More Troubles for Windows Phone Emerge

This news saddens me on a technology level. If you are a dedicated reader of this fine blog you will recall that many times in the past I have praised the merits of Microsoft’s Windows Phone. Although I abandoned my Windows Phone about a year ago I had hoped it would bounce back and actually gain a little market share. Recently it has been indicated that Microsoft was providing a development tool to Android developers so that they could easily port (move) their apps over to the Windows Phone ecosystem. Sadly this has apparently been delayed and now it appears Windows Phone is in very serious danger of becoming extinct leaving users with only 2 choices.

Windows phone shipments took a nose-dive in the third quarter, plummeting 35% from the same period in 2014, researcher Gartner said today.

To make this turn of events even worse, by comparison, total global smartphone shipments climbed 15% in the third quarter.

Of the 353 million smartphones shipped in the September quarter worldwide, less than 6 million were powered by Microsoft’s Windows, making Windows’ share 1.7%, Gartner estimated, down from 3% in the same quarter of 2014.

he September quarter was the first full period since Microsoft announced a major retrenchment of its smartphone business and the strategy that had guided it. In July, even though it had written off billions former CEO Steve Ballmer sunk into acquiring Nokia’s handset business the year before, Microsoft said it would continue to manufacture devices and push other OEMs to use Windows.

CEO Satya Nadella repudiated Ballmer’s plans, but he denied that the company was exiting the business. Instead, he spelled out a strategy that would tightly focus on Windows loyalists, value-oriented consumers, and business workers.

From all evidence, that’s not worked.

windows' share of all smartphone shipments

Some in the technology industry, including this blogger believe that there is still a place for Windows phones, even with Microsoft’s downsized goals. For example enterprises are better suited to Windows 10 Mobile and Microsoft’s revamped strategy then either iOS or Android.

Enterprises and government for example want to actually support Windows 10 across all devices. Microsoft’s ideal customer is a professional already deep in the Windows ecosystem, having invested, say, in a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book, or companies that are strictly Windows-only shops.

That’s not much of a market but these markets could save Windows Phone. I for one hope that this happens

Cortana Set to Arrive on iOS and Android

One of the things I miss very much about having and using a Windows Phone is Cortana. Boy was she special. Cortana is much like Siri but she actually works for you. I really – really miss her but is looks like Cortana is going cross platform.

This is because today Microsoft made official what had been rumored two months ago: It will release Android and iOS mobile apps that feature Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent assistant.

“It all starts with the big picture,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, argued in a Tuesday interview. “Microsoft wants to provide a connected experience with all a customer’s devices. Windows is nowhere in phone, nowhere in tablets, so they have to provide an experience that [crosses] these platform lines.”

The Android app will debut next month, and the iOS version later this year, Joe Belfiore, who leads Windows design at Microsoft, said in a blog post.

The Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone. Those things Cortana will do on rival platforms include reminder notifications, notebook syncing and flight tracking. The apps will not feature Cortana’s voice-activated functionality, as in, “Hey, Cortana” which is kind of a bummer.

By offering Cortana, even in a stripped-functionality form, and native Android and iOS apps for other services, Microsoft is executing on its stated “cloud-first, mobile-first” strategy. Along with other major moves.

Saving Windows Phone with Phone Companion?

Also today, Microsoft revealed that Windows 10 for desktops will come with a “Phone Companion” app that will promote not only Cortana, but other Microsoft services and their necessary Android and iOS apps.

Phone Companion will walk Android and iOS device owners through the steps of acquiring apps such as Cortana, Office, OneDrive OneNote, Outlook and Skype, and if available, set up data synchronization between Windows 10 and non-Windows smartphones or tablets. Photos taken on an iPhone, for example, will sync with the Photos app on Windows 10, while music stored on OneDrive will be playable on an Android or iOS device.

“Phone Companion will reportedly help you connect your Windows PC to whatever phone you own — whether it’s a Windows phone, Android phone, or iPhone,” Microsoft Promised.

