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What's the future for Windows Phone?

Matt Hamblen | July 1, 2015
Despite rumors of its potential demise, Microsoft likely to hold on to the mobile business to keep its hand in the market.

Windows Phone

Despite rumors that Microsoft is about to kill Windows Phone, some industry observers say that's unlikely for several reasons, especially the expected gains from the rollout of Windows 10, which will run on smartphones and other devices.

The rumors of Windows Phone's imminent death seem to have started with Microsoft's announcement on Monday that it sold its Bing Maps mapping technology to Uber and transferred about 100 workers in data analysis and image collection to the ride-sharing company. That announcement came the same day that Microsoft said it will exit most of its online advertising business in a deal with AOL.

Instead of running Windows Phone or the coming Windows 10 Mobile OS, future Microsoft smartphones would run on Android with particular apps and services pre-loaded, Techradar reported, relying on a tweet from MSFTNerd. (MSFTNerd only shares tweets with "confirmed" followers who must request access.)

Microsoft didn't respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft last week released Build 10149 of Windows 10 Mobile to its Windows Insider preview group. The build includes the ability for voice assistant Cortana to send emails.

Indeed, the future for Windows Phone seems unclear, at best. That future is made no less clear by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's recently leaked email to employees that addressed the need to make "tough choices in areas where things are not working" at the company.

There was also the sudden departure of ex-Nokia boss Stephen Elop on June 17. This week, there's even a possibility that Microsoft could write off $5.5 billion from its $7.9 billion 2014 acquisition of Nokia.

At Mobile World Congress in March, Elop introduced Lumia phones that were set to ship in the fall running Windows 10. Windows 10 is a cross-platform OS which is designed to work with phones, tablets, laptops and desktops and has been hailed as a bold move by Microsoft. So far, however, Windows Phone has only garnered a fraction of the smartphone market, with a 3.2% market share expected in 2015, compared to 79.4% for Android and 14.8% for Apple's iOS, according to research firm IDC.

Given Microsoft's ambitions for Windows 10, three analysts said Tuesday that they didn't think Microsoft will give up on making smartphones with the Windows OS.

"It's way too early to throw in the towel on Windows Phone, but I can see the Uber transaction as a step in retreating on mapping," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Moorhead said Microsoft needs to be clearer about what the Uber transaction means for Windows Phone, if only to keep its Windows developers in the loop. "Many developers are watching Microsoft for any sign of a lack of commitment," he added.


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