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Windows Phone's no-show at Build drives home Microsoft's mobile neglect

Brad Chacos | March 31, 2016
Just another cold shoulder.

If Windows Phone isn’t dying, Microsoft sure has a funny way of keeping it on life support.

From super-smart conversational bots to the birth of HoloLens, Microsoft had plenty of surprises in store at its annual Build event keynote on Wednesday. But the most shocking aspect of the keynote was how much attention Windows 10 Mobile received in the spotlight: zilch, nada, nothing. No roadmaps, no upcoming features, no future plans.

The cold shoulder shouldn’t be a surprise, although it must leave diehard Windows Phone enthusiasts wheezing in pain at a time when even diehard Windows Phone enthusiasts are fleeing for greener pastures. Holiday sales for Lumia devices last year only amounted to half as much as the meager year prior—the latest Gartner data shows Windows Phone with a mere one percent share of the market worldwide.

But ignore the numbers; what’s really killing Windows Phones fans is the neglect, and Microsoft just handed them another heaping helping of it. After Microsoft absorbed Nokia, enthusiasts were forced to wait an eternity for the Lumia 950 and 950XL to arrive as flagship Windows Phones. Windows 10 Mobile’s recent rollout to older Windows Phone 8 handsets was long delayed and suffered from some glaring omissions, despite earlier promises that every Lumia would be eligible for an upgrade—and Windows 10 apps won’t run on Windows Phone 8 handsets. Heck, earlier this week Microsoft even announced the shutdown of the beloved @LumiaVoices Twitter account.

Lumia 800 in pants pocket 
Microsoft’s Lumia 800. Credit: Martin Abegglen

Meanwhile, high-profile Microsoft apps and services like Office debuted on Android and iOS long before Windows Phone. In the months since, Microsoft’s devoted resources to porting cherished Windows Phone features like Cortana and the Word Flow keyboard to competing mobile platforms, ruthlessly eliminating many of the platform’s key advantages. Props to Microsoft for getting its services out to as many people as possible rather than steadfastly tying them to Windows—as was the norm in the Steve Ballmer era—but man, that burns the few remaining Windows Phone enthusiasts.

The few new features revealed for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update at Build were all shown on PCs, not phones. And Windows 10 Mobile’s lone remaining killer feature—Continuum, which turns a phone into an ad hoc Windows 10 PC when connected to a mouse, keyboard, and monitor—is inextricably tied to the new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps.

windows 10 phones continuum
Microsoft Continuum is tied to Universal Windows Apps.


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