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Why enterprise developers could save Windows 10 Mobile

Bill Snyder | April 25, 2016
Microsoft continues to bleed mobile market share with Windows 10 Mobile, so why are some enterprise developers betting big on the platform's eventual success in the corporate world.

Windows no longer rules the business software world unchallenged, but a huge install base of Microsoft applications still exists within in midsize and large businesses. "Eighty percent of the applications my customers want to run are Windows, and they want them on mobile devices," says Keith Groom, director of Microsoft solutions at Softchoice, an IT services company. In the past, mobile apps for Windows weren't exactly impressive, Groom says, but he expects that to change. "I think developers will step up. That's Microsoft's challenge."

Windows 10 Mobile market share continues to dwindle

Microsoft has been losing mobile market share steadily for three years, according to Gartner analyst Tuong Huy Nguyen, down from 3.2 percent in 2013 to just 1.9 percent of the market at the end of 2015. "Businesses are saying BYOD, and in this environment 'your own' does not mean Windows," he says.

Even IT executives who say they're impressed with the innovations Microsoft brought to Windows Mobile believe the lack of consumer interest in Windows smartphones and tablets will be difficult to overcome. "[Windows Mobile] management and security are excellent," says Anurag Gupta, a managing director at CDI, a $1 billion IT services company based in Philadelphia. "There is an advantage to having things working seamlessly across platforms."

However, Gupta doesn't expect many business users to adopt Windows phones on their own. "Go to any gathering, and no CXO will be caught with a Windows phone," he says.

This dearth of Windows phones creates a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma for Microsoft and developers who seeks large pools of potential customers. "Adoption in the consumer market is inextricably linked to greater adoption in the enterprise market, because employees want to use the same devices at work that they have chosen for personal use," wrote Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney last fall in a research report.

Windows 10 Mobile partisans argue that the trend could be reversed. Carl Mazzanti, CEO of eMazzanti, an IT services company in New York, says Windows phones are significantly cheaper than the popular iOS and Android devices, about $150 each, or roughly 25 percent of the cost of Apple or Samsung smartphones. "That's a selling point for some of my clients," he says. 

However, Dulaney believes a comeback is unlikely. "If we look at historical platforms, such as Symbian, BlackBerry and Palm OS, once they fell below 5 percent worldwide share, there was little chance they would re-emerge as successful because the alternatives were so well established."

DocuSign's Brooks cites a different slice of technology history. "When Apple launched the iPhone there were just three apps," he says. "When Google was going to launch a branded version of Linux (which became Android) people laughed. There's the long game and there's the short game."


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