Microsoft did not set specific release dates for either the Android or iOS Cortana apps, but said that Phone Companion would be bundled with a Windows 10 preview build expected to go public “in a few weeks.”

Windows 10 is to launch this summer.

Hope for Windows Phone?

I must admit this, and I know I have, many times, right here for you my dedicated readers.

I really – really miss my Windows Phone. I am using a iPhone 6 right know and it bothers me. in a big way. I use it for one reason only. Sadly It literally has all of the apps I need for my job and one very important app my wife says I need, Disney Experience. I am left scratching my head wondering why Microsoft cannot figure the whole app thing out. It’s not that hard. People wants apps, and they usually choose their smartphone exclusively on the availability of the apps they want. Maybe Microsoft is starting to get it. Just maybe.

Have no doubt. Windows Phone I do miss yo… badly. Microsoft, listen to me closely, there is no doubt your operating system is superior to both iOS and Android. However please figure out the who app problem before it’s too late.

Maybe there is some hope as this article suggests.

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Me and my Windows Phone. I really do miss you being there for me, as my primary phone.

Is this more false hope? I am not sure but it looks like developers of iOS and Android apps will soon be able to bring their apps and games to Windows 10, Microsoft’s next operating system that’s designed to run on Windows Phone, laptops and other devices, the company announced at its Build developer conference this week. Windows 10 is expected to arive sometime this summer, but phones running Windows 10 are not expected until a later in 2015.

Four new software development toolkits will allow developers to bring their code for iOS, Android, the Web, .NET, and Win32 to the Windows Store with “minimal code modifications” Microsoft promised.

Developers will start with a code base, such as Android or iOS, and integrate that with the Universal Windows Platform capability, then distribute the new app through the Windows Store.

The four new toolkits will enable code already built on websites with .NET and Win32, with Android Java/C++ and with iOS Objective C, Microsoft’s Terry Myerson, vice president of operating systems, said in a blog.

As an example of this, Adobe will bring its Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements apps to the Windows Store by using the new toolkit for Win32 apps, Myerson said. Today, there are 16 million Win32 apps, and Microsoft is looking forward to having them grow their distribution by coming to the Windows Store, he added.

In another example, the Candy Crush Saga game was ported to Windows Phone with “very few code modifications” to its original Objective C code with the Objective C toolkit, he said. The Universal Windows Platform will also enable apps to become holograms.

Having the relatively easy capability to convert iOS apps, and especially Android apps to Windows Phone, could help Microsoft, but even this new ability will take some time and I am not sure, but I fear Microsoft is out of time when it comes to improving smartphone adoption.

I am crossing my fingers for Microsoft, because as I have said…. I really – really miss my Windows Phone.

Report from Microsoft’s Build 2015

Today was day 1 at Microsoft’s Build 2015 and that means a lot of Windows 10 news. So what did Microsoft want us to know and what are they excited about? Well enough with the Microsoft rumors and lets move on to actually what Microsoft announced today.

 

WINDOWS 10

 

Screen Shot 2015 04 29 at 5.38.18 pm 730x367 Everything Microsoft announced at Build Developer Conference 2015: Day 1

The first announcement about Windows 10: The Windows Store is getting its own carrier billing service across 90 mobile operators to make it easier for customers to purchase apps, and developers to sell apps, without requiring a credit card. This will be available for all Windows 10 devices.

Run Universal Windows apps on Your Desktop

 

22tracks windows universal app 730x389 Everything Microsoft announced at Build Developer Conference 2015: Day 1

Microsoft demoed what it’s like to run Windows apps on a PC – or what it bills as “universal apps.” Even after the user closes the app on their desktop, they can still opt to receive notifications on the lower right corner to allow the app to run across all their devices.

Android and iOS apps arrive on Windows 10!

There were rumors earlier this week that Windows will somehow allow Android apps to run on its platform. Today Microsoft clarified the rumor by announcing that developers not only can port their Android app codes to Windows 10, but also iOS apps. This is big news!

