Redmond View

The Prominent Role of Windows Phone at Ignite

While Microsoft's back may be to the wall when it comes to the smartphone market, it's not ready to admit defeat.

Most people wrote off Windows Phone long ago. Given its 3 percent share of the smartphone market, some even believe it's already a relic. Only a subset of its loyal fans remain hopeful. Microsoft is standing by its faith in Windows Phone, where it received a prominent, though not starring, role at the company's recent Build and Ignite conferences.

While Microsoft Operating Systems Chief Terry Myerson now predicts there will be 1 billion systems running Windows 10 within the next two or three years, no such bold prediction was made for Windows Phone. Nevertheless, the airtime Microsoft gave to Windows Phone suggests the company remains bullish. That was evident in presentations, as well as private conversations with Microsoft executives.

Among new efforts are the new "Project Astoria" Android runtime bridge, which can be used from the Android Studio IDE to refactor Android app code for the Windows 10 platform, and the "Project Island-wood" toolkit, an iOS bridge for developing from Objective-C. These tools aim to make it easier for developers to port Android and iOS applications to Windows. Some describe these moves as desperate, but the basic concept makes sense for the future of the entire Windows platform.

Continuum, which makes it easy to switch the Windows user interface from a PC, tablet or phone, shows how Windows Phone could appeal to pure business users in ways alternatives cannot. At Ignite, Corporate Vice President of Operating Systems Joe Belfiore demonstrated a phone that simulated a computing experience by allowing him to connect it to a larger display via an HDMI connection to enable mouse and keyboard use.

These advances don't ensure an uptick in share, but time will tell if, and how, Microsoft's tenacity will pay off or whether it'll be remembered as a last-ditch effort to save Windows Phone.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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