The Windows phone. It’s been a rocky road and judging by its history its heading straight for a brick wall. Windows has been on mobile devices phones since the early 2000s and has come a long way since its first release. But I’m taking a look at the “Lumia Age” of Windows Phones, they were colourful. innovative and damn right plastic.
“Just launched Lumia, the first real Windows Phone #NokiaWorld”
Stephen Elop – Nokia CEO
“It’s alive!” they preached. “It’s alive!” November 2011 brought us the first Lumia phone (the Lumia 800): it was primarily targeted at the high-end smartphone market and cost around £450. It was housed in a tough polycarbonate body but overall felt comfortable in the hand. In terms of style, they did an okay job; it came with a selection of vibrant colours to match many a soul. But put it next to an iPhone, and it looked dated. Its plastic casing looked amateur next to the slick aluminium body of the iPhone and for a phone that is ‘High End’, I believe it shouldn’t even mention plastic in its specs. Nokia had stated it had been a “huge hit” even though their sales forecast had been sliced in half. James Faucette – analyst at Pacific coast said:
“We believe that shipments of Nokia’s new Windows Phone 7 have been lower than we had previously anticipated. We had expected that the company could ship as many as 2 [million] units into the six targeted markets for the holidays; however, we now believe that those shipments are likely to be less than 1 [million] for the quarter.”
Compare that to an iPhone (at the time an iPhone 4s), that sold over 4m units over its first weekend on sale. So let’s just say the Windows phone didn’t really have the greatest start.
Jump 10 months ahead (September 2012) and the curtain was pulled to unveil the “Flagship” Lumia 920. With everything in mind from the previous release Microsoft knew they had to have some stand out features to try and make this model more successful. Wireless charging, a new camera boasting (at the time) the best available in a smartphone and the fact it ran Windows 8. It was one of the most technically exciting phones available, great features, an amazing camera… So what was wrong? Well, of course, the ongoing elephant in the room for Windows phones: the lack of available apps. For the same price range at the time you could pick yourself up a Samsung Galaxy S3 which of course has a much bigger app store and is overall more appealing in design. It almost seems like Microsoft’s best efforts, even with snazzy features, just wasn’t big enough bait for consumers. On November 23, 2012, it was reported that the device had 2.5 million pre-orders around the world in just three weeks of its availability. In comparison, that is more than the entire (previous) Lumia range (610, 710, 800, 900) sold in the whole of the third quarter of 2012! When you put it like that, it sounds like incredible numbers. It even topped the charts in France (Oct 2012) outselling the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy Ace. Things were looking up!
“This is Lumia. It’s time to switch”
Stephen Elop – Nokia CEO
2013 was a very good year Lumia. Sales had doubled from 13.3m in 2012 to 30m. Across the board Microsoft had released 10 handsets including the Lumia 720, 520, 920 and the 1020. Of course, that’s not to say that they all sold fantastically, they didn’t. Apple single-handedly managed to sell 47.8m iPhones in Q1 of 2013. Even with double the amount of Lumia handsets sold in comparison to 2012, Lumia was far behind and it just wasn’t enough to keep the boat afloat. Nokia announced it would cut 300 jobs, mostly in Finland, and transfer hundreds more other employees to Indian suppliers. Up to 820 jobs will be outsourced in this way. The cuts were a part of a plan to slash 10,000 jobs in its mobile division by the end of the year.
September 2013 Microsoft announced they were going to acquire Nokia’s mobile phone business for around $7 Billion in cash. Steve Ballmer at a news conference in Finland hammered home the importance of the deal for Microsoft quoting it as a “Bold step into the future for Microsoft” further adding, “Through our partnership we have already accomplished so much, and yet clearly the opportunity ahead is remarkable. And I am incredibly optimistic about what we can achieve together”. This entitled Microsoft to take over the Devices and Services business, (which includes “Smart” Devices and Mobile Devices). In other words: The Lumia, Asha and X series were now owned by Microsoft. The Design teams, supply chains, accessories, employees, developer relations and most of Nokia’s manufacturing plants are also on Microsoft’s side, as are most of their services such as MixRadio, Store and more.
April 25th 2014 had brought the official closure of the deal settled at $7.2Billion dollars. It would be another 7 months and 6 “Nokia Lumia” handsets released until Microsoft could scrap the Nokia name off the handsets and replace it with “Microsoft Lumia”. Roll on the Microsoft Lumia 535. At £75~ it was a bargain. What did you get for £75, I hear you ask? Well, a plastic shell with round edges and a big black front. And I mean a big black front at 5” It was one of the biggest screens available. It was a very basic phone made primarily for the sort of person who likes to call and text. I mean what else would you use a smartphone for?! It even included Cortana, Office, OneDrive and Nokia Maps and for a £75 phone that’s rather incredible. How did it go down? Well, fantastically. Its budget price made it available to so many and it sold. Microsoft had seen a 300% increase in sales in Pakistan overtaking IOS in popularity which they put down to the Lumia 535.
2014 was easily the best year Microsoft ever had with Lumia sales: in Q4 they sold 10.5m units, their highest ever. But since then it’s been a huge decrease from around 8m in Q1 2015 to 4.5m by the end of 2015. So where did the problem lie? Primarily because Microsoft doesn’t have any compelling Lumia handsets and the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL were just disappointing “flagship” phones with an operating system that felt unfinished. Another huge disadvantage with the phones is of course the lack of apps, and its only getting worse. Big companies such as American Airlines, Bank of America and NBC have all discontinued their Windows Phone apps. At a time of airlines putting boarding passes on phones, internet banking on the go and streaming TV through your phone, does this show that even companies are giving up with the Windows Phone? With sales on the decline, lack of hardware sales and a poor 2% share of the market, is it really the end of the Windows phone? Where do Microsoft go from here?
