The mobile market is always changing, never constant. What this means is that unlike other areas of computing technology, making relatively accurate long term predictions here is not all that easygoing.
But as the newest numbers for the final three months of the year just ended reveal, Microsoft is not exactly in the top tier of success in the worldwide smartphone game, and pretending otherwise is probably a losing proposition — it is getting there, slowly and surely, but it is not there yet.
Just as this brand new year brings novel ambitions, it also comes with its set of fresh challenges. Redmond may have outlined its strategies for 2014, but the company may also have to come up with some new ones, depending on market flows and competitor trends.
Through it all, there are some signs that this year could be a milestone for Microsoft in particular, and the Windows Phone platform in general, provided promises are delivered. Here are five reasons why:
Windows Phone 8.1
In the long overdue column we have Windows Phone 8.1. Maybe the software titan bit a little more than it could chew, or it ran into some testing hiccups with the GDR2 and GDR3 releases of its mobile operating platform, but in an ideal world Windows Phone 8.1 would have been out by now.
It was on track for release with Windows 8.1, after all, as part of Windows Blue.
With January almost about to end, we are mere months away from getting our first real look at this upcoming version of Windows Phone. Microsoft will definitely talk about it at BUILD 2014 in April, Nokia may unveil a few devices before that, and the rollout should (hopefully) start soon after.
Businesses and corporate clients across the world have been forced to wait for the upcoming Enterprise Pack update to Windows Phone 8. Features like advanced device control, VPN support and more are promised. Again, this is something that has taken a while.
It is, however, now on track for launch by the middle of the year, provided all goes according to plan.
When it does, we can expect to see much greater enterprise acceptance of the platform, coupled by radically increased market share in this important segment. BlackBerry may be disappearing into irrelevancy in this sector, but if there is one company that has enterprise roots, it is Microsoft.
As BlackBerry has found out, and Apple is in the process of, going into the mobile game solo is not the brightest of ideas. It may have worked with feature phones, and maybe in the early days of the smartphone businesses, but it is a totally different can of worms these days.
Unless you want to see your market share shrink, that is.
Nokia practically owns Windows Phone market, and by that token, the real owner is Microsoft. But Redmond knows it has to go the extra mile to bring in more vendors onboard — and there are rumors suggesting it is doing just that. OEMs can take the mobile OS to the next level, it is just a matter of when.
There are recent rumors that Microsoft will completely ditch the physical keys in Windows Phone 8.1 and go in with completely digital approach, a la Android. Now this is important. The idea is to make it easier for hardware vendors to switch between the two platforms.
Now whether we will actually see dual boot Windows Phone Android devices is under wraps.
But at the very least, physical similarities will make it easier for original equipment manufacturers to simply reuse their Android designs for Windows Phone handsets, just changing the hardware if and when needed. Not the worst idea in the world, if implemented correctly. Doesn’t hurt.
Midrange is Good Range
This past year both Microsoft and Nokia vowed to focus on the midrange market, and it resulted in rousing success with several of the more affordable handsets (Lumia 520, Lumia 620 and more) charting their way to the top of sales in various reasons of the globe.
Not just developing ones, but developed markets too, as the US exclusive Lumia 521 shows.
With ever increasing processing powered afforded by the newest mobile chips, no better time than now to redouble the emphasis on this important segment. Combined with Nokia’s colorful allure, this may just be what the doctor ordered for achieving a bigger and better market share this year.
As we learned from the quarterly numbers from Kantar earlier today, BlackBerry is out for the count, while both Apple and Samsung (with their impressive brands) have found growth hard to come by.
The very volatility of the mobile market is what makes and breaks companies.
Microsoft is about to acquire much more than Nokia’s hardware business once the deal closes — it is also set to obtain the company’s legacy of design, marketing, brand and heritage. Combine all this with the momentum Windows Phone already enjoys, and Windows Phone could really become a force.
And that, friends and foes, would be quite a sight.