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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.

Taking the free way

Avi Greengart, a research director at Current Analysis, says that with the launch of Windows 10 Microsoft is doing everything in its power to get more apps onto the Windows platform.  Also, with universal apps and by providing bridges for iOS and Android developers, the company is trying to seed the market by making Windows 10 Mobile free to most tablet and phone vendors, and offering the desktop version as a free upgrade to existing PC users.

"Microsoft has moved away from selling operating systems everyone had to pay to upgrade to Windows 95, for example to selling hardware, software and services," he says. "By making the Windows 10 user base as big as they can they are trying to persuade developers that Windows is still relevant."

Back in April Microsoft announced a strategic partnership with Android distribution startup Cyanogen to integrate Microsoft apps and services such as Bing, Skype, OneDrive, Office, OneNote and Outlook with Cyanogen OS. Jackdaw's Dawson says that this is part of a Microsoft "Plan B" that it will put in to action if Windows Phone's position in the market becomes hopeless.

"Microsoft is working with Cyanogen so I could see it investing in the company and then moving its phones from Windows Phone to Cyanogen OS. That's one possibility the other is to just remain platform agnostic."

(The company has also announced agreements with over 30 Android tablet manufacturers who will bundle Office apps with their tablets.)

Microsoft's Plan B?

Greengart doesn't predict the abandonment of Windows Phone any time soon, but says the company is already working on a different Plan B in case its Windows 10 strategy is not enough to make Windows 10 Mobile a success.

"Microsoft's Plan B is to be a software and services company on other platforms:  'If Windows doesn't succeed on phones, let's get people using Cortana on Android and Word on iPad, let's get people to write iOS apps that run on Azure in the cloud,'" he says.

"So while Plan A is to get as many apps and as much activity as it can on Windows on all form factors, Plan B is to transition revenues to ad-supported or subscription- or usage-based services. If Windows Phone went away but services became huge then that wouldn't be the end of the world for Microsoft."

How Windows 10 Mobile can succeed in business

Not all industry analysts are bearish about the prospects of Microsoft's mobile operating system, however. Nicholas McQuire, an enterprise research vice president at CSS Insight, says Windows 10 may help Windows 10 Mobile become an important player in the enterprise mobile operating system space.


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