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Why Microsoft should never have stopped making camera-focused phones

Lumia 1020 back
Lumia 1020 back (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's smartphone business in 2014 added the industry's leading mobile camera technology to its portfolio of assets. Pre-Microsoft, the Nokia 808 PureView smartphone with a 41 MP camera showcased the integration of quality imaging technology with a mobile device.

Nokia's innovative aptitude was evident in both its development of hardware and software critical to mobile imaging tech. This was later complemented with imaging-focused Lumia (formerly Nokia) exclusive apps, after Nokia embraced Windows phones.

For example, augmented reality (AR) via Nokia City Lens was part of Microsoft's ecosystem in 2012, years before AR became "the next big thing." What impact might Microsoft's giving up on smartphones, and by default, its mobile imaging hardware and software investments, have on its AI and mixed reality strategy?

'Cameras as a platform'

Microsoft's previous commitment to "cameras as a platform" (an evolving UI and platform for various apps) was evident in its Camera Lens concept. Users could interact with the world via different imaging apps that were invoked from the camera. The Lumia 1020, with its 41 MP camera and a UI with granular manual controls, also demonstrated Microsoft's commitment to mobile imaging technology. Microsoft introduced hardware Optical Imaging Stabilization (OIS), access to RAW images, and other leading imaging tech long before major competitors.

Nokia City Lens (above video) used the Windows phone camera to search the physical world and overlaid information about surrounding businesses and places of interest on-screen as Microsoft's early steps into AR. Nokia JobLens performed a similar function to reveal potential places of employment for job seekers. This was years before Pokémon Go introduced smartphone-based AR to the masses in 2016.

AI on smartphone cameras is gaining experience that will benefit advanced AR.

Nokia's substantial investments in mobile imaging technology seem to indicate an early realization that smartphone cameras were an evolving platform in themselves. Google and Apple, with a range of camera-focused investments including AI-supported object recognition, facial recognition and Animojis, AR, more sophisticated camera hardware and more, have come to this realization.

Sadly, Microsoft, which had the necessary assets and talent, didn't seem to recognize or value the evolving smartphone camera as a platform. When it cut smartphones it threw away the baby with the bath water.

AR and camera-based AI

To Microsoft's dismay, billions of smartphone users are engaging in an evolving camera-based smartphone experience that transcends merely taking pictures. With integrated AI, built-in features and first- and third-party apps, smartphone cameras are recognizing people, surroundings, creating AR experiences, and much more. Google developers recently created an app that uses AI and a phone's front-facing camera to alert a user that someone is reading over their shoulders.

AI on smartphone cameras is "experiencing" a diverse range of scenarios. This data will ultimately benefit environment, activity and behavior recognition and understanding for implementation in advanced AR experiences. Data is key to machine learning and AI development. As consumers engage AI on iPhone and Android phone camera platforms, Apple and Google are acquiring vital information to evolve their AI and camera platforms.

Microsoft kept Windows 10 Mobile alive to continue development of ARM and cellular technology for future implementation in project "Andromeda." Perhaps continued investments in camera-focused smartphones (for a niche market) over the years would have allowed ongoing development of Microsoft's camera as a platform.

Though it wouldn't have had Apple's and Google's market presence, the Windows phone user base would have been a valuable resource to contribute feedback to Microsoft's camera-as-a-platform efforts (even if operating at a temporary financial loss). This data would, in turn, be transferred to the company's leading mixed reality and AI efforts.

The cost of cutting smartphones

Microsoft, Apple, Google and other companies see AR as personal computing's future. AR hardware and software must, therefore, be able to accurately perceive and understand its environment. Quality optical hardware, software and AI are fundamental to AR's evolution. Thus, smartphone-focused cameras as a platform is an evolving component that adds value to a company's AR efforts.

Microsoft's cutting smartphone resulted in its cutting Nokia talent responsible for innovative camera tech. Absence from the smartphone space also erased what little mindshare Windows phones achieved as a result of its camera prowess. If AR is the future of computing, mobile camera technology is key.

