Facing Reality: Windows on Mobile is a Niche Market

Facing Reality: Windows on Mobile is a Niche Market

Let's get to the point quickly and plainly: Windows on Mobile is a niche market.

It is not an easy pill to swallow for fans and enthusiasts, I count myself as a member of these two groups, but the writing has been on the wall with the lack of new hardware and a shift in the focus of Microsoft efforts with apps for their products and services.

This article is not a rehash of the well-documented history of the mobile journey Microsoft has experienced, but to talk the harsh realities of where the platform is and the focus on other ecosystems by Microsoft.

This all bubbled up this morning as I read the headlines from different sites that talked about Windows mobile market share.

The reason for all those articles was AdDuplex's recent data release. Ad Duplex is a cross-promotion network for Windows Phone and Windows apps that uses ads to promote member’s apps on other apps which use the service. Think of it as an app network of sorts, but instead of displaying banner ads for dating sites, it promotes other Windows Phone and Windows apps.

Each month AdDuplex releases a report with statistics from the approximately 5,000 apps participating in their network and this data is for the month of August 2016.

They key piece of data many focused on was that Windows 10 Mobile now has a 14% market share compared to other version of Windows mobile like WP7 (1.9%), WP8 (6.7%) and WP8.1 (77.3%). As you read the headlines, whether intentional or not, the tendency was to say Windows 10 Mobile had gained 14% market share. Not a false statement but certainly needs to have a caveat that also states that gain is within the 1% global market share that Windows Mobile has in the larger market that includes Android and iOS.

So this collection of headlines sent me on a mini Twitter rant about where this platform sits despite the best hopes of its faithful fans, enthusiasts and market share headlines.

I have two snippets I want to share from a couple of Microsoft articles that very clearly explain exactly where this company is in the mobile market and why we are not likely to see any change in this approach anytime soon.

The first is from Brad Anderson, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Enterprise Mobility.

In a blog post on the Enterprise Mobility and Security Blog on 28 June of this year he talked about Microsoft’s Support for iOS and Android.

Although the intent of his article was to answer the question about Microsoft being committed to supporting the Apple and Google ecosystems it actually served to show exactly why iOS and Android get the apps and services on their devices ahead of Windows platforms.

Here is the data he used to answer the question about supporting those other platforms:

  • There have been more than 400M downloads of the Office mobile apps on iOS and Android.
  • There are more than 30M active users of Outlook on iOS and Android – and it is the highest rated e-mail app in those stores.
  • Within Intune and ConfigMgr we are managing millions of mobile devices – 50% of the devices are iOS and 25% are Android.
  • A quick scroll through the archive of this blog shows a heavy emphasis on iOS and Android.

Just take a look at that third bullet and understand what that means. A full two thirds of all devices managed with Microsoft’s flagship Intune and Configuration Manager services are not Windows based platforms. Those Windows devices fall into the remaining 25% of the total devices being managed.

Another more recent example of targeting Android and iOS ahead of Windows because that is where the customers are is from last week’s release of the updated Microsoft Authenticator app.

To start with, the three releases are in very different stages of readiness according to Alex Simmons, Microsoft’s Director of Program Management in the Microsoft Identity Division.

The Android app is fully up and functional, the iOS version has been released but is missing push notifications but that is being worked on in a beta app release and the Windows mobile legacy version of the app got a name change and some bug fixes but will be in beta until sometime in September.

The status of these apps and their release caught the eye of several people who asked that in the future apps intended for all platforms be released at the same time.

In response Simmons had this to say:

“We are releasing them as soon as they are ready. This is because our goals is to get our latest innovations and the best experience in the hands of the most customers as fast as possible.

As there are way more Android users than iOS users than Windows Phone users, we are prioritizing the work in that order and releasing it as quickly as possible.”

Back during BUILD 2016, Microsoft was asked about the lack of Windows mobile related news during the big keynotes and the response from Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, was very clear when he said that Windows Phone is not the company’s focus this year.

Do I think Windows Phone, Windows 10 Mobile or whatever you want to call it is dead?


Do I think it is going to grow beyond its 1% global market share anytime soon?


The mobile version of Windows 10 is part of Microsoft’s family of devices that share OneCore and that screen is not going anywhere. I do believe there is a Surface Phone that will come out along with other new hardware next year but it is not going to save Windows Phone/Windows 10 mobile as many hope it will.

The mobile market is dominated now by Android and iOS and that is not going to change anytime soon.

Microsoft has made a business decision to get their apps and services on those two platforms because that is where the most customers are. That is good business sense and decision making. Microsoft has shareholders to answer to as a public company and for them to do anything other than what they are doing in the mobile market would not make good business sense.

I know that makes for a hard pill to swallow on the part of fans and enthusiasts but it is the reality of where things are today. Yes, fans and enthusiasts spend money buying the products and talking about their experiences with them and some of those same individuals are possibly shareholders but even Microsoft saw the block hole that was mobile and made moves to cut their losses.


But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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