Microsoft just sent a clear message to consumers brave enough to bet on its mobile strategy a few years back: You’re on your own.
Yes, the software giant revealed this week that it will no longer be updating Windows Phone 8.1, which means that most Windows-powered phones will soon be as obsolete as a street-corner payphone.
As it stands, almost eight in 10 Microsoft consumers are still running Windows Phone 7, 8, or 8.1. That’s despite the fact that, by Microsoft’s reckoning, Windows 10 is now used on more than 500 million devices.
If you’re wondering why consumers can’t just download Windows 10 Mobile, well, most Windows Phone 8.1 phones don’t support the new system.
At least for now, the move officially kills Microsoft’s courageous efforts to take on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS and their mobile operating system duopoly.
Of course, this should come as no surprise to watchers of Microsoft, who’ve seen its mobile ambitions shrivel in recent years.
Rather than compete with Android or iOS, the company that Bill Gates built now seems comfortable molding its mobile strategy around their dominance.
Among other moves in that direction, Microsoft recently decided to give Windows users access to the iTunes app.
Perhaps stretching the meaning of the word, Microsoft isn’t entirely giving up on “mobile” hardware. It recently announced that AT&T, Vodafone, and Orange were among the first mobile carriers to support Windows 10 “Always Connected” PCs, which are expected to hit store shelves later this year.
That, of course, should offer cold comfort to all the Windows Phone users, who must now be wondering what to do with their soon-to-be useless gadgets.
And, long term, you have to wonder how Microsoft plans to stay relevant without a more robust mobile business.
For the first time, Android recently bested Windows as the world’s most popular operating system.
The reason for the shift is obvious.
Microsoft’s mobile game plan? Not so much.