Microsoft's position in the smartphone industry has never really been that strong. They had Windows Mobile, which wasn't exactly as polished as BlackBerry. Then they moved on to Windows Phone 7, which was notably better and certainly more functional than Windows Mobile but was still a far cry behind iOS and Android. When Windows Phone 8 came out, people started to take more notice.
Windows Phone 8 is a good platform. I really like the way it looks. I'm not really into minimalism, but Microsoft managed to pull it off and make it work in my opinion. Not only that, but the entire platform runs smoothly without needing outrageous specs to make it happen. You can have a smooth-running Windows Phone 8 device with just a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM - those were specs that were high-end back in 2011, so it's impressive to see how well Windows Phone 8 can hold it up given that it's almost 2014.
However, it's no secret that while Windows Phone 8 might be more successful than Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile, it's still lagging behind the popularity and advancements made by iOS and Android. Windows Phone 8 is notorious for its lacking app store, which is more of just a "late to the party" issue when it comes to certain applications rather than actually lacking anymore - but there are still several applications that are missing at this point that are causing people to feel like Windows Phone 8 might not be a good alternative to switch to for them.
Something to look forward to this upcoming year is the release of Windows Phone 8.1. There are plenty of fixes and updates coming to Windows Phone 8.1, such as UI changes and even adding a voice assistant similar to Siri (named 'Cortana', from Xbox's Halo series). There is also said to be deeper integration throughout the OS from certain social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Aside from that, there are also general UI tweaks that are supposed to help make the overall flow of the OS more natural and fluid - as most updates do. It would seem the biggest update is the addition of Cortana.
I don't know if I think Windows Phone 8.1 will fix where Windows Phone is at right now. I think the biggest issue is that Android and iOS are just too much for Microsoft to truly compete at this point, at least in regards to the "lacking" app store (I have to admit that Windows Phone is getting lucky with app support lately, hopefully a trend that continues). But I suppose that if Cortana can surpass the current personal voice assistants that we have that it could be a good selling point for the platform. Hands-free seems to be the way to be these days, what with wearable technology like smartwatches and smart glasses on the rise.
Overall, it seems like Windows Phone 8.1 is a good thing to happen to Windows Phone. There doesn't seem to be anything ground-breaking here, which I think is what consumers are waiting for at this point when it comes to being able to surpass iOS and Android. But as long as they continue building the platform in the right direction, the OS shouldn't have an issue staying afloat and gaining a solid following in the end.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the Windows Phone 8.1 update? Is it an update that will make you consider switching to the OS if you haven't already? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!