Two things have become clear in the last couple weeks. Once you’ve digested Microsoft’s language around Lumia in its feature phone business sale; and read the ‘leaked’ memos from within the organisation seeking to reassure partners and customers.
Firstly, Microsoft doesn’t want to be in the phone hardware business and, secondly, Microsoft can’t afford to abandon Windows 10 Mobile.
That really does mean that Microsoft needs to leverage its relationship with OEMs and assist them in delivering the Windows Mobiles that the market doesn’t want but Microsoft needs them to sell. So far Microsoft is having limited success.
We have three credible Windows Mobile high end devices incoming. The Acer Jade Primo, the HP Elite x3 and the Alacatel Idol Pro 4. There are a handful of low end devices from lesser known OEMs and what’s left of the Lumia line.
Not really a compelling choice when stacked up against the variety of Android devices that offer capability and value from the high end down to the cheapest of the cheap.
Microsoft should be targeting two OEMs in particular: Sony and HTC. Both have loyal (if dwindling) customer bases, both are struggling to compete in the Android space and both have previously delivered well regarded Windows phones.
The most recent of these devices was the HTC One M8 for Windows Phone, which was hampered by the Microsoft – Nokia relationship which made it an outlier choice. With that problem effectively removed a HTC Windows 10 Mobile strikes me as something that could work for both parties, especially if Microsoft provides financial backing to a HTC marketing campaign in support of the device.
HTC could potentially replace the missing Windows Mobile middle ground, where quality and value go hand in hand. It could even break away from the monolithic phone design of the current era and revisit some of its adventurous designs of the past. Both areas where HTC has shown itself to be very capable.
Sony probably doesn’t need the financial inducement, just Microsoft’s support to transfer the best parts of its Xperia line to Windows 10 Mobile. Sony needs to build the ultimate Windows 10 Mobile consumer handset – waterproof, 4K screen, top notch camera, stereo speakers and eye catching build. Volumes may not be high, but as Sony has said that its mobile division will be chasing profits not sales numbers that shouldn’t be a problem. And whilst there may not be huge numbers of premium Windows phone buyers out there, enough exist to allow Sony profit and act as a halo for the Windows 10 Mobile ecosystem as a whole.
For all Microsoft says it hasn’t given up on Windows 10 Mobile, unless it can get people to buy them in some numbers, to all intents and purposes it may as well have done.