While I was browsing the news yesterday, I didn't think much of the headline that claimed Windows Phone was dead. After all, these types op eds pop up all the time. Hell, on a slow news day I too enjoy fathoming the demise of Windows Phone. But then another popped up. And another. Then I saw that Evan wrote his own op ed about the same thing. Alright, I thought. Something must have happened.
Nothing gets by me.
When I read the news about Microsoft’s massive layoff of 1,850 employees in an effort to streamline its smartphone hardware business, it hardly should have been surprising. It’s still disheartening all the same. My first thought went out to those losing jobs; that's a lot of jobs that are being lost, and a lot of lives that are being negatively affected, and my heart goes out to them. And then one has to wonder what this really means for the future of Windows Phone, if there even is a future.
Some are saying that this is definitely the end, and there's no recovering from this. Going off of Microsoft’s track record, that's not a bad guess. Microsoft has tried time and time again to propel its mobile business with minimal luck. Others assume they're simply taking a hiatus (and nixing the Lumia line once and for all) before eventually unifying things with a Surface Phone.
Personally, I'm siding – hoping for, really – the latter.
I haven't exactly been super fond the Windows Phone experience in its entirety. I really liked the minimalist design of the UI and the camera, but the overall experience was lackluster. The app gap, the not-so-occasional broken feature… it really is a buzzkill when those things are important to you, which I think goes for most general consumers. I expected Windows 10 Mobile to be this great big fix for it all, but that didn't happen either. That doesn't mean that all hope is lost, though. I still think that the Windows Phone UI is an excellent skeleton for what could be a really great third mobile operating system.
And in order to achieve that, I think Microsoft needs to take a step back to thoroughly evaluate the situation.
This could lead down two paths: either taking this hiatus ends up completely killing the platform once and for all as people move on to Android or iOS (because what other choice do they have?), or things could turn out really great once Microsoft has has time to really refine the product. And yes, I do feel desperate clinging on to that hope, but I think there’s still a chance. Now where have I heard that before? Oh. Right.
The only analogy I could come up with to properly sum up my desperate logic is this: Say you want to join the basketball team. You're already pretty good at football, but you like watching basketball, so you figure you'd try your hand at it. You join the team, and get to your first game before long. Turns out you're not doing so hot. While you're out there on the court, do you magically get better halfway through the game? Probably not, unless you're starring in Space Jam. What happens is that you have a bad game. To get better, you spend more time perfecting your game off the court for the next game. Eventually, if you practice hard enough, you'll probably get really good at it. But you have to take the time to perfect your game on your own time first, without having to focus on winning the game at hand.
So Microsoft needs to practice their game off the courts for a while. Then again, maybe that analogy doesn't really work, because Microsoft has been on the team for like, 6 years now and they're still having a hard time. But maybe they’ll take the hiatus to figure out they're better at hockey than they are at basketball or something. Yeah. Ok. I'm done with that. I tried.
The point is, I still have some faith in Microsoft. It's not much, but it's some. And as disheartening as yesterday’s news is for Windows Phone fans, the truth is that it ain’t over ‘till it’s over, and going off of the memo by Terry Myerson, Microsoft's head of Windows and Devices, this is just Microsoft’s way of “scaling back” – but they’re not out.