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Windows Phone's Fans Love It, but Is that Enough?

It's no secret that as far as most people are concerned, there two major mobile phone platforms: Android and iPhone. Windows Phones are out there but they represent such a small minority -- by most accounts, less than 3 percent of the market -- that only fans of the platform seek them out. And it appears those fans are few and far between.

Having attended this week's Visual Studio Live! conference in Brooklyn, N.Y., it was a markedly different world. A disproportionately large number of the 300 attendees were carrying Windows Phones. When I did have my iPhone in view, I was jeered on occasion, leaving me to feel like some sort of traitor. Of course, seeing lots of Windows Phones at a conference for Windows developers is hardly a surprise, even if it isn't in sync with the real world.

In the keynote session at the conference on Wednesday, ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley, who also is a Redmond magazine columnist, lamented the problem bedeviling Microsoft when it comes to Windows Phone. "I'm one of the 2 percent," she said. "Windows Phone is the one I am the most leery about Microsoft pulling a turnaround."

Yet those that know Foley are aware she likes Windows Phone. "I am a Windows Phone user, not just because of my job [covering Microsoft] but by choice," she said.

In this month's Redmond column, Foley explained how Microsoft has rebooted its Windows Phone strategy again, with Windows 10 Mobile, which will introduce the new Continuum technology that lets developers build for one Windows platform and have the apps carry over to any form factor, enabling users to switch smoothly between PCs, tablets and phones. Microsoft is hoping this will build enthusiasm for Windows Phone. 

Indeed, it's an interesting concept, but even those developers I spoke with at Visual Studio Live! weren't sold on the appeal. It's one thing to want to switch from a PC to a mid-sized tablet, but why would someone want to do so with a phone, wondered UX expert Billy Hollis of Next Version Systems during a Birds of a Feather lunch discussion.

Meanwhile, Windows Phone enthusiasts are dropping like flies. Our editorial director Scott Bekker for four years was devoted to Windows Phone and remained hopeful that the apps available on Android and iOS would appear. They didn't and still haven't. When his Lumia phone's screen cracked, he threw in the towel without hesitation and decided to get an iPhone. In the end it was the apps. Windows Phone enthusiasts don't care about the apps that are missing on the platform. But the reaction to Bekker's column this week on our sister site Redmond Channel Partner describing his decision to switch was largely supportive.

"I LOVE Windows Phone, but the lack of apps are killing me," wrote Jamison West in the comments section.

The post "expresses exactly how I feel," added Peter Zarras. "I love my [Lumia] 1020 and have no desire to replace it -- but yet, don't yet feel excited or ready to buy a new Windows Phone unless/until certain app limitations are addressed. While I don't miss some apps, I know they're there and some could be helpful to me."

According to unconfirmed but widely reported leaks, Microsoft will debut next week the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, which are 5.2-inch and 5.7-inch devices, respectively. Both will support Continuum and the Windows Hello biometric authentication feature, according to Foley's ZDnet blog post, and will work with the Microsoft Display Dock, an interface that lets a user connect a phone to a full-size keyboard and monitor, which Microsoft demonstrated earlier this year.

Yet Microsoft will have to defy expectations for these new units to lure customers who don't already have Windows Phones. But for the 2 percenters, the new phones could be a nice holiday gift.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/02/2015 at 1:56 PM


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