features or hardware for the platform, which has been retired. Here's how the news (finally!) came to light.
Last week, Microsoft ported its Edge browser to the Android and iOS platforms. The browser is in beta testing mode, and Belfiore was fielding questions about the Edge beta program when several people queried him about the future of Windows Phone. He didn't mince words.
"Depends who you are. Many companies still deploy [Windows Phone] to their employees and we will support them," said Belfiore on Twitter. "Of course we'll continue to support the platform ... bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/hw aren't the focus. :("
In other words, though Microsoft will continue to support the platform, it's done adding features and creating new devices. That's a shame, as people have been waiting for a "Surface Phone" to succeed the Lumia 950 since 2015.
More interesting, however, is the why. Belfiore gave us the answer most (should have) expected: apps. The Windows ecosystem has lagged those of Android and iOS from Day One. At its height in 2014, the Windows Store reached about 300,000 apps for Windows Phones. Meanwhile, the Google Play Store boasts about 3.3 million apps while the iTunes App Store includes 2.2 million apps. Windows Phone never garnered the support it needed, despite Microsoft's best efforts, said Belfiore.
"We have tried VERY HARD to incent app devs. Paid money ... wrote apps 4 them ... but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest. :(" wrote Belfiore.
Microsoft certianly tried, and tried hard. Just look at how it brought the Windows ecosystem together over the evolution of Windows Phone 7, 8, and eventually Windows Mobile 10. By the time 10 rolled around, the core kernel of the desktop and mobile platforms was the same. Microsoft baked tools into Visual Studio so developers could easily port desktop apps to mobile devices. Despite all these efforts, developers seemingly ignored Windows for phones.
As a result, Windows Phone never reached critical mass with consumers; it was sort of a chicken-or-egg problem. Without the numbers of users enjoyed by the Android and iOS platforms, developers and companies were hesistant to make the investment in Windows Phone apps. On the flip side, consumers stayed away from Windows Phone due to the lack of apps. It's hard for a platform to get off the ground with no support, and Belfiore makes it clear that the lack of apps doomed Windows Phone.
It's a shame to see the platform put out to pasture, but at least Microsoft has given the community some much-needed clarity on where things stand.