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Can Windows 10 save Windows Phone?

Paul Rubens | July 3, 2015
The release of Microsoft's new Windows 10 operating system may be the last roll of the dice for its struggling mobile platform.

041515 microsoft windows 10 smartphone windows phone
Credit: Microsoft

The future of Windows Phone is hanging in the balance: If the launch of Windows 10 doesn't improve the struggling mobile operating system's fortunes significantly then Microsoft may have no choice but to abandon it.

That's the view of Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.  He says that at best the launch of Windows 10 may increase the market share of Microsoft's mobile operating system slightly, but doubts it will ever get close to double figures. IDC estimates that Windows Phone's market share is just 2.7 percent.

"Windows 10 does hold out some promise for Windows Phone, but it's not going to make an enormous difference," says Dawson. "Microsoft could abandon Windows on mobile if it continues to languish with a tiny market share."

A key plank in Microsoft's strategy to drive adoption of the newest version of Windows Phone called Windows 10 Mobile is the idea of universal apps. These app packages can be tailored to run on desktop, tablet and phone hardware running Windows 10 operating systems (and Microsoft's Xbox) with substantially the same code used on each platform.

The problem with this approach, Dawson points out, is that the majority of mobile apps don't tend to be ones that would be used on a desktop device and vice-versa. That means that the availability of universal apps is likely to do little to address the "app gap" -- the lack of availability of Windows Phone apps which may explain why the operating system has only achieved a sub-three-percent market share.

A bridge over mobile waters

Microsoft has also announced a number of "bridges" that are designed to make it easier for Android, iOS and Web developers to port their apps to Microsoft's Windows 10 environments, including Windows 10 Mobile, but Dawson says that these, too, are unlikely to do much to address the app gap.

"These bridges are designed to lower the barrier to entry for developers that currently can't be bothered to do the development work from the ground up. But porting still involves some work, so the question as to whether it is worthwhile remains."

Porting is only a part of the process of bringing apps from other platforms to Windows, he adds. "There's also maintenance, bug fixing, adding new features and so on. So while these bridges may help with the initial port, they don't help with the investment in time required to maintain these apps. "

The danger is that some developers may try using these bridges, only to have their preconception that the Windows Phone platform is probably too small to be important confirmed, he adds. "Then Microsoft will be left with a load of abandonware and that looks bad."


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