Microsoft And HTC: How Did They Blow Mobile?
Back in the early post-iPhone days when Android was new and nobody knew what direction the smartphone market was going, I posed a question: how would HTC fair without Windows Mobile? Was Microsoft holding HTC back or was HTC making Windows Mobile look bad?
This was after probably two of the best Windows Mobile devices ever made: the Touch Pro 2 and the legendary HD2. Two devices that stood comparison to contemporary iPhone and Android devices.
Wind the clock on seven and a half years from the HD2 and things look bleak for both partners.
Microsoft has struggled through three major revisions of Windows for phones, losing partners and customers along the way. It briefly dallied with hardware with both the Kin and Lumia with disastrous and expensively disastrous results respectively. Microsoft is out of the smartphone business. Its losses over the years since ditching Windows Mobile 6.5 must be of titanic proportions and at the end of it all it has given the mobile market away to Apple and Google.
HTC hasn't fared quite so badly. In fact for a while the HTC Desire was the best and most coveted handset on the market. Then the Samsung Galaxy stole its thunder and the rest is history. A succession of missteps, mis-judged design decisions and truly terrible marketing campaigns has seen the former market leader consigned to the gutter, offering derivative handsets a with rapidly diminishing sales.
A backward step into contract manufacturing the Google Pixel may well have saved HTC, but its losses and sales problems seem to have doomed the HTC brand.
Could things have turned out differently?
Had Microsoft and HTC strengthened their alliance in 2009 and developed Windows Mobile 6.5 in the way that the HD2 and HTC's Sense skin were taking it there may have been an opportunity. Certainly WM6.5 had features and capabilities that iOS and Android took years to match. Even if the march of the iPhone would have been unchallenged by new WM6.5 devices, the rise of Android could have been somewhat stymied by Microsoft.
Ultimately we are left with a lot of 'what if' questions. Depending upon your view of WM6.5 - and it was a polarising platform - your answer will vary. What is certainly true is that for Microsoft it couldn't have delivered a worse outcome or cost more money than the road it actually pursued.