Microsoft is marking the end of an era

Microsoft lumia 650MicrosoftThe Microsoft Lumia 650

After lots of speculation, and some significant information leakage, Microsoft finally and officially announced the Lumia 650 — a budget $199 smartphone running Windows 10 Mobile and offered to the business customer.

The conventional wisdom from mobile industry watchers is that the 650 will be the last smartphone to bear the Lumia brand, which Microsoft acquired in its disastrous 2013 acquisition of Nokia.

The Lumia 650 itself boasts specs mostly in line with what was already leaked. It has a 5-inch screen, an 8-megapixel camera, 8GB of storage, a plastic back, and a removable battery. Microsoft promises baked-in security features and integration with the Office 365 cloud suite as part of its workplace pitch.

What’s missing in the Lumia 650 are a pair of Windows 10 Mobile’s best features: Windows Hello facial recognition-based phone unlocking, and Continuum, which lets you plug a phone into a monitor and use it like a PC. That budget price has to come from somewhere.

This new Lumia line unlikely to move the needle much for Microsoft’s smartphone business, where its global marketshare hovers around 3 per cent. Microsoft sold just 4.5 million Lumia devices in the three months leading up to January while Apple sold 75 million iPhones. In its five-year lifetime, the Lumia line has sold only 110 million handsets, according to analyst estimates.

Microsoft has been stuck in a rut with its Windows phone business for a long time now — developers opt to build their apps for the more lucrative Apple iOS and Google Android platforms instead, meaning there’s not much reason for a customer to pick up a Microsoft-branded phone at all.

Still, Windows 10 Mobile itself is showing at least some signs of life, with companies like Uber signing on to help Microsoft close this so-called “app gap.” Just today, Hulu announced a new app that will run on Windows 10 desktop PCs, tablets, and now, smartphones.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is said to be preparing a new phone, with new branding, under the watchful eye of Surface boss Panos Panay. Microsoft top brass has hinted that this new phone is intended to shake up the market and maybe carve something away from Apple’s continued dominance in the smartphone arena.

But time is running out for Microsoft’s mobile business, and the time is right for a dramatic move.

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