This will certainly reduce the friction for developers hoping to expand their app offering to Windows 10 without requiring a whole lot of effort. The apps will port over on Windows as universal apps so you can use them on Windows 10 desktops as well.

 

ioS objective C Build 730x406 Everything Microsoft announced at Build Developer Conference 2015: Day 1

 

Spartan Browser Gets an Official Name: Microsoft Edge

Project Spartan is officially no more: Microsoft unveiled an official name for the browser at Build – the Microsoft Edge. It can not be underestimated how much Microsoft hopes that this one competed with Google’s Chrome browser.

 

ms edge 730x371 Everything Microsoft announced at Build Developer Conference 2015: Day 1

Microsoft’s new browser will have note-taking and sharing features built-in, as well a new tab page and Web extension support.

 

Windows 10 Continuum for Windows Phone

Fully backing its promise to make its service and devices as universal as possible, Microsoft also announced that Windows 10 phones can be used as a full computer.

It make sense, really. Since Windows apps are universal anyway, Windows 10 continuum allows users to connect their devices via an HDMI cord to see their phone in full screen.

 

powerpoint windows 10 730x401 Everything Microsoft announced at Build Developer Conference 2015: Day 1

 

In a demo, Joe Belfiore, Microsoft Corporate Vice President at Operating Systems Group, showed off PowerPoint from a Windows 10 phone on a desktop. Although the look and feel is very much like a native desktop app, it’s all running via a Windows 10 smartphone, and can even pull in photos from the camera roll to insert into slides.

 

Windows Holographic Demo

Remember Microsoft’s foray into virtual reality last year? That division of MS is still at it with today’s showcase of Windows Holographic.

 

windows holographic 730x401 Everything Microsoft announced at Build Developer Conference 2015: Day 1

While nothing particularly new was announced in this section, Microsoft did show off its development to make the HoloLens VR headset compatible with browsers, allowing wearers to walk around and resize Windows 10 app screens and interact with them through the holographic computing technology. You can also use voice command to make browsers follow you around… if you want that.

Microsoft also demonstrated the use of HoloLens from a medical education perspective, and brought a student on stage to show how she can use the VR headset to study the human anatomy. She does so by examining the human body from various layers and zooming into specific bones and organs.

 

hololens anatomy 730x403 Everything Microsoft announced at Build Developer Conference 2015: Day 1

 

Confessions of A Windows Phone User

First and before I start you must understand I really truly love Windows Phone*. For about half of the time during the past 4 years I have been an enthusiastic Windows Phone user. However recently I switched back, holding my nose all the way to an iPhone. Why would I do this you ask? My short answer is that I am making this change to hopefully send Microsoft a message about what they must do if they ever want to reach double digit smartphone market share in the United States.

I am taking a deep breath as I write this. I am so upset by this because I truly believe that Microsoft sports by far a superior UI (user interface) and offers a first rate experience when it comes to user customization and Microsoft Office integration. Unfortunately there are two converging events occurring today that have forced me to make this sad change and I bet many others will follow. If this continues to occur, there will be a slow march to mediocrity in the smartphone world in store for Microsoft.

What are these two events which have converged to cause this change of heart for me? Well here is how I see it.

Converging Events Conspire Against Windows Phone

Event #1

The first event is the continued lack of app development in Microsoft’s smartphone realm. The continued lack of apps truly astonishes me. I have waited and hoped for the past 4 years that this situation would improve and although there has been some improvement it has been ridiculously slow and not remotely enough development in the app field for the majority of smartphone users. Why Microsoft does not get the importance of this situation I simply have no idea. People generally use their smartphones as quasi tablets today and as these smartphones grow in size this situation surrounding how people use their smartphones, and what they expect from them is only going to increase.  The lack of apps is like an anchor dragging the amazing Windows Phone down to the bottom of the smartphone seabed.

