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Five moves Microsoft must make to advance in mobile

Kristin Burnham | March 24, 2015
Microsoft's years of missed mobile opportunities have taken a toll, but it's not too late for a comeback.

By many accounts, Windows 10 is expected to increase Microsoft's mobile business. But how well Microsoft delivers on these promises will determine its success.

"Windows 10 needs to do three things: It has to do what it says on the tin, so to speak, it has to create that continuity for developers, and it has to go forth and multiply," said John Jackson, analyst at IDC. In other words, a more uniform and congruent cross-platform experience could reinstate users' faith in the Windows ecosystem and create an uptick in devices sold. 

"There's some thinking that the success of Windows 10 can create a demand for mobile products, but it's difficult for me to envision that happening in a way that really moves the needle," he said. Windows 10 alone won't be the panacea for all of Microsoft's mobile shortcomings, but it will improve market share -- just how much, we'll have to wait and see.

3. Target Business Users
Though Microsoft's Windows Phone continues to struggle, experts project that its market share will creep higher. From 2013 to 2014, Windows Phone grew 4.2 percent  to grab 2.7 percent of the market, according to IDC, which predicts that by 2018, the OS will control 5.6 percent of the market.

"These are still small numbers, but no one is expecting Microsoft to magically flip the switch and 1,000 flowers bloom," Llamas said. "This is a marathon for Microsoft, not a 100-yard dash."

To expand its Windows Phone market share, Microsoft needs to shift its focus to enterprise customers, Llamas said. Microsoft has been touting how great Windows Phone devices are for consumers, but there are business users with very specific needs, wants and demands that Microsoft can serve, he said.

"I think Microsoft has been underselling the enterprise business capabilities that Windows Phone has to offer. Office 365, Skype and OneDrive are very strong assets to bring to enterprise users," he said. "Business users want to have a seamless experience across smartphones, tablets and PCs. By no means should Microsoft leave consumers, but it should expand its focus for productivity."

4. Rethink Nokia
Satya Nadella, appointed CEO little over a year ago, has never openly criticized his predecessor Steve Ballmer's vision of "devices and services," but he's had to pick up the pieces of questionable business decisions that supported it. While Ballmer brokered the $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's Devices and Services business, the deal closed after Nadella took over. Nadella has carried out "a strategic alignment" related to Nokia that has involved cutting about 12,500 jobs and closing plants in Europe and Asia.

"I would have thought six months ago that we would have seen some changes in Microsoft's disposition toward hardware, and that hasn't happened," Jackson said. "At this point, you either double-down on hardware, or you don't. When you look at Microsoft's hardware strategy, it's very hard to compete symmetrically with Apple or Google." 


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