Ironically, the recent publishing of a patent filed in 2016 by ex-Nokia employee and lead inventor Eero Tuulos reveals Microsoft's attempts to solve for the positioning of a camera on a folding mobile device. Indeed, if Microsoft had kept marketing camera-focused smartphones, the continued investments in mobile imaging technology may have beneficially impacted the implementation of this patents idea in the folding mobile device we believe Microsoft is working on.

A missed opportunity ...

Microsoft has demonstrated powerful AI-driven camera technology (using existing camera systems) that can recognize people, places, and activity and proactively act on what it sees. The merging of that level of AI with its mixed reality efforts is likely inevitable.

Still, the evolving of miniature mobile camera tech and software, the data gleaned from AI-human interactions on mobile camera platforms and the mindshare and goodwill even a niche camera-focused phone would have provided for application in wearable AR tech is likely a missed opportunity for Microsoft.

Windows phone refugees may not find asylum on Android

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!

132 Comments
  • Microsoft never had the capability or willingness to do so. It was Nokia. When Nokia sold its phone division to Microsoft, this camera tech development went out with it.
  • Well, they need to get it back with future Ultramoble Surface products.
  • In our dreams only.... There is no dev or company in the world still believing in Microsoft, just too many lies, and too many sdk changes (and bugged software...)
  • Some of the camera gurus made the transition, namely Juha Alarkhu one of the co-creators of pureview. He was axed along with the other talented individuals during the mobile division cut off. Some of them went to Apple.
    As I said, time and time again. These moves have been nothing more than short term quarter to quarter gains. This short sightedness has cost Microsoft heavily and will continue to cost them heavily if they continue on this trend. Satya Nadella is going to run out of short term growth moves pretty soon.
    If he does not make the transitional play now. As opposed to chasing the next 'big thing'. The next 'big thing' requires a foundation to build upon, you don't build a house on thin air. You build it on solid ground.
    If he does not focus on transitional play (UWP) He and his SLT (except phil and xbox) will have regressed Microsoft pre-DOS.
    Because that is where they will be heading if they do not focus on UWP.
    In short they will become a laughing stock on the entire planet. It will be the biggest case study on how to take a successful company and run into the ground.
    Yes, I know worse case scenario and very harsh words. Because I want Microsoft to succeed and they have the capacity to do what others can't, change the world for the betterment of humanity.
  • Well said ms lost its focus and had missed priorities. Yes they r doing well on cloud but now they r not a leader with monopoly there, they have strong competition from Amazon. They need the diversity in tbeir offerings which means mobile cant be ignored. Irrespective of what wc writers say I don't agree that MS has a mobile strategy. Uwp has been neglected the same way as w10m which means that the ultramobile device will be doa due to lack of ecosystem. If ppl say that a hero device will stimulate the ecosystem then they should look at hololens. Ms failed to fully utilize its potential n same wud be the case for ultramobile unicorn
  • Microsoft has a mobile strategy of sorts and that's to use their competition's user base. But that is the most naive form of business, as it benefits your competition and harms your own growth potential. It's like up rooting a tree and place it into a swamp full of weeds. Sure, the weeds will get some shade during the summer but at cost of health of the tree as over time it will wither and be smothered by the same weeds it once provided shade for during the summer heat. When the UWP platform was unveiled it there was nothing beyond that as it was to be the defacto standard. But Microsoft neglected it under Satya Nadella's leadership. The reasons hololens didn't take off, lack of UWP apps, availability and willingness to take risks. Hololens is only available in 29 more markets from last month..... Whilst Apple is using their current mobile platform to transition users to AR through the ARkit. The biggest gripe I have is that Microsoft has completely lost sight of any transitional stages, in order to chase the next shiny thing like magpies. What are they going to based PWA's and Project Rome on? Thin