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Should Microsoft begin marketing Windows Mobile to the masses?

Since the introduction of Window Phone 7, fans have vicariously struggled with Microsoft to reach 5% global market share. A tiny number indeed, but a threshold that somehow declares a level of relevance our long-standing 3% and even more dismal current sub-1% simply does not achieve.

Recent "news" that Microsoft would be ending the Lumia line, while continuing development of Windows Mobile, sent many writers and fans into a tailspin. Of course, we knew that Microsoft's first-party Lumia's would be ending, but when over 90% of Windows phones are Lumias there is an undeniable market and emotional impact.

In the wake of these events we are expecting the anticipated Surface Phone to fill the first-party void sometime in 2017. If the latest reports hold true, however, that can take nearly a year to occur. That's a lifetime in tech as competing devices routinely receive an annual refresh. As such, iOS and Android will continue their evolution on fresh devices in the hands of users throughout this year and into the next.

Partner devices will represent the Windows 10 Mobile platform.

During that same period and going forward Microsoft needs a mobile presence. Many would say we have the answer to that: Microsoft is all business in the enterprise. That conclusion, however, does not adequately address Microsoft's partnership with Windows phone manufacturers whose devices are not enterprise focused.

So what exactly is Microsoft's focus for Window 10 Mobile? It is, after all, the platform that will be running manufacturing partner Windows phones which will be the primary representatives of the platform going forward?

Does Microsoft's duo user philosophy apply to Windows Mobile?

Windows phone partners, though not joining the ranks in droves as Redmond (and fans) desire, are slowly picking up the Windows phone banner according to plan.

Joining the ranks of the manufacturing partners we've previously identified is Connecticut-based WhartonBrooks. Like Alcatel, this Window phone fan-founded Microsoft OEM partner and possibly future and some current partners are representative of an interesting quandary in which Microsoft may have placed themselves.

Consider this: Microsoft has temporarily retrenched from the consumer smartphone space but manufacturing partners are in no way restricted to the enterprise Microsoft is (or was) targeting with their own hardware. The problem?

An enterprise focused platform would negatively affect consumer focused partners.

Despite Microsoft's duo user — professional and personal — ideology for its range of products and services, many assert that the mobile iteration of the Universal Windows Platform is strictly enterprise-focused. If this is true how do we, or more importantly, how does Microsoft, reconcile the fact that Windows Mobile is a part of the enterprise- and consumer-focused Universal Windows Platform?

Furthermore, how does Microsoft reconcile that notion, with partners like WhartonBrooks and Alcatel that are planning consumer-focused Windows 10 Mobile devices?

What we know

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of this topic lets revisit Microsoft's philosophy as a company and who they envision their customers to be.

In Satya Nadella's Bold Ambition and Our Core memo he identified every user as a duo – personal and professional- user:

We will think of every user as a potential "dual user" – people who will use technology for their work or school and also deeply use it in their personal digital life… developers and partners will thrive by creatively extending Microsoft experiences for every individual and business on the planet.

It is telling that that Nadella identifies developers and partners as entities that would help facilitate their duo user vision. This is an important point that clearly foreshadows Microsoft's appeal to developers and manufacturing partners to embrace the UWP which serves both consumers and enterprise.

Nadella reiterated Microsoft's duo consumer and enterprise focus two years after that initial address in an interview with Business Insider in April of this year:

I go back to our core focus as a company. Whenever somebody asks me, 'Are you a consumer company, are you an enterprise company?' I say, hey, we are a company that's centered around users who both have a professional role as well as happen to be consumers. That's where our strength lies.

Looking forward

[In a specific appeal to partners](http:// /microsoft-memo-reveals-shifting-mobile-strategy) Microsoft shared the following in May of this year:

We'll continue to adapt Windows 10 for small screens. We'll continue to invest in key areas – security, management, and Continuum capabilities – that we know are important to commercial accounts and to consumers who want greater productivity.

Of note is the company's continued reference to consumers in this appeal to manufacturing partners. Moreover, though productivity for consumers is mentioned Nadella has clarified that, "Productivity for us goes well beyond documents, spreadsheets and slides. "

There is a consistent duo user message over the years.

In a nutshell, it speaks of getting things done with technology. The memo continues with Microsoft's commitment to the universal platform, developers, support of Lumias, partners and development of future phones.

This commitment was reiterated during Microsoft's 2016 Ignite conference where a diversified first-party device portfolio was also confirmed. Microsoft directs its products and services on a broad scale to the professional and personal user in most of us. What is specifically seen is that Windows on mobile devices is seen as part of that duo user strategy.

Windows phone partners have consumers in view

If Windows Mobile were indeed strictly enterprise-focused Windows phone partners with a heavy consumer focus, like WhartonBrooks, have a dilemma. Derek Egerman, WhartonBrooks Chief Strategy and Planning Officer said the following of the company's mission to CEO Greg Murphy:

I know that one of the important things for Whartonbrooks is to get feedback from the Windows users out there. That was the whole point, if we go back to the beginning, is that you [Murphy] were a Windows user who wanted to improve your experience with Windows Mobile.And you first wanted to build some apps, realized nope I'm going to do the whole phone. And it was really about trying to build something that a Windows lover really loves themselves and could use. And is just going to be a part of.And you don't want to do this standalone. You're trying to get other people to say hey, this is what I want. And we can put that in there. We want to be the ears of the Windows user.

Moreover the company's press release further supports this duo-user focus: "We have the one device that takes care of all your needs. It changes with you throughout the day to meet your office and personal needs in every moment." Consumers are clearly a focus for this Windows phone partner. Alcatel who is targeting Millennials is another.

Microsoft partners are targeting consumers.

Of the twelve other partners identified there may be others who are targeting their Windows Mobile phones at consumers. This fact is important for Microsoft, fans and industry watchers to recognize. Would Redmond push for and enter into partnerships with manufacturers who are targeting consumers while strategically positioning the platform strictly for the enterprise? That would be illogical.

Microsoft needs to push Windows Mobile out of the shadows

HP Elite X3

HP Elite X3 (Image credit: Windows Central)

After Microsoft retrenched from the consumer space last year, it was logical for them not to advertise Lumias to the masses. Windows Mobile was also a far less mature platform at the time. But here's the question. Since manufacturing partners have embraced Windows 10 Mobile and some are targeting consumers, would it benefit the platform and the ecosystem for Microsoft to advertise the existence and benefits of the now much more mature Windows Mobile to the masses?

Could manufacturing partners benefit from Microsoft advertising Windows Mobile?

Now might be an ideal time to market the mobile iteration of the platform; highlighting features like Continuum and Live Tiles, particularly as part of the current Windows 10 push. Doing so during Windows 10's early stages shows the uniformity of the platform. To make efforts to proactively "introduce" Windows Mobile at some point in the future would make this integral part of the UWP appear tacked on.

Window phones are vanishing from the collective consciousness of consumers. Sporadic promotions and limited marketing by local Window phones partners won't put the Windows Mobile component of the UWP in the minds of the masses. If manufacturing partners and the anticipated Surface Phone are to succeed Windows Mobile needs to be as much a part of public awareness as Windows on PC.

Both PC and phone partners need Microsoft's marketing and promotion support.

Microsoft is aggressively pushing Windows 10 features on PC through television ads. Since Windows Mobile is a part of this universal platform and is being continually developed it would make since to promote the entirety of the platform that partners have embraced and consumers use. Both PC and phone partners need Microsoft's marketing and promotion support.

Simply put, since Redmond has partners like Alcatel and WhartonBrooks with current and coming consumer-facing smartphones they have to publicly push their mobile platform if they expect their partners to succeed. If Windows Mobile has no mindshare, then the promise of the UWP falters.

Of course, aggressive ads showing the benefits of Windows Mobile and Continuum may generate some consumer demand for difficult to acquire high-end devices like the Elite x3. Given the scarcity of Windows phones in the market, the pickings are admittedly thin. Microsoft's marketing team could create an "elite" air around the devices — could that begin to lead to a beneficial luxury elitist branding akin to what our own Daniel Rubino has mused for the platform?

Microsoft can't leave manufacturing partners hanging

It is imperative that Microsoft put their full marketing weight and support behind the partners that have embraced and will champion their platform, particularly since they're ending their own Lumia line. If a manufacturing partner is targeting consumers, in line with Microsoft's duo user philosophy, Redmond cannot leave them "hanging" as it were. There needs to be a consumer-facing emphasis, from Microsoft, on the consumer benefits of Windows Mobile.

It is important that Microsoft aligns its messaging around its mobile strategy and duo user ideology. There needs to be strong, unambiguous language expressing support for the enterprise and consumers for the mobile personal computing platform just as we see with the desktop. If Windows is a duo user platform, Windows Mobile as Windows is both consumer and enterprise focused. If this is not the case the Universal Windows Platform is inherently divided.

If Windows Mobile is strictly enterprise focused the UWP is inherently divided.

If Microsoft is reluctant to promote Windows 10 Mobile alongside Window 10 for PC, manufacturing partners like Whartonbrooks, Alcatel and others, will be left unsupported trying to sell a platform that will be growing increasingly obscure.

The majority of the current 1% of Windows phone users own low-end devices. Most users in that segment of the population are statistically unlikely to upgrade to a higher end Windows phone even if one were available. Thus, though the enthusiast market is a worthy target winning users to the platform is important.

Working together

Ideally, the phasing out of Lumia has positioned Redmond to phase in a marketing strategy that promotes Windows 10 Mobile in a way that makes it as visible to the masses as Windows on PC. If not, small manufacturing partners may find that their resources may be woefully insufficient to push both the platform and their devices out of the shadows where consumers can see them.

If Microsoft markets Windows Mobile, OEMs won't be burdened with "educating" users about its merits.

An ideal synergy would be Microsoft bearing the weight of promoting the mobile platform to the masses (alongside Windows on PC), while partners promote their devices to their target audiences. This would allow partners to focus on marketing the merits of their devices without the burden of fully "educating" the masses about the platform.

What are your thoughts? Should Microsoft begin actively marketing Windows 10 Mobile along with Windows 10 on PC in support of both PC and phone manufacturing partners?

Sound off in comments, in forums and on Twitter!

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

349 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks! As partners embrace Windies Mobile and first-party devices leave the shelves it becomes increasingly important that Microsoft's mobile platform support the target audiences Microsoft's partners are reaching for with thier devices. It is undeniable that some phone partners are targeting consumers. It is also a fact that Microsoft has a duo user focus for it platform.. I believe this includes Windows Mobile. As such, if Microsoft remains silent about its platform in the mainstream, as the dialogue continues with Android and iOS there "introducing" Windows Mobile at some comfortable future point may yield little fruit. A simultaneous introduction of Windows Mobile as part of the UWP with Windows 10 would be profitable fir the long-term results for the platform and the immediate support it lends OEM partners. What say ye? Let's Talk!!! Oh yeah, I know about the app situation, but to do nothing with Marketing Windows Mobile now hurts current partners and lends little hope for achieving mind-share in the long run. MS is working on the app situation as we've talked about with the Bridges and bots, whether that succeed or fails that can't wait for an outcome there to decide about pushing Mobile.
  • I think they'll need to continue pushing Win Mobile now. So many people I know don't know a single thing about them, but advertisement like the HP X3 where it was simple and just showed what Continuum looked like would eventually help with awareness. I'll be partnering with MS Store to do a roadshow at my kid's school with computers loaded with Minecraft. It would be great if Minecraft Mobile also worked on Continuum, because that would definitely generate a - wha? moment. I know WM is targeting Enterprise now, but the real miss for MS is targeting Education. These kids are growing up in the Google Classroom ecosystem and to some degree iOS.
  • @That would be great!
  • @Witness, do you work/get paid by Microsoft?
  • No. I wouldn't mind working for them though and have thought about just doing part time at the store for kicks. I often know more about their products than their sales people do, but that's retail.
  • @Witness, wow I'm surprised you'd go through so much effort to help MS. What makes you do that? I'm saying this to be nice and caring at you. You don't need to be loyal, or do MS's work for them if you not getting compensated. And what's wrong with a google classroom or even iOS if it's meeting their purpose or if they happy    I understand what you mean about store consultants, when I bought my 920 I knew more about it than them.
  • Whats wrong with someone being passionate about acompany and their goals? And not liking companies and their goals. Google and Apple and Microsoft have very different core values and goals to getting where they want to get. I happen to love Microsofts ideas, especially the last 5 years or so. Nothing wrong with rooting for Microsoft if you love their products and love their directions and goals. ​I just think there are much better, much more powerful computing platforms than single app focused iOS and browser focused Chromebooks. Powerful systems are being left out for schools for cost savings and ease of management. And in the end I think that is bad for consumers.
  • Correction: Google, Apple and Microsoft all have the same CORE VALUES: Make money, drive up stock price and return profit to investors. Period. 
  • MS have better values than iOS and google? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
  • I think Witness intends to get paid lol.
  • It would be great, but really the point is to combat the dumbification of computing as I like to call it - haha. Computers are complex and a skillset should be developed like in the past. These days, everything is just poke a button/icon.
  • Same here @Witness ! The sales people really know nothing. We fans know more about Windows 10 Mobile than them !!
  • So true.
    Education sector is the most important.
    It's time MS to start subsidises Surface device to school and universities.
    It will pay off big time in the long run.
  • Apple and Google have been doing this for years. It kinda reminds me of the same seedy tactics that tobacco companies were doing when they would advertise to children. Get them hooked when their young... that kind of thing. I really hope Microsoft doesn't follow Apple and Google down that sewer drain. I would like to think they are better than that, and stick to deals like the Surface tablets for the NFL.
  • I wouldn't classify introducing your computing platform to schools with walking in a classroom with a pack of marlboros and showing kids how to inhale. That's absurd.
  •   MS (Ballmer) blew the opportunity back in 2005-2007, he did not understand where the mobile market was going and since you can see interviews from back in the day as to how wrong he was, not sure I am providing new details.   MS has about as much chance of taking market share as Deutche Bank coming back and buying all the other world banks, the percentage is probably close to zero chance.   The mobile market is very saturated, to the point where its starting to showing up in iPhone and iPad sales.   Other than the limited sales of the Surface, generally nobody cares about MS's mobile hardware strategy.   I don't see that changing unless something very drastic happens... people are just not going to drop their iPads and iPhones over some marketing.   My guess is MS will go with a very high-end phone (Surface branded), if they can't gain traction... they will get rid of the phone hardware completely at some point.   I'm the only person I know of that owns a windows phone, I haven't run into another person that has WP in about 3 years... nobody cares and additional marketing probably won't help.  
  • The Surface Phone is something that would be drastic. Literally a computer in your pocket. Then again, only most of us on this site would actually recognize how awesome that would be. Talking to iPhone users, you get a real sense as to why a dumbed-down interface sells like hotcakes. It would take years for that demographic to get to the point where they would desire a phone like this.
  • I like my WP, I would probably go to a dumb phone if MS ditches the WP.   But at the end of the day, I seriously doubt anyone cares... heck people are ditching their windows PCs.   Now me and you might not.... but the vast majority of the world doesn't care what MS is doing on their phones or even tablet (the surface has gained some limited traction).   People don't need a full PC on their phone... they don't even want a PC at all.  Just my two cents.  There are a lot of factors which determine winners and losers.... I doubt marketing is the sole factor.   If you want evidence of a vast superior product losing.... 80s mac.... neither IBM nor eventually Windows could even come close to competing... windows won on price, but it wasn't even close to being as good.  
  • Nobody wants a computer in their pocket. No one cares about it, outside of fans like yourself. If they did, developers would have flocked to WM because of Continuum, which they haven't. It's all well and good if YOU think it's a wonderful idea, but the fact is the world out there is simply not interested. A Surface Phone will accomplish absolutely nothing - the issue is the ecosystem, which is almost the sole reason WP/WM failed to get off the ground. With no ecosystem, there is no point in releasing a mobile device. No amount of fancy specs, rebranding and relaunching for a forthcoming mobile device by MSFT will mask the major issue, it is simply too late. MSFT should be withdrawing from making mobile devices, and focusing on the existing Surface models and continuing that line, in addition to producing services for iOS and Android.
  • We're already seeing smartphone users wanting a computer in their pocket and as such, seen incremental features that make these phones more functional across the board. The thing about a Surface Phone and the lack of ecosystem you speak of is inaccurate. Yes, there aren't enough apps for Windows Mobile to compete, but the moment a phone can run x86? The ecosystem is already there in the form of full applications. It may not take off in the consumer market initially if that were to happen, but for a mobile workforce it is a great solution. Even in my office, there are quite a few dumb terminals being used. That could replaced with standalone monitors and our mobile users connecting to them with a Surface Phone. Anyways, it would be great. How MS markets it is another discussion.
  • No, no one wants a computer in their pocket. Sorry to burst your MS-centric bubble, but you need a reality check on how the market is moving. Nobody cared about Continuum outside of "well, that looks fun" when it came out, and now, everyone's forgotten about it except for the fans of WM. None of the "functions" you mention mean anything without the services to utilise them. It's like designing a jet that cannot fly. At the moment, people are happy with VPN and the way mobile apps function. If anything, desktop design of programs is following suit of mobile design, not the other way around. The market is even more app-centric than ever before, but, you wouldn't see that happening as you're on a mobile platform which has no developer interest or growth. With all the services that you do not have access to, you're unable to see what's going on for the 98%, sorry, now 99% of the market that is on other platforms. As for x86 - again, you're bringing up something about WM only, but the 99% of the market has no interest in. Nobody cares about the gimmicks of WM that you're using as some kind of validation, no one is interested. A Surface PHONE will not achieve a single thing apart from giving you the same problems in an updated fancy physical form - no ecosystem, unstable, unfinished and unable to perform standard functions and service interaction that is required for the mobile world of the 21 century. A STRONG consumer movement what WM needs to succeed. It's what it needs most, regardless of all the exuses biased fanboys will come up with. There is no way you can try to justify this. No amount of essays the writers here publish can hide the colossal failure of Microsofts mobile strategy and a Surface Phone will not help either. 6 years and 3 iterations of MSFTs mobile roadmap in conjunction with a now unbelievable 1% of marketshare, combined with droves of developers leaving WP/WM to focus on iOS and Android is all the proof that you need.
  • Like many others on this site, WM isn't the only platfor