Event #2

The second event that is occurring surrounds Microsoft as well. During the past year Microsoft has been successfully pursuing their new business model of being a “Software and Services” company first. As a result their software prized possession of Microsoft Office has been developed and released to positive reviews across the board of smartphones including Android, iOS and of course Windows Phone. Microsoft’s other products, Office 365 and OneDrive have also been made available across platform. As a result, even for Microsoft dwellers the need to stay with Windows Phone is minimized.

More Troubles

These two situations (or events) are really causing Microsoft some issues with further developing and expanding their smartphone line. Although not as important as the two situations I have talked about here Microsoft after purchasing Nokia really only has one other smartphone provider which is HTC and even there other than the amazing HTC One M8 the choices for high end smartphone users is minimal here as well.

What Can Microsoft Do to Save Their Amazing Smartphones?

It really comes down to this. Apps. Microsoft must do whatever is necessary to get a handle on this problem and quickly. For each month that rolls by Microsoft is falling further behind in the smartphone dominated world.

Goodbye Windows Phone. May we meet again in a better place where Apps dance freely in the Microsoft Store.

Goodbye Windows Phone. May we meet again in a better place where Apps dance freely in the Microsoft Store.

What would I do? Well I have suggested this many times but it seems I just do not have Microsoft’s ear these days. The first thing I would do is identify the most popular 50 apps worldwide and then either pay the companies to develop apps for Windows Phone or develop the apps, in partnership for those companies. Now I fully understand that for the most part this is now how apps are developed, Android and Apple do not need to do this, however Microsoft was so late to the game this may be their only hope for smartphone survival. There is an old but true saying that goes like this. “Desperate times call for desperate measures”.

Although it is true that many of the functions of apps can be completed with the internet browser on Windows Phone the task can be both clunky and slow. These two results are a smartphone killer.

Even for me a Windows Phone junkie there are simply many apps that could help me professionally that are simply not available to me, unless I switch to Andoid or iOS, which quite frankly I recently did.

Offer Incentives to Small App Developers

There must also be incentives for small app developers to invest the time and resources in Windows Phone. I have seen this a couple of times in the past few years. As a CIO for a local government I have been involved in a couple of projects that involved app development for smartphones and only once in three occurrences was a Windows Phone App even a possibility. And in the case where a Windows App was offered it was inferior to the Android and iOS offerings.

I am stunned by Microsoft’s continued problem and lack of movement with Windows Phone and its poor relationship with app developers. Microsoft recently has gotten many things right. Office 365 for Business and Home Users, One Drive’s unlimited storage and the Surface Pro 3 are all signs of a company heading in the right direction, however I am left scratching my head wondering what’s in store for what could be the best smartphone on the market.

A Microsoft Smartwatch is Coming

A Microsoft smartwatch is coming and it will work on Windows Phone! Don’t worry, unlike other smartwatches on the market this one will work across all platforms.

Microsoft is planning to enter the smartwatch arena by launching their own wearable fitness band in the coming weeks. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the launch of Microsoft’s wearable fitness band is imminent, and the device will be stocked at retailers in time for the holiday season. Microsoft’s wearable launch will mark 10 years since the company announced its SPOT smartwatch in 2004 that used FM radio signals to send instant messages from Windows Messenger, news headlines, stock information, and weather forecasts to your wrist.

Although Microsoft’s fitness band will have some smartwatch features, it will be primarily focused on fitness activities. The band will reportedly track steps, heart rate, calories burned, and other key health attributes thanks to a number of sensors embedded in the device. Microsoft has also been testing the ability to monitor heart rate through the day and night, and is expected to ship a final device that has around two days of battery life.

In 2003 Bill Gates was the CEO of Microsoft and he had a smartwatch dream, but like so many Microsoft projects it died a quick death, only to be resurrected in the next few weeks, some 11 years later.

In 2003 Bill Gates was the CEO of Microsoft and he had a smartwatch dream, but like so many Microsoft projects it died a quick death, only to be resurrected in the next few weeks, some 11 years later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key part of Microsoft’s fitness band will be its cross platform support for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android. Microsoft is developing separate apps for each mobile operating system to help support the features of its fitness band sensors, and smartphone notifications to the band will also be supported. It’s unlikely that Microsoft will brand its fitness band under the Lumia or Surface monikers, mainly because the device will work across all three mobile operating systems.