air? Smh... The UWP platform spans more than just hololens, their entire mix reality platform is dependent on UWP. PWAs aren't going cut it. Think about it, you will need a constant web connection, which means you have a chip that is going to get very hot next to your cranium. What happens when browse the web on your phone for long periods? It slowly get's warm doesn't it? Now imagine that strapped ontop your skull... not a very pleasent experience. In my book Satya Nadella has until Spring 2018, because by then if Windows on ARM fails due to lack of focus on UWP. He should be fired, no ifs, no buts. He has had his chances, he has not followed through on his actions, he has lost almost all trust due to no follow through. He promised to target the duo user - he failed in that regards when it comes to the Windows Ecosystem. He promised to build phones for businesses, budget and enthusiasts. He failed. On his watch Android surpassed Windows as the most interacted O/S, the number of installs has plataued at 600 million, well short of the billion devices that they bragged about. Plus he took Microsoft out wearables and the smartphone market, where it is forecasted that almost 9 billion smartphones will ship between now and 2020. Think about, it 9 billion devices shipped. There was a market for Windows Phones. The problem with Windows Phones is that people think you have to compete to stay relevant and for market share, sure to a certain extent you do. But take a look at Surface, Bing, Xbox it took each of them awhile before they were profitable. But Windows Phone was not given a chance under Satya Nadella. They could have leveraged cshell and changed the game, but nope so another transitional play failure. Announcing consumer retrenchment before your biggest hardware launch?
    Logic and empathy fail. On the personal side, his lesson on empathy was a being told that if you came across a hurt child, you hug the poor kid and make sure they are safe before calling 911. Empathy is natural skill and also learned skill. But the latter is confined by logic, rules and perception principles of morality and ethics, the former is governed by perspective and logic within or beyond the boundaries of morality and ethics - on the highest level - foresight. You need perspective, logic and foresight to be a well rounded CEO. So that you can steer a path for the company that is profitable and one that increases your branches of reach. A company is a tree (hence the term branches), it needs customers (nutrients) to grow, it needs people (employees) to maintain it (upkeep during harsh periods). Satya Nadella has shown he is not a well rounded CEO, given his penchent for focusing on short term quarter to quarter growths. Because as long he shows profits, he is 'safe' from scruitiny. But the clock is ticking, no one is safe from scruitiny indefinitely. I know this a long comment, but it's come to point that every single factor to date is coalescing towards a state that does not look good for Microsoft and by extension everyone else. Why? Microsoft is not the only company that is working on real time AI driven identification of people and problems via security cameras. As Microsoft has a vested interest in ensuring privacy of all users, using their services and technology. So they are bound to take legal measure to prevent governmental missteps and misuse of such surveilance. Just one example why I want Microsoft to suceed as a diverse company. I could type more, but i've typed far too much already and this comment will end up as a novel.
  • Wow. Nicely said!
  • Some great illustrations and points TechFreak1, and a good article Jason. I was thinking recently how I remember the PureView and first tentatice AR steps Nokia took years ago.
  • Indeed. Disaster... Utter disaster!
  • "If he does not focus on transitional play (UWP) He and his SLT (except phil and xbox) will have regressed Microsoft pre-DOS." Microsoft's stock price is doing exactly what? And outpacing the stockmarket as a whole? Oh. Hmm. Seems like Microsoft under Nadella is doing just fine. In fact, if I'd been an investor in Microsoft five years ago I would be ecstatic! And, the moves now seem to be exactly what Microsoft needs. Microsoft is no longer a software company. They've truly transitioned to providing services and that's much more lucrative than consumer grade software. Apple has gone the same way, except for the fact that Apple's Mac hardware division still provides good ROI.
  • Microsoft had/has the capability but not willing to do.