The much rumoured ‘Surface Phone’ is due to make an appearance. So far the rumour mill has branded it as a very powerful phone indeed and that wouldn’t be all that surprising, considering its powerful big brother, the Surface Book, has some very impressive spec. In terms of design, it really wouldn’t be a surprise if it turns out looking like a baby Surface, alongside a set of accessories including a Surface Pen and maybe a keyboard… The OS will of course be Windows 10 mobile but we can only hope for an OS that is stable and not still in development stage as previously done. Of course, at this time, the Surface Phone is still unconfirmed, but the fact Microsoft have purchased surfacephone.com is surely a hint, and in my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before they do the big reveal. However, this really would be Microsoft’s last shot at breaking into the smartphone market with hopeful success.
I think the main contributor to the failure of the Windows phone was that Microsoft were too slow breaking into the mobile market. They left it too late and now the competition is so far ahead. Alongside a sloppy unfinished OS and an App store that has less in it than my local Tesco Express. There is just no appeal to a Windows phone. If Microsoft still want to tackle the smartphone market then the ‘Surface Phone’ really does need to be incredible because if not, Windows phone will be a thing of the past.
It has been an incredible year for the tech giant Microsoft and in my opinion the year they changed everything. From their product line to their operating systems, Microsoft have not only made them faster, friendlier and in most cases thinner, they have made them more desirable.
For example, the rave of the tablet world was the iPad but since the release of the Surface Pro 4 and the incredibly powerful hybrid Surface Book they have shaken up the whole market and the talk of the town is no longer the iPad but a more varied selection of tablets. The practicality and mobility of the Surface range has made them the ultimate tablets for not only the business world but for home users as well.
I’ll discuss these tablets further… but as this is 2015 in review we can’t start with Surfaces.
So where to start?
Microsoft officially released Skype for Business. This wasn’t a complete surprise as since 11th March Microsoft had publicly announced the product and made it very clear this was a replacement for Lync. We loved Lync, it was an underused tool yet something we know we couldn’t do without. It allowed us to get in touch with colleagues instantly whether it be a call or a message, it allowed us to send over documents for a quick read or host a group conference call and project our screen into the call for everyone to see. The release of Skype for Business transformed the Lync we knew and loved into a much cleaner and user friendly experience yet keeping its best features and then some.
Probably the biggest date in Microsoft’s calendar: this date brought us the release of Windows 10. Not only did it bring back the familiar start screen (even we sighed with relief when that returned) but Cortana, a truly personal assistant that helps you get things done. We found once Windows 10 had been deployed across all of its devices it made everything seem like it was singing from the same hymn sheet. We loved Smartglass and Streaming, it allowed us to take the Xbox out the living room and into the bath tub. Continuum allowed us to hook up a Windows Phone to a monitor and turn it into a desktop-like experience and of course the new Start Menu. Although new, it was familiar, It took the best from both worlds, using Windows 8’s tiles and the classic start menu and merged them into one harmonious item. It just worked and was instantly recognisable and easy to work around and we love it.
The day Microsoft shocked the world. Not only did they release the Surface Pro 4 and Microsoft Band 2 (as expected) they released their very first laptop: the Surface Book. Microsoft’s “Ultimate Laptop” had given us an insight into the new direction the company is heading, and with a strong start. The Book boasts, even at its base model, an Intel Core i5, allowing you to run Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and other demanding software smoothly all while running other applications on the side. Its ability to run such powerful apps mixed with its portability does indeed make it the “Ultimate Laptop”, and boy do we want one.
The date Office 2016 was released. We’ve all used Office at some point in our lives and 9 times out of 10 you will still be using it. In fact, I am actually using Word right now…
The 2016 update brought us a pretty face lift, a whole bunch of new features and so many background improvements I could go on forever. Notably one of the best new features is the live collaboration built into Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. If you use Office 365, simply open a document from SharePoint or OneDrive and as long as the other user has Office 2016 and a Microsoft account you can edit the document in real time and see their adaptations. This feature is great but we are all eagerly waiting for the day Excel gets added to this list. Another new feature is the ‘Share’ button. Right from Word you can share your document with a colleague simply by typing in their email address and clicking Share. Easy! Overall we like Office 2016, its not only much smoother running but more importantly to us, it integrates with Office 365 perfectly.
Enterprise E5 became available. Enterprise E4’s replacement is your all-singing and dancing licence. It comes with the everything Office 365 can offer but unfortunately not a welcoming glass of bubbly to accompany your shiny new licence. Even more excitingly though, its PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) ready and has adopted a cloud PBX (switchboard) system that includes PSTN calling with features such as call holding and call transfer. As of June 30th 2016, Enterprise E4 will no longer be available to purchase and slowly but surely will be wiped of the face of the earth.
Overall Microsoft have refined their products across the board and in such a way even the most loyal Apple/ Google users might hold their horses before investing their hard-earned cash.
One thing is for certain, Microsoft seem to be moving from strength to strength and we’re very excited to see what’s coming in 2016!