Technology comes and goes. If you’ve grown up with technology you’ll know that one-time favourite devices and services can enter the world with a bang and then fade away. When I started playing with mobile devices – they were called PDAs, or personal digital assistants, back then – Psion was a big deal before Palm stepped in with their wonderfully easy-to-use devices before they were usurped by Windows CE and the Pocket PC. And now, we see the disappearance of yet another platform – the Windows Phone.
According to data released yesterday, just 45 Windows Phone devices were shipped in the last quarter of 2017. That’s against almost 1.8 million iPhones and 1.6 million Android devices.
There is no positive way to spin this – the Windows Phone platform has circled the drain we’re just waiting for the last few drops to disappear.
While many will be laughing at Microsoft’s abject failure in mobile devices, we will all be the poorer for this. One of the drivers for innovation is competition. Given the cost of developing and distributing a new smartphone platform, it’s hard to see how someone could do what Apple did a decade ago and bring something to market that shakes the Android/iOS duopoly.
Microsoft’s failure has been of its own doing and they didn’t learn from the lesson they taught Palm.
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Palm steadfastly refused to introduce a devices with a colour display. When Microsoft partnered with various OEMs, notably Casio, Compaq and HP, they produced devices that offered colour displays and greater flexibility. Palm reacted too late and in just a short time they faded only to be purchased by HP and eventually disappear.
When Apple released the iPhone, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer laughed at it, saying no-one would buy such an expensive device. As it happens, people are even paying more today. What he misunderstood was that people want devices that are easier to use and that a substantial portion of the population are prepared to pay for it. And for those that are on tighter budgets, there are Android devices that fill every price point.
Somewhere in all that, Microsoft failed to find a spot where they could make a buck, even with their massive presence in Buisness environments. And they purchase of Nokia failed to give them any inroads.
It’s a shame that Microsoft couldn’t or wouldn’t translate their success in the early days of mobile devices to the smartphone. A third player would result in better devices for all of us.