Sunday Ticket Arrives on Windows Phone

One of the reasons I had been hesitant on switching back to Windows Phone was the absence of Directv’s NFL Sunday Ticket App. This aside I still made the switch anyway. In the back of my mind however I was confident that this app would soon appear on Windows Phone as a side result of Microsoft’s recent deal with the NFL to provide Surface tablets to all of the teams for their sidelines.

Well one week before the start of the 2014 NFL season the DirectTV NFL Sunday Ticket app hit the Windows Store for Windows Phone and Windows 8. Of course you will still  need an NFL Sunday Ticket subscription (which I have had one since 1996) in order to access live games on your phone or tablet but I am sure everyone knows that by now.

NFL_sunday_ticket_610x273

Microsoft is an official sponsor of the NFL and this season coaches and players are using customized Surface tablets on the sideline. DirectTV has them covered, releasing a NFL Sunday Ticket app for Windows 8.1 and RT (tablets) as well. Another new app from the NFL, NFL Now, which streams archival footage and game highlights, is also available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Windows Phone users on Verizon can access local NFL games on the NFL Mobile app, which is also a change for this year, although it might require additional monthly subscription fees depending on your plan.

Windows Phone still does not have the sheer number of apps as the Google or Apple stores but slowly Microsoft has been adding apps users find essential. Of course you can find the Sunday Tickey app on your iOS and Android devices.

Windows Phone Report

Since switching back to Windows Phone last week I must say I am happy I did. Do I miss my Android? Well I would be lying if I said I did not. To be frank, Windows Phone has a superior, cleaner and faster UI (user interface) then Android. This means when I need to use my phone quickly the Windows Phone far our performs any Android phone I have tried. However there is a huge hurdle Microsoft must conquer if they want to truly compete in the U.S. market.

Me and my Windows Phone. Friends Forever?

Me and my Windows Phone. Friends Forever?

Apps sell phones, and Windows Phone continues to lag behind both iOS and Android in app availability. There are more apps available today that is for sure then when I first used a Windows Phone (October 2012 – October 2013) but there is much more work to do.

If you look at raw numbers, Windows Phone still seriously lags behind its competitors. There are an estimated 1.2 million apps available for iOS, and more than 1.3 million for Android. As for Windows Phone apps, the total numbers it reported in April 2014 was 400,000. However Microsoft combines their Windows tablet and phone stores with these numbers so lets just agree that there are far less apps available on Windows phone then iOS and Android. And to make matters worse it has been reported widely recently and I have seen this myself that there is a lot of “JUNK” apps in the Windows Store.

To be clear, apps are the Achilles heal for Microsoft’s otherwise excellent smartphone.

Even for me, an admitted Microsoft fan the app situation is very bad and disappointing. The frustrating thing here is that this problem would be meaningless if Microsoft’s smartphone was not worthy, but it truly is.

If you had a Windows phone for a week and judged it on performance, ease of use and customization I am confident most users would consider using Windows Phone. However the mobile world we live in is an “app world” and Microsoft needs to address this issue if they ever want to capture meaningful market share.

Last month, WP Central did an analysis of apps available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, and the results were not good for Windows Phone. WP Central used information from App Annie. It found that none of the 13 most popular free games available for iOS were available for Windows Phone. And of the 12 most popular free apps on iOS, it found, a mere six were available for Windows Phone. Overall, among the apps it found missing were WatchESPN, FIFA Official App, YouTube, Snapchat, and Google Maps.

Today there is an acceptable YouTube app published by Microsoft. Google Maps as well as other Google apps are being withheld by Google so Microsoft is really a victim with these, especially considering that Microsoft has made Microsoft Office apps specifically for both Android and iOS.

