Thanks for the entertainment...
I've been a mobile phone retailer for nigh on 16 years now and have a deliberately small (because I'm disabled and can only cope with so much) but successful business. I always have a good chuckle when another "expert" decided that he's figured out what Microsoft's problems are, followed by hundreds of other "I know where they went wrong" posts. It's always entertaining that so many people know what one of the world's most successful businesses is doing wrong, while it's clear that most of them know nothing about business and in many cases probably even less bout Windows phones, because they have never owned one.
I mean, "It would not be meaningfully different", and would be "woefully uncreative when trying to differentiate its product." Seriously? The one thing you CAN say with confidence about Windows phone is that it is different from the endless stream of me-too Android junk out there, the design of which obviously aped the iPhone, which itself aped the grid icon design that had been seen on feature phones 10 years ago and even now still; ironically a design mostly credited to Nokia.
If anything Windows Phone's problem was that it WAS different and people like familiarity. Forget the much-vaunted app situation. Hacks with nothing better to do picked up on it early on and it continued throughout the life of Windows phones. It was very easy to come away from a Windows phone review believing that there were virtually no apps. I've even seen so-called professional writers, i.e. writers employed as such for a salary, state that you could not watch a YouTube video or access Facebook on a Windows Phone. That's how bad it was. Those endless reviews, many of which simply copied a previous one, must have done untold damage to potential sales. People would often come into our shop believing that there were perhaps only a dozen apps or so on a Windows Phone and believe that they were like feature phones.
Likewise with the processor size. People buy into figures. They want more. Windows phones often had smaller processors because they were less power hungry than Android phones, but the writers didn't tell you that - we saw it again in this article - they simply told you they had less power. I owned a 1020 and never had any significant lag issues. I've seen many far more expensive Android phones that do, even now. But again people came away with the misconception that they were not powerful enough.
But the one big thing that scared people who saw the phones was the unfamiliar interface. They wanted icons because that's what they knew and understood. So many stuck with Android or iOS. I can honestly say though that those who DID switch to Windows were usually delighted and often stuck with them. They had most of the apps most of the people wanted but it's still a misconception that won't go away.
This of course, you're going to say is just my opinion, which is fair enough, but it's my take from my experience. The fact is you're all wrong about why Windows Mobile failed. Most of you would be anyway, because obviously a thousand different opinions can't be right, but the one simple fact is it didn't fail. It was reigned in by Microsoft, which is not the same thing. Oh I know it's not as glamourous to say it was, or will be, discontinued, it doesn't give you the same buzz as telling us all "See, I told you it would fail". But much as most of you hate to admit it, that wasn't the case as such.
There are a few things nobody has considered, and one of the main points is that Nadella wasn't interested. Had he been "up for it" Microsoft might well have done better had they continued. You can tell from everything he says, right from the fact that he didn't agree with the acquisition of Nokia in the first place which in many ways was essential. Nokia were struggling anyway and had Microsoft not stepped in they might have gone under, leaving Microsoft without a major vendor for their OS. There is no doubt in my mind from listening to what Nadella has had to say, that he couldn't wait to get rid of Windows Mobile. I think the guy has done fantastically well for the company, but mobile clearly isn't his thing.
Sales were on the increase in Europe in particular and just a couple of years ago they were outselling the iPhone in some European countries. There's no reason why that could not have continued if they had continued to release new phones and had Microsoft chosen a different CEO it might well have happened.
But what needs to be considered is the fact that most, if not all, low end phones don't make any money. In fact in most cases only the flagship models turn a profit, and even then only the most popular ones. Sony, LG and even Samsung have lost serious amounts of cash in recent years via their smartphone divisions. Those criticizing the Groove closure too also need to remember that even Sony, who are heavily into music and movies, couldn't make that work either.
I'm also not sure the Microsoft branding helped a lot, but get rid of that and you alienate the enterprise customers, and that's where the real money is. But throwing good money after bad is bad business and putting an end to that is the only sensible thing to do. Nadella recognised that, and that is to be admired, not derided.