Microsoft Must Keep Working On New Windows 10 Smartphones – Forbes

As reported last week on Forbes, Windows Phone has passed its ‘end of support’ date and the Windows NT-based mobile platform is now dead. That does not mean that Microsoft is out of the mobile game, but it does mean that the focus can be placed elsewhere.

Microsoft’s consumer focus for mobile is now built around its cloud based services. With productivity tools including Outlook and Office 365 available for both Android and iOS – and those mobile platforms first in line for software updates – Microsoft has moved on from fighting for consumer market share. In any case the Windows 10 Mobile platform has many blind spots that are not consumer friendly.

Microsoft Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL (image: Ewan Spence)

Ewan Spence

Microsoft Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL (image: Ewan Spence)

Enterprise usage is a different matter. Microsoft does’t necessarily have to chase market share and massive wins here. It has an established presence in the enterprise market, it can supply Windows software and associated hardware over multi-years contracts, and if you are wondering if Windows 10 Mobile is ‘dead’ then think again, Microsoft’s mobile solution is going to have a long, quiet, and productive life in offices around the world.

That’s why you’ll continue to see Windows 10 Mobile handsets manufactured and put on the market. That’s why you’ll continue to see premium handsets like the HP Elite X3, and mid-range devices like Alcatel’s Idol 4S for Windows. They may not be mainstream sellers, they may not trouble the top-selling charts,  but they continue to be part of a small market that the second and third tier handset manufacturers are happy to sell into.

It’s why I’m not surprised to read that there are new Windows 10 Mobile handsets being worked on by Microsoft.

T-Mobile Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 (image: Ewan Spence)

Ewan Spence

T-Mobile Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows 10 (image: Ewan Spence)

The smartphone market continues to move forwards at a rapid pace, both in hardware and software requirements. Assuming that, Windows 10 Mobile will continue to be an important side project in Redmond. Keeping the hardware up to date with the latest chipsets, form factors and screen technologies will be important to Microsoft’s partners who will want ‘modern’ handsets even if they might be six months behind the cutting edges.

Keeping the software up to date is just as important. Betas and updates to Windows 10 Mobile continue to be distributed by Microsoft through various branches of the software that offer various levels of stability and new features. With its close ties to Windows 10 and its UWP applications, Windows 10 Mobile will continue to be addressable by third-party developers, and the continued updates to work with new technology will ensure that Microsoft’s engineering team retain competency not just in mobile software, but with the deep integration of mobile software with hardware.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the rumored Surface Phone is going to make a public appearance. Microsoft could continue to work closely with external manufacturers to deliver a Windows 10 Mobile handset that specifically suits enterprise clients. A Surface Phone would be a ‘go to’ reference device that can demonstrate everything expected in a smartphone, and then manufacturers and partners can decide what is vital to their needs before locking in a device design.

Surface Phone or not, what’s clear is that Windows 10 Mobile hardware still has a role to play for Microsoft. There are teams at Redmond who want to retain mobile development skills, hardware needs to remain up to date, and there is still a demand (albeit at niche levels) for the hardware.

Sometimes you do something for volume and share, sometimes you do something for profit, sometimes you do something because it might become a useful thing to have in the future. I suspect the latter is nearer the truth.

Now read my review of the most recent Windows 10 Mobile device, the Alcatel Idol 4S…

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