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If No New Lumias Then What?

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Windows 10 Mobile might well be a great operating system – and if Microsoft continues to deliver its regular updates it promises to keep getting better and better, but if no one is buying is it really worth all the effort?

For Microsoft the answer has to be yes. Its Universal App strategy needs Windows Mobile. For all its plans to run Windows apps on Xbox and Hololens the crossover is minimal and even forced. Without Windows Mobile it makes little sense.

Windows Mobile does not equal Lumia though. For all the (slow and hard won) momentum Microsoft has built around the platform – which in recent years has meant Lumia – Microsoft, like Nokia before it, never really seemed to get a grasp of what it needed to do from a hardware perspective to make a true competitor to the iPhone and Galaxy S.

Even having stewardship of both hardware and software didn’t really bring any major leaps forward. The Lumia 930 was developed under Nokia’s stewardship and shipped in early 2014. Take a look at the replacement Lumia 950 – developed by Microsoft – and see if there are eighteen months of progress there.

For Microsoft killing the Lumia works in one of two ways, if you accept that it needs Windows Mobile to make any sense of its current strategies.

Firstly, it may kill Lumia and replace it with a new brand – the almost mythical Surface Phone. How does this help? Surface is now seen as a premium brand and by building a premium phone Microsoft has a product which may compete with the top end iOS and Android handsets. The problem is that if Microsoft does this it kills the only really profitable part of the smartphone market for its partners. Premium Windows Mobile sales (such as they are) will continue to go to Microsoft and OEM partners will disappear just as they did after the Nokia partnership was announced.

The second choice is for Microsoft to stop making smartphones completely. Instead creating a Nexus-like relationship with partners similar to what it has recently done with HP for laptops. Helping OEMs to build Windows Phones which compete with each other and other platforms, rather than being overwhelmed by the mother ship would seem like good business sense.

This second option might work, if Microsoft can persuade partners to build a solid range of handsets. If it can get those Android OEMs suffering in the current market to try something new it may be able to grow the platform again. Will there be the interest from partners? Even if there is, will there be consumer interest in a platform that is seen to have multiple issues? Certainly it seems like enterprise has moved on and the iPhone is going to win in that market.

With the world moving to mobile as the primary computing resource you have to question a strategy that places all your eggs in your competition’s basket, don’t you?

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