Windows Phone operating system

Microsoft quietly hangs up on its Windows Phone

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After struggling for years to make an impact in the Google and Apple-dominated smartphone market, a senior executive has finally announced that Microsoft will no longer develop Windows Phones.

Although many months of silence have passed with no new announcements made regarding Windows Phones, the end of the project had not been confirmed.

The announcement was made on Twitter by Joe Belfiore of Microsoft’s OS Group. When asked by a Twitter user whether it was “time to leave [the] Windows Mobile platform”, he said that while Microsoft would continue to support users of the platform, “building new features/[hardware] aren’t the focus”.

Belfiore confirmed that he himself had switched platforms (to Android) due to the greater diversity in apps and hardware available with other products, made possible by the much greater number of users. Even Microsoft founder Bill Gates has publicly admitted to using an Android phone for personal use.

The lack of apps for their Windows OS, Belfiore said, was what the decision had come down to.

The lack of apps available to Windows Phone users compared with Android or iOS users has widely been cited as the greatest problem facing Microsoft in breaking into the smartphone market: the ‘app gap’. While developers created apps for Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS, the user base for Microsoft smartphones has never been large enough to encourage a mass move to Windows.

“We have tried VERY HARD [sic] to [encourage] app [developers],” Belfiore wrote. “Paid money, wrote apps [for] them… but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest.”

The first Windows Phone, PocketPC, was released in 2000 and in 2015 the Windows Phone was replaced by Windows 10 Phone, an operating system aimed at providing more consistency and synchronisation across devices. While the user interface was generally praised, the lack of apps did not convince many users to switch to the devices.

According to Gartner, less than half of one percent of all new smartphone sales in the final quarter of 2016 were Windows devices.

Belfiore said that Microsoft would continue providing bug fixes and security updates to Windows Phone users and that it has plans to bring some features - such as its Edge web browser - to Android and iOS phones in the future.

Last week, HP confirmed that it had cancelled plans to develop a series of high-end Windows Phones, due to Microsoft deciding on a “change in strategy” and shifting its focus from the smartphone market.

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