All is not lost however. The Microsoft Store is not a wasteland with app tumbleweeds rolling by. For example social media apps are abundant on Windows Phone like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Swarm and even Google+. However Apps that I particularly miss include, WatchESPN, Directv’s Sunday Ticket, SiriusXM and my local bank.

Windows Phone does come packaged with a full version of Internet Explorer therefore you can access any of these services through their webpage. This can be tedious and users are not accustomed to putting that much effort into the services they want to use, on their smartphone.

On the plus side, if you are a Microsoft 365 user Windows Phone will shine.

Windows Phone Security Gets Certified

Ok in my earlier post I kind of praised the new iOS7 for Apple devices so I had to also counter with a little positive Microsoft news.

If you look around at the mindless lemmings staring at their phones as they walk down the street, it might seem like the mobile platform market is a two-horse race between Apple and Google. Although that may be so that is not the case in Washington, DC and in government organizations around the nation.

Government workers are famous, if sometimes reluctant Blackberry users. Did you notice that in the Netflix series House of Cards all the characters connected to the government used them? People who work for courts, the military, or any sensitive government agency have almost always been issued BlackBerrys for security reasons. The Canadian company’s biggest asset is its much-touted security and encryption algorithms. Apple’s iOS 6 devices were only approved for Department of Defense use in May. This week, Windows Phone 8 joined the list of government-approved devices, giving Microsoft thousands of potential customers.

Today, Windows Phone 8 was granted what is called FIPS 140-2 accreditation, which is used to evaluate the level of a device’s security and the cryptographic algorithms it uses to protect the secrets locked in its guts. It still isn’t approved for Department of Defense-level clearance, but it does pave the way for it to join BlackBerry, Apple, and a few Samsung devices as ready for basic sensitive information.

This could improve Windows Phone adoption for enterprise and even give Microsoft a marketing angle. If it’s secure enough for government, you can rest assured that proprietary company data and such will stay safe on them. Also, with Office software built in, it could cement Microsoft’s enterprise focus. Companies that have a bring-your-own-device policy might nudge employees to pick a Windows Phone.

This isn’t good news for BlackBerry at all. With this crypto certification, Windows Phones can even be issued to government employees on their home turf in Canada.

Enterprise adoption could help boost Window Phone’s market share, making the problem of weak reception — a current complaint among consumers – less of a issue. Despite some sleek designs and quality specs, Microsoft’s phone is still a distant third to the Android and iPhone platforms but considering this new certification and built in Office applications, I believe that Microsoft is in place to continue improving market share.

Four Square & Windows 8 Phone

Are though Facebook is much more popular, FourSquare has always rivaled Facebook to me in regard to “checking in” to your favorite places. With FourSquare you can become mayor, as I have at several locations such as Rino’s in Exton Pa, Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown Pa. You can rate your favorite establishments, get reviews, suggestions for similar places and even obtain coupons.

Although Windows 8 phones do not have the sheer number of apps as their Apple and Android competitors their apps, when compared are usually much better in appearance and functionality.

For example Foursquare’s new Windows 8 app may not be the biggest deal for Foursquare, but it’s huge for Microsoft.

With the app, which was officially announced in June, Foursquare takes some of the best parts about Windows 8 — the Metro interface, live tiles, global search — and creates something that’s completely different from anything the company has released before.

That, as Foursquare business development head David Ban told VentureBeat, is exactly the point. “I think one of the most exciting things here was figuring out what we can do for this specific platform. It’s very pretty and plays well to the strengths of this OS,” Ban said.

Many of these strengths are pretty obvious on first glance: Foursquare for Windows 8 looks and feels great, and it’s clear that both Microsoft and Foursquare put a lot of thought into how to use the app to showcase the design strengths of the platform.  (This was the exact strategy Microsoft and Foursquare pushed with Foursquare’s Window Phone 8 app as well.)

Again, that’s a big deal for Microsoft, which is still struggling to convince consumers why they should switch over to Windows 8. Apps like this one really support its case.

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