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Just give up on mobile already, Microsoft

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | July 13, 2015
With no market share and everyone who was connected with Nokia laid off, it’s hard for anyone to take Windows Phone seriously.

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How many ways can Microsoft fail with mobile technology? There was Windows CE -- a failure. Windows Mobile -- a flop. And, more recently, Windows Phone -- a fiasco.

Do we begin to see a pattern here? Failure, flop, fiasco -- Microsoft has earned a big F.

Let's take a look at the mobile marketplace, shall we? According to the Digital Analytics Program, a customized version of Google Analytics that collects information from visitors to 3,800 federal websites, Apple iOS is the most popular mobile operating system, with 16.8% of all visitors. It's followed by Android, with 14.6% and then, lost somewhere down at the bottom at 2.3%, along with desktop Linux, Chromebooks and old OS/2 machines, is Windows Phone.

NetMarketShare also paints a bleak picture. With its smartphone- and tablet-only statistics, it shows Android on top with 51%, followed by iOS at 40.8%, Java ME ("What's that?" most of you are saying) with 3.2%, and then Windows Phone with a meager 2.3%.

With market performance like that, is "fiasco" really too strong a word? I didn't think so.

I'm not saying this is a new revelation. In fact, I've been pointing out that Microsoft can't get a foothold in mobile for ages.

I admit that I'm probably biased. (Biased, yes. Blind? No.) But then I read this story by my buddy Matthew Miller. He's been using Windows on phones since 2003, but he's finally decided "to leave Windows Phone behind."

Why? Because he, like me, can read the handwriting on the wall.

Last year, Microsoft started laying off its Nokia smartphone personnel in its first-ever round of major layoffs. And what did Microsoft just do this year? That's right! It laid off 7,800 employees. Guess where they've been working? That's right! The phone group.

On top of that, Microsoft is writing off $7.6 billion from its foolish Nokia acquisition. The cherry on top of this disaster ice-cream sundae is a restructuring charge of between $750 million and $850 million. The total purchase price for Nokia back in April 2014? $7.9 billion.

I don't care what accounting rules you use, Microsoft lost every penny it invested in the last few years in its mobile program.

I hope Steve Ballmer's enjoying his basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers, because I don't see Microsoft calling him back anytime soon for consulting work.

Ballmer has called Vista his biggest flop as Microsoft CEO. I have argued that Windows 8 was right down there too. But now I think it may be a three-way tie: Vista, Windows 8 and everything Ballmer ever touched in Windows mobile operating systems. It's hard to say.


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