  • Have to agree that MS could have had a differentiator if it had kept on pushing that 1020 line. Yeah, the camera was huge and bulged out a bit, but it took amazing pictures. You could even "zoom" without optical zoom.  It wasn't perfect, but my wife really liked hers. The stabilization on the camera made for great shots. The pixels meant you could capture great images. The lens was good so you got good pictures.  I think she'd have kept using that if she hadn't dropped it and messed up the screen (and sadly, that camera, too). I got her a 950, which is okay, but not in the same class at all. Having the 1020 meant she didn't feel a need to carry a separate camera, something that hadn't been the case before.
  • When MS announced the cancellation of McLaren (L1030), WP started going downhill ever since.  Nadella provided the final blow in July 2015 with his entrenchment speech, three months before the release of W10M and L950.  That concluded the end game for WP as the result of years of MS mismanagement at the top.  Stupid and shame.
  • And 1020 was only first edition. Hardware improvements and refinements could have continued to make this a leader even if they switched to android.
  • Actually no, the 808 was the first edition. AT&T pushed Nokia for the 1020, rumours have it was to be 909 and surpass the 808 in every conceivable way. But due to pressure from AT&T it was pushed on a ailing SOC with no dedicated imaging chip.
  • Microsoft became a bunch of greedy morons. They kind of deserve getting out of mobile. Competition is not for wannabes. You take it, own it, do it! Nothing of what Microsoft is able to do. They give up at every cent going out. Sometimes i wander how come they got this far with this mentality
  • Well, to be fair, the purpose of business is to make money.  I don't think "greed" had anything to do with it.  I think the combination of being late to the game, lack of a unified vision for the various segments within Microsoft, and ultimately Satya Nadella coming in with the agenda to get rid of phones right off the bat were all largely to blame.
  • Yeah, well, you can't make money stepping on people trust;). Their is a reason why it takes so much time to receive customers trust;). It is not like, now you ****, tomorrow you have tones of money. They did a LOT of wrong things in the last seven years. From killing Nokia, to killing their customers trust. If that ain't greed, i do not know what is it. Cause for sure, they received a lot of money from layoffs and destroying the only real competition to apple and Samsung. In the world of mafia giants, Nokia had no place with a third highly secured system... No cloud bullshit and information leak at every second or app installed;). New world disorder.
  • This entire article is a useless exercise in wishful thinking (moreso than usual) because it starts from a completely WRONG premisse:   "Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's smartphone business in 2014 added the industry's leading mobile camera technology to its portfolio of assets."   No. For the billionth time, Nokia kept ALL the patents and technologies regarding the cameras, even after the deal. Microsoft got ZERO patents or tech for the cameras. They entered a non-exclusive LICENSING deal with Nokia for those technologies which was what allowed them to keep the great cameras on the Lumia 950. So for Microsoft to keep making camera focused smartphones, they'd need to continue licensing the tech from Nokia upon which to base further development. Which would be a waste of money because no one ever wanted Windows Phones. As history has proven, people were buying Lumias because they were "Nokia phones". Not because they wanted Windows Phone. Which is why all Microsoft branded phones flopped. So Microsoft really didn't have much of a platform to develop "smartphone camera as a platform".
  • You're saying that MS still couldn't be licensing that tech today??????? 🤔
  • They could. They can. But so can everyone else. LG is doing it for example. But Nokia will not sign any exclusivity deal with Microsoft for use of their imaging patents. Microsoft would have to pay billions for that to happen (enough to cover any *potentially* lost licensing deals Nokia would make without that exclusivity. And Microsoft obviously ins't interested in that.
  • You're right about one thing... Microsoft should have never branded their phone "Windows" anything!  They should have come up with something else. 
  • "No one ever wanted Windows Phones"?  That's no accurate.  Millions did.  And, to be fair, they crept into double-digit market share in some places.  There WERE getting a small foothold, which requred them to make very smart moves to exploit that.  Microsoft did the exact opposite and, once Nadella came on board, he put the nail in the coffin since he didn't think there needed to be a third ecosystem.
