#Build2016 signals the death of the Windows phone

Not a single mention. That’s what we had at the Build 2016 keynote from Microsoft a few minutes ago when we tried to get some news from the Windows 10 Mobile operating system.

We’ve got lots of other news: the promising rise of the conversational bot (either with voice or with text), the transformation of the Xbox One into a PC, and the surprising arrival of a Linux console natively in Windows 10.

win10mobile

But again, nothing about Windows on phones. We saw some Lumias on the stage for the demos, yes, but what about new apps, or developer tools, or games for that platform? Nothing was mentioned, and that is the biggest disappointment of a conference that should have followed the ‘Mobile first, cloud first‘ mantra.

It certainly could follow that first part, but not with Windows 10 Mobile, that’s for sure. With a late final version of the OS that isn’t even available on every Windows phone, a diminishing software catalog, an inmature (that’s sad but undertandable given the maturity of the project) Continuum and a worrying lack of devices, the platform has big shadows over it.

#WhereIsWindows10Mobile, Microsoft? Where?

Google’s Nexus tries to learn the iPhone lesson

Google wants to make its Nexus phones more like the iPhone

We had heard about this previously, but now The Information confirms that Google is indeed seeking to have more and more control over its Nexus smartphones.

The plan is simple: no visible partnerships in order to compete in the high end range, where the iPhone leads the way. They want to control the hardware as much as they do control the software (Android and Google Services & apps) right now.

Everything sounds perfect except for that tiny, obvious detail: Google depends of other makers in order to compete as it has done until now. Controlling every aspect of the device won’t be easy for its traditional partners, and we must wonder what will the do then.

Will they make the jump to other platform (Tizen, Windows 10) or fork (CyanogenMod seems a good fit)? Or will they try to compete with their own partner in unfair conditions?

Microsoft tried that and so long it hasn’t worked. But then again, Google is another beast.

Google and Facebook are winning the invisible battle of mobile apps

Great insight from Peter Kafka based on a new study from Nielsen. On it we found a critical comparison: mobile OS market share vs most important mobile apps (by number of unique users).

The facts are there: even with Apple pretty close to Android in the US, five of the top 10 mobile apps are from Google, with Facebook owning three (remember Instagram?) and the latest two owned by Apple. It’s surprising to see Apple Music there (Spotify?) but I guess preinstalling that with iOS 9 makes the difference.

That graph would be pretty different outside the US. In Spain, for example, Android leads with a staggering 89,6% market share (iOS has a 7,3%, Windows has a 2,7% an the rest, a 0,4%, is for “Others”), so the most used mobile apps should benefit Google even more. There would be differences on the instant messaging market -WhatsApp is undisputable leader here, so Facebook would win again on that front- but the data from Nielsen makes this even more relevant: in the US, where iOS is strongest than anywhere else, Google and Facebook are kings amongst app makers.

As hardware has become a commodity in the mobile space, is software what makes the difference, and Google and Facebook dominate this space.

That’s really interesting.

Source: You May Own Apple’s Phone, but You’re Using Google’s Apps

Lumia 950 XL and second chances

Lumia 950 XL review 8

Tom Warren at The Verge:

The Lumia 950 XL simply isn’t for me or the vast majority of smartphone users out there. I use Windows 10 on a daily basis on a PC, but the experience on mobile is just lacking. Microsoft has done an excellent job on its apps for other platforms, and my iPhone home screen is full of them. The Lumia 950 XL needed something exciting and unique to convince me to switch back, but it failed.

I’m expecting to confirm this, but every review out there has pointed more or less to the inmature state of these new smartphones. It’s Microsoft fault, but it’s a logic flaw: Windows 10 Mobile is a baby OS. I’d like to give it a chance, but I’m affraid the market won’t be so merciful.

