Microsoft’s new version of Windows, Windows 10, isn’t just for PCs. It’s designed to run on all of Microsoft’s gadgets, from tablets to to smartphones and now giant touchscreen TVs and augmented reality goggles.
But it’s the smartphone bit that Microsoft really needs help with.
Windows Phone 7, the first modern adaptation of Microsoft’s mobile OS, came out over four years ago. But Windows Phone only has about 3% of the global smartphone market, which gives developers little reason to spend much time developing apps for the platform.
In turn, that gives people little reason to buy a Windows Phone because we know we won’t be able to use the apps and services we love.
Even though Windows Phone keeps getting better, and the new features in Windows 10 look really slick on smartphones, none of that matters if users can’t get the apps they want. Nothing Microsoft showed on stage Wednesday during the Windows 10 event will reverse Windows Phone’s stagnation unless it can reinvigorate developer interest in its app store for Windows Phone.
Microsoft’s answer to this problem is to make it easier for developers to make apps for Windows 10 PCs and tablets and easily scale them down to smartphones. Windows 10 is poised kick off a massive upgrade cycle, especially since it will be free for Windows 7 and 8.1 users at first.
That may draw desktop developers, but mobile is a different story. Smartphone apps are inherently different than desktop apps. There’s no reason for, say, Snapchat, to start building a Windows Phone app just because the Windows 10 ecosystem will suddenly add millions of users later this year. It doesn’t make sense on the desktop, and it’s not worth the added cost and effort to build the app for such a tiny audience.
It seems the only developer taking Windows Phone seriously is Microsoft. It showed off a bunch of nice-looking apps for Windows 10 phones and tablets, including a new touch-friendly version of Office and a handy photo app.
But when it comes to the apps people want — Snapchat, Instagram, Google Maps, etc. — Windows Phones are still pitifully behind Android and iPhone. Nothing about Windows 10 is going to fix that. And, in turn, Windows Phone looks doomed to remain an afterthought for developers and consumers.
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