Goodbye Windows Phone - It's A Shame You're Leaving

Back in the 1990s, one company pretty much dominated mobile computing. That company was Palm. But, by the end of the last millennium, Microsoft decided that mobile computing was a big deal and they sunk a bunch of effort in developing Windows CE, then Pocket PC and eventually, Windows Mobile. Palm disappeared and Microsoft ruled the roost for a while. But then Apple released the iPhone, Google released Android and Microsoft found themselves dumped from leadership to being an also-ran in very short time. And after trying to reassert themselves, Microsoft has finally given up on Windows Phone. Which is a shame.

Windows Phone sought to give people a completely different experience on their smartphones. A lot can be said about Microsoft's attempt to make the mobile, laptop, tablet and desktop experiences as alike as possible but that's not what I want to discuss. What Microsoft attempted to do was give users a more data-centric approach on their smartphones, as opposed to iOS and Android, which had a more app-centric view of things.

The live tiles on the Windows phone screen meant you could see useful information on the home screen without having to tap an icon.

Instead of simply seeing a number on an icon, indicating that you had some email, the mail tile showed you some useful information about the message. The People app included recent social media updates.

In short, it was a more information based interface than the simple hunt-and-tap system that iOS and Android have adopted.

Microsoft did they, in their way, to regain ground in the smartphone business. But almost everyone could see that buying Nokia's phone business was a disaster waiting to happen. Why the company didn't apply the same engineering effort to smartphones as they did to the Surface, or Xbox, is a mystery to me.

Now, Windows Phone is a dead man walking. It still works but live tile updates are going as is "Find my phone" on devices stuck running Windows Phone 7 and 8. Version 8.1 remains active but given it's nudging four years old we can expect it to be knocked off soon as well. Windows Phone 10 is getting on to three years old - can you imagine Apple of Google not changing a version number for three years?

Microsoft could, yet, make a run at being the third player in the smartphone platform game. They proved with the Surface that they have the engineering skills and will to make a great product. And some of the patents they've registered suggest some people at Redmond are still thinking about making a great smartphone.

I hope that's the case. While the catch-up/leapfrog game being played out between Google and Apple is fun, a third player would shake things up.

While it seems Windows Phone is being given the last rites, I hope there's a secret team working under Satya Nadella's watchful eye, creating a new smartphone experience that lights a fire under Google and Apple. One that thinks about how we use information rather than simply giving us pretty icons to tap.


    I agree with that hope. Never had a Windows Phone, nor did I really want one - for starters the 'app gap' was too great for me. But I did really like the interface (and mimicked it on my android phone, for a time). You've hit the nail on the head with it being an information-based interface. Its live tiles serve a similar purpose to my smartwatch, i.e. serving glanceable information in-the-moment without having to open an app. I often wonder what a live-tile-based smartwatch would look like.
    All the work they've been doing on Windows 10's adaptive shell and arm builds point to the fact that Windows 10 could still potentially be a decent mobile OS, but it won't be marketed as such or have dedicated hardware until that 'app-gap' gets closed. And looking at the current state of the Microsoft Store on Windows 10, that doesn't seem to be happening in the near future, sadly.

    The app-gap was never as wide as people perceived. The numbers told one story but you have to wonder how many "talking cat" apps an app store really needs. Most app providers have perfectly good webapps that were always an alternative. Despite the hostility from the likes of Snapchat's CEO there wasn't much lacking. Then MS kept going with an approach where each new OS version was incompatible with the previous. Each iteration lost users and developers simply couldn't be bothered to support it. Even MS starting releasing new apps, features and versions to Android and iOS before their own OS.
    I have fond memories of mobile Windows (from CE, SmartPhone, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone) and the final UX was by far the best of any mobile OS. But MS dropped the ball so many times it seemed that they set out to fail. The Nokia saga just illustrated how badly they could stuff up.

      The app-gap was never as wide as people perceived.

      It was wide. I owned 2 Windows Phones. The windows store had maybe 2% of the apps you would find on android and iOS. The apps store was horrible. And Microsofts refusal to engage with google made it even worse.

        Perhaps. But it was Google who refused to write apps e.g. YouTube for MS rather than the other way round.
        As with the Facebook app, MS even offered to write it for them.

        Last edited 21/02/18 4:56 pm

      It was big - it had nothing to do with numbers but with major apps that people relied on. I couldn’t use the platform because my service’s app wasn’t released for it. A lot of clinical apps that I needed were never released for WP. Major apps like Facebook, when they were ported, were worse than their iOS or Android counterparts.

      The only good thing about WP were the live tiles. Otherwise the platform didn’t do anything better than the alternatives and had much worse third party support. Nobody wanted to buy into that environment and MS knew it.

      The app-gap was never as wide as people perceived.

      Nope. It was worse. Web apps are not 'always' an alternative because they lack hardware features like Amazon's web wrapper lacking basic functionality like barcode scanner because it couldn't utilise the phone camera.

      there wasn't much lacking

      No Snapchat, no Google apps. It's not MS's fault that WP never got these apps, but it sure is their problem. And no, 3rd party apps aren't a solution when MyTube breaks every time a backend API changes.

      Forget about 'talking cat' apps, even apps that were there weren't as feature-rich as Android/iOS, or ran like crap, or both in the case of FB, Messenger, and Uber.

      Every banking app is hopelessly outdated (abandoned) like CBA which looks like it hasn't been updated since Froyo. Or the many small, quality of life apps like device companions (Nintendo Switch, Steam, etc.), loyalty stores, cinemas, etc., some of which gave app-exclusive rewards like Grill'd or Nando's.

    I wont be sad to see it go. I owned 2 of their devices and did not enjoy my time with either. The app store was better off being nonexisten given the quality of apps that were on there. Internet explorer was the worst smartphone browser of all time. And microsofts refusal to even engage with Google to allow some of their services to be able to be used on WP killed it for me.

    Come back when you want to makle a proper attempt microsoft.

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