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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.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, called it odd that Microsoft is divesting itself of its mapping data to Uber, but added, "it doesn't imply anything necessarily about the phone."

Gottheil predicted that Microsoft will keep Windows Phone alive in future iterations, but will "not invest in trying to drive more market share." Microsoft will want to give Windows Phone enough presence in the market to keep developers involved so that Microsoft "is in the position to take advantage of future opportunities. ...There may be opportunities to make Windows Phone a viable OS at some point."

Windows 10 will provide a "much better integrated experience between the phone and the PC," Gottheil said, which is vital since Windows PCs still dominate the desktop and laptop market. Windows 10 could work with phones on different operating systems, and Microsoft could also work to develop a security product with Android, he suggested.

Windows 10 shares a common central kernel across platforms with "various pieces for various platforms," Gottheil noted. "They say it is 'write-once and run anywhere,' and that's kind of half true. You can't fit a lot of things you run for Windows server on a phone."

Still, he concluded, "It's not terribly expensive to keep the mobile OS going. They might as well play it for the long shot. I wouldn't abandon Windows Phone if I were Microsoft."

Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said the Uber transaction and other recent moves at Microsoft are "not the end of Windows Phone." IDC recently predicted that Windows Phone, or whatever it is called in coming years, will grow to 5.4% of the market by 2019.

"It will be single digits [market share] going forward, which is big for Microsoft, but not much of a dent into Android or iOS," Llamas said.

One decidedly negative view came from Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates. "I've said for a while now that Windows Phone is a distraction for Microsoft," he said. "They need to get out of the smartphone business, so the sale of the old Nokia phone business or a shutdown is high on my list of predictions."

Gold predicted Microsoft will spin off or sell the phone unit within the next year. "Elop's moving on was a big indication of this," he said. "A bigger problem for them will be trying to find someone who wants to buy the business as a whole."


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