Windows Phone and the bumpy road ahead

IDC released estimates for Windows Phone market in the next few years, and that data is not nice. According to them, Windows Phone / Windows 10 Mobile will have a 2.1% share in the mobile space, and that number will not change much in the next 3 to 4 years.

mokiax

Universal apps “won’t work”, like Ballmer said, and IDC seems to agree. They’re not the only ones, and Jean-Louis Gassée writes about this on Monday Note:

There are well-understood reasons why this slam-dunk idea has never paid off in practice. At one end of the spectrum, we have lowest common denominator mediocrity: Compromises must be made to ensure that a single Write Once code base will work on the smallest, least powerful Run Anywhere device. Imagine music that’s written so that it can be played, without rearrangement, on a flute or by an orchestra. You’re not going to hear many orchestral performances.

To solve the problem, we can go to the other end of the spectrum and devise modules that are tailored for each supported device and bundled inside a universal app. When an app is launched, it determines which device it’s running on and activates the appropriate module.
I certainly see problems for Microsoft in the future, but I also consider this was the boldest of their options in the mobile space right now:
  1. Universal apps: that’s the only way to become themselves a hardware/software ecosystem to compete against Apple and Google. Microsoft is late to the party, yes, but it was late too with the Xbox, and their entertainment business is doing well.
  2. Fork Android: Nokia showed us what an Android fork could work on their phones -remember Nokia X?- and Microsoft seems to have a plan B in mind: talks with Cyanogen suggest a possible Android fork based on Cyanogen OS populated with Microsoft apps and services instead of Google ones. I predict Microsoft will take this road when if Windows 10 Mobile and the universal app strategy fails.
  3. Goodbye, mobile: I really don’t see Microsoft leaving this gigantic market to its rivals, but others have surrendered. Microsoft should focus on apps and services, and would abandon it’s convergent OS  strategy.

I want to be optimistic here. I think Microsoft has a chance, but it’s not a big one. Yes, Android and iOS seem to be invincibles, but it felt the same way with IBM in the 80s, Microsoft in the 90s, Google in the 2000s an so many others along the way.

Numbers are just that: numbers.

Ballmer vs Nadella

Ballmer has never been the shy CEO, but I thought that at times it was just a role he had to play in order to represent Microsoft. His public/business image never worked for me. I can only think of him shouting, and his business decissions were debatable to say the least.

It seems Ballmer was just Ballmer, and the recent critics against Nadella and its strategy are harsh, inelegant and not necessarily smart.

When he says the new universal apps approach “won’t work” and he points out that users must be able to run Android apps on their Windows mobile devices he is making the same mistake BlackBerry did.

Getting other platform apps on yours is not the solution, and it’s not the solution because if I want to take advantage of a platform software and services, I will buy a device that runs these software and services natively.

Your ideas won’t work, Steve. Your ideas won’t work.

Source: Ballmer Chides Microsoft Over Cloud Revenue Disclosures – Bloomberg Business

The Windows 10 Mobile app debate

Tom Warren talks on The Verge about the lack of apps on Windows Phone and the gradual disappearing of several apps that are no longer available or that were available but weren’t updated.

Windows 10 Mobile will try to fix this with the technologies that allow iOS and Android developers to port their apps and games to this platform, and I recently asked one Microsoft exec if that wasn’t something that would stop native development.

He told to me that he believed it was not the case. They see that as “bridges” (and they call them that way), so those developers don’t have to start from scratch. The transition can be made softly this way, and that could lead to developers that really take advantage of the promising Windows 10 ecosystem. As Warren writes:

With constant Windows Phone change, the only thing that has remained persistent is a lack of apps. Windows 10 Mobile is rumored to arrive to existing handsets in December, but Microsoft still hasn’t officially revealed a launch date. A lot is changing in the new OS, with different built-in apps, a new design and navigation, and Microsoft’s expectation that developers will create universal apps. It’s unlikely to make any difference to the fate of Windows Phone overall. It’s another reset, and Microsoft can’t keep hitting the reboot button forever.

I doubt it will be the case: few announcements and lack of details don’t talk very well about the future, but we’ll see.

Source: Windows Phone has a new app problem | The Verge