Earlier this week we highlighted a fascinating question posed in our famously large and passionate forums: what, if anything, does the decline and Windows on the phone mean for the site?
I wanted to take a few minutes try an answer from the vantage point of the editors of Windows Central.
As I've been a forum member going back to 2007 and part of the initial launch of the front page "blog" in 2009, I have a vested and tangible history with the mobile community.
There is little doubt that in Spring 2017 the "death" of Windows on the phone feels more real than ever. Sure, Microsoft is continuing to work on Windows 10 Mobile, but even there, its future gets murky.
Most of this concern is the fault of Microsoft, of course, who have not done the things they said they would e.g. create phones if their partners are not, or even have a plan for tackling smartphones going into 2018.
I've argued they should talk about this at BUILD next month, but I have little confidence that they will.
Planning for the future (in 2014)
A few years ago many of us who run this site began to see a significant downshift in the Windows Phone market. Luckily, at the same time, Microsoft was launching Windows 10. We took that opportunity to do an overhaul both in our name and goals for the site.
No longer were just focusing on phones, but expanding to PCs, laptops, Surface, more on Xbox, and even HoloLens.
Come October it will have been three years since we shifted from Windows Phone Central to Windows Central. Interestingly, many in the community still refer to and think of us as the former, but even for the last year, our daily coverage is 90 percent non-phone news.
Not only did we change because of the tenuous situation in mobile, but also because there was much more on Windows 10 and the growing Microsoft ecosystem we were leaving on the table. It became increasingly hard to not talk about Surface regularly, or what OneCore means for all of Windows.
In that sense, it was a liberating experience for the staff to go beyond just phones, which, to be honest, were becoming a bit stale as a category.
It's never been better (for us)
All that preamble brings to my main point. Nothing will change to this site even if Microsoft came out and canceled Windows on the phone tomorrow.
The fact is, Windows Central is doing very well regardless of the situation in mobile. Here are just a few examples:
- The site has double-digit year-over-year growth and is doing fantastic regarding search traffic, our YouTube channel, and general mindshare.
- Our site now has excellent relationships with the companies we cover including HP, Lenovo, Dell, Razer, Alcatel, and even crowd-sourced startups like the Eve V. We're invited to all the major (and even minor) press events, embargos, and product reviews.
- We've brought on all-stars like Jez Corden and Zac Bowden who are doing what we hired them to do: crush Xbox and Windows news, scoops, and analysis.
- We have a fantastic staff like Mauro Huculak, Cale Hunt, Richard Devine, and Rich Edmonds focusing daily on popular how-to guides, best-of advice, and more.
- George Ponder, who has been with the site as long as I, still publishes daily reviews and deals on apps and games especially for phone users
- Our forums have over two million posts from nearly 400,000 members globally, making us one of the largest Windows and Microsoft communities in the world.
- Microsoft works with us now on many levels for press for all their products, announcements, and releases giving more access than ever.
- We have successfully shifted from quickly re-published news and uninformative app update articles to more in-depth editorials, analysis, and guides.
- The site now has a full-time managing editor with Al Sacco, who ensures the trains are running on time, to the right location, and to the quality that we and you expect.
- Thanks to Dan Thorpe-Lancaster we have still have our regular stream of daily news and critical updates that you expect.
- We successfully re-launched the Windows Central Podcast with Zac Bowden and me after a multi-year hiatus; it's now the top community-focused Microsoft podcast with more than 60k listeners a month.
As far as articles focusing on the phone getting more comments than others, this is not a good measurement of anything. On almost any day our most-viewed and top-searched articles are often the "help and how to" ones.
While the hardcore fans come for the nitty-gritty news bits or OS update news, regular people just want to know how to get the most out of their new PC.
So, readers and fans of the site (and Microsoft), do not worry at all about Windows Central. We are on track to have our best year ever with or without Windows 10 Mobile. We have a lot of smart people working behind the scenes, and our goal is to keep getting better for years to come.
And despite the continued decline of Windows on phone, Windows Central will still cover it as long as there is something to report on. This is what we do, it's what we love. You have our promise.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.