  • Not nearly enough for Microsoft to care. Android and iPhone sell millions per day. Microsoft was selling millions per quarter. That is basically no one.
  • "That's no accurate.  Millions did."   Actually, millions wanted a Nokia phone. Not a Windows Phone. Which is why as soon as Nokia went away and the phones stopped carrying the Nokia logo in them, the sales sunk faster than the Titanic and the entire project died. The foothold created was created through the sheer power of the Nokia brand, nothing else. Once that was removed, Microsoft was left with nothing. Nadella came on board and did the right thing. He knew that withough Nokia, Windows Phone didn't stood a chance. He knew the attack on Nokia's D&S division was a mistake. And he had to deal with Ballmer's dumb decisions. Microsoft was never actually committed to Windows Phone. All the advancements the OS got on WP7.5, 7.8, 8.0, 8.1, all those GDR's, they were all because Nokia wanted to do things with the phones that the OS didn't support.
  • Not only that, Nokia didn't even have the right camera technology needed for AI or mixed reality. Those all belong to Samsung and Apple. If you recall at that time, the Nokia cameras were good making use of poor hardware after the picture was taken, but Samsung and Apple cameras had the best real-time processing. (Don't get me wrong, I loved my 1020, but in no way was it suited for mixed reality. It couldn't even take a picture in under 2 seconds.) The premise of the article isn't supported by history. Perhaps had Microsoft had access to today's technology three or four years ago, but the hardware they were using back then does not appear on a path to the kind of technology described in the article.
  • 1020 was failed by hardware. Ms was always a gen behind in supporting new socs on w10m as a result the compromise on speed as u saw. Doesn't mean that capability wasnt there 
  • Nokia had the technology, actually (the forray into VR after the deal was a result of that). But Nokia didn't have an OS that supported the hardware. They were constantly dragged down by the dead-weight that was Windows Phone. It drove product managers and Nokia engineers mad to constantly having to fight against a OS that Microsoft was only "sort of, kinda, when we get a minute" developing.
  • No, actually hardware was above average. Nokia 808 had a special chip dedicated to image processing. This was for some reason not carried over to 1020 so that's why it struggled. Nokia was probably hoping for 1020 to be a hit and follow up with proper successor that never materialized.
  • Didn't they sign something with canon to use their lenses as well? Such fail...
  • Camera features should have always been the focus for Windows Mobile phones. Many people jumped in on the platform, because of the cameras. The creativity focus that MS is on should have been built around the camera and creative software. Having moved on to the Note 8, I still feel that the experience with Windows Camera software is still one, if not the best, camera experiences to date. Don't get me wrong, the Note 8 takes great pictures and the software is pretty good.
  • It was.
  • The camera features combined with the original PhotoHub was absolutely the best!  I miss the PhotoHub!
  • I still have my 1020 and it was the main resion I wanted a Windows phone, but I also wanted a system that was Windows centric. I know I will eventually have to move on, but my Lumia 950 is still working fine, unlike my now failed Band. I am still a Surface user and my Desktop is also Windows, but I agree MS blew it when they failed to promote the Win Phone and all its features when they were making headway outside of the US. I also agree that the Nokia brand was a key factor in people buying these phones. J am not looking forward to the day when I have to move to Android.  
  • The camera was the reason I had the 1020, it's a shame really they gave up on mobile
  • Agree
  • Before I say this, I should note that I'm a fan of Windows mobile and the Lumia 950 is my daily driver. That said, dude, you've got blinders on. Microsoft has many focuses, two of them being AI and AR. Let's not muddy the waters here, failed attempt(s) at gaining consumer market share of Windows on phones isn't that big of a missed opportunity in terms of AI/AR. For all of us fans still out there, please stop reaching with these types of articles.
  • Hi themaddened thanks for the feedback, but if you look at the development of AI and AR and the data Apple and Google are collecting on cameras as a platform, this is an area that could have benefited Microsoft .
  • I think you are focusing on the wrong aspects of the article. The fact that Windows Phones weren't gaining market share is irrelevent, Jason even states that these camera focused Lumia's would have been a niche market. The point is that Microsoft could have leveraged these devices to further research and development into the future of AR/AI. Similar to why Windows Mobile is still being worked on, to help Microsoft better understand Windows on ARM. 
  • Thanks raidenfan, you got the gist😉
  • Also theemaddnesd here is an excerpt I believe you missed: "Microsoft kept Windows 10 Mobile alive to continue development of ARM and cellular technology for future implementation in project "Andromeda." Perhaps continued investments in camera-focused smartphones (for a niche market) over the years would have allowed ongoing development of Microsoft's camera as a platform.
    Though it wouldn't have had Apple's and Google's market presence, the Windows phone user base would have been a valuable resource to contribute feedback to Microsoft's camera-as-a-platform efforts (even if operating at a temporary financial loss). This data would, in turn, be transferred to the company's leading mixed reality and AI efforts." Clearly, the premise isn't about failed attempts at gaining Windows phone market share. Its about using what little market you have as a test-bed (as it is doing with ARM and cellular via W10M) for continued development of features or aspects of Microsoft's ecosystem (AI, AR and apps on camera-based platform) that can be later applied to its devoted investments: AI and augmented reality. Also, please read the preceding two pieces to this series linked at the beginning if this piece where I speak in detail about AI, machine learning, digital assistants, AR and Microsoft's AI-driven camera tech. Also please visit my work here: www.windowscentral.com/author/jason-ward You'll find that I cover topics like Microsoft's investments in Quantum computing, helping the blind, deaf, people with autism, cystic fibrosis, ALS, teaching kids to code, smart glasses, Microsoft Graph, Project Rome, Surface, the cloud and MUCH more. Sadly, it seems you've only clicked on phone-related topics if you think I have in blinders😃 Check out my column. It gives anyone interested in what Microsoft is up to a pretty nice buffet😋of varied content. www.windowscentral.com/author/jason-ward
  • Reading this Warditorial still makes me sad about the whole Nokia-Microsoft thing. It hurts on so many levels.
  • The 1520 had a beast camera. I would still be using it just for the camera but it finally died on me
  • I would've loved to see an Outlook phone that synced calendar/email/contacts/tasks(or Wunderlist)/notes(or OneNote), plus a great camera. I would never use anything else. I enjoyed my WindowsMobile device back in the day. But Microsoft never got it going. So I eventually moved to Google apps and finally to Android (after iPhone got worse and iCloud continued to have problems), because I need to get things done. I still use a PC, and Windows10 is as good as the Mac I used to use, but I no longer use Outlook. 
  • Outlook phone?😂😂😂😂😂😂
  • Your comment makes no sense. If all you wanted was a great camera phone to do basic communications (e-mail, calendar, tasks), that is how a Windows Phones excels, the integration with Exchange/Outlook/desktop OS was perfect. They always could do that, what didn't MS get going, that caused you to go to another platform? What does using Outlook have to do with what phone you use? And Google apps to Android? Droid phones default to Google apps.
  • Android doesn't default to Google apps. It will ask you the first time what app to open and let you set a default.
  • "outlook phone" - I tend to see it that way also. What do you mean "iPhone got worse?" I am nearing the end of my contract and will have to switch. I plan to go with Apple because I absolutely despise G--gle a/k/a "big brother"
  • It is called a 950, what I use today.
  • Nadella should be beaten until he cries, and then because he cries for being such a coward regarding Microsoft's mobile business. He didn't have the balls to defend investing money in this not yet profitable area. Not what you call a visionary. More a bread-and-butter business type of guy. Pleasing investors in the short-term rather than customers in the long-term. I am sure he got a good bonus for eliminating this money-draining business area.
  • The 1520 was the best smartphone ever made in the history of the world, and a design like it still has not come along that's better.
  • I loved it too. Too bad mine broke. Just thinking about it infuriates me why ball gates chose Nadulla to run MS. And frankly I think he’s gonna run it to irrelevance. This guy just threw everything fun and exciting about MS out the door. Now it feels like a lame business oriented company.  You watch, the surface will surely die. Without a phone companion, it’s nothing.
  • @lubbalots it was a board decision not Bill Gates, he didn't have the final say.
  • I miss it too. I loved my 1520 and it (and my 950xl) took better pictures than my Note 8. And even though the 1520 was bigger than my Note 8 I prefer its 16:9 aspect ratio to whatever the hell my Note 8 is. The 1520 was the best phone I ever had.
  • 😭😭😭😭😭
  • I always use City Lens as the example of why Microsoft was insanely stupid to walk away from smartphones.  The moment I saw AR becoming a big thing, City Lens was the perfect example.  I still use it regularly on my Lumia 1020.  It has always angered me that cameras on phones are, at best, an afterthought.  Nokia was the ONLY company to truly get it and push development.  Nothing any of the OEMs has done since has been awe-inspiring.  But, let's face it, Microsoft is done.  Nadella is all-in for just being a third party dev for Apple and Google.
  • I still use City Lens today!  Nokia brought so much goodness to Windows Phone it's incredible.  If I didn't despise iOS and Android so much I would have already bolted from Microsoft products.  But I find Android un-usable.  And iOS is just blah. 
  • Many people in Europe bought Nokia phones that happened to run Windowsphone 7 and then 8.x. Nokia was an AR pioneer before Google and Apple. AR on mobile is a key battleground in the consumer space to find applications that attract the mainstream.  Today the new Nokia's are getting a positive brand boost in places like Germany and in developing countries. Microsoft branded Windowsphones didn't benefit from the Nokia name so they had to establish themselves as a phone maker.  Nokia went all in for Windowsphone but found the weaker partner was Microsoft. Nokia led much of the innovation and had many exclusive apps they created. Many of those apps enhanced imaging. I do get that Microsoft couldn't see how to make money in the mobile market. However, it hardly helped the bottom line that Microsoft failed to capitalise on the Nokia imaging reputation or even really promote Microsoft as a phone manufacturer. I would certainly feel better about Microsoft's decision to ditch Windowsphone if I felt they had taken advantage of the strengths of the Nokia brand and products. Instead they wasted the inheritance and produced a sub-par bugging Windows 10 Mobile OS. It was a self-designed self-made strategy to drive sales to zero. 
  • They didnt just cut smartphones. They cut the Band/wearables, IOT, Groove. The dream of a Microsoft consumer ecosystem is gone completely. The UWP concept has been mostly ignored by developers - even by MS themselves. They are enterprise computing and serious gaming (PC/XBox). They are still keeping Hololens alive, but I dont really see where is fits in the future - maybe an industrial tool...
  • Not they, nadulla.
  • It is not too late, smarphones like iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 are still today the next big thing in technology, Microsoft only needs to embrace AOSP in a customized OS that let's developers put their apps in a new Microsoft cloud store powered by Azure infrastructure, they can license Sony's smartphone camera tech and ask a Chinese Oems to build hardware as Nokia does today. this will attract new potential consumers that will start using a smartphone in the next 5 years
  • But will not happen until you get rid of nadulla.
  • The blame should be put on Microsoft's shareholders for not investing in the long term and only thinking about only short term gains. By cancelling Windows Phone Microsoft has pretty much sacrificed it future. The Big Three are now Apple, Google, and Facebook. 
  • That’s the mind work of nadulla, not investors. 
  • Pressure from 'active' investors.
  • Windows phones had no future. It wouldn't have helped. When WP7 flopped, Microsoft needed to try something new. Pursuing the same failed strategy over and over again was a mistake.
  • No doubt you are in the US Bleached. If not, then I apologise for the following. Lumia was doing well enough in Europe and other parts of the world but certainly not in the US where the phone companies have the market by the short and curlies. MS did itself no favours with its strategies but the telcom companies would not let it prosper anyway. I recall seeing many, many posts by folks who'd walk into AT&T or Sprint or Verizