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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.

Microsoft’s trying its damnedest to coax developers into crafting UWP apps, but the Windows Store is still in a pretty sad state, four years after its debut in Windows 8. The company’s locked into sort of a chicken-or-egg problem; one of the key selling points of UWP is that developers will only have to code an app once to have it run on any Windows 10-powered device. But if nobody’s using Windows Phones, what’s the appeal of creating a UWP app over a traditional desktop or web app for developers, when Microsoft takes a cut of Windows Store proceeds? The promise of eventual Xbox One compatibility may appeal to game developers, but it’s hard to imagine productivity apps blowing up on a game console. And while the HoloLens Developer Edition started shipping today, it’s still years away from being a mainstream success, if it ever becomes a mainstream success.

Chew on this: Even Steve Ballmer—the former Microsoft CEO behind the Windows Store, and the one willing to spend nearly $8 billion for Nokia—now says universal Windows apps “won’t work,” and wants Microsoft to focus on emulating Android apps, instead.

Maybe Microsoft’s catching its breath after a difficult Windows 10 Mobile rollout. Maybe it’s keeping Windows Phones on life support, leaving the mobile OS mostly dormant while the underlying tech has time to bake in Windows 10 PCs—like it could be doing with Windows RT. Maybe Satya Nadella simply isn’t as enamored with the hardware business as Steve Ballmer was, and is content to let partners like HP and Acer take the lead. But one thing’s for certain: Even the staunchest Windows Phone fans are giving up hope, and Microsoft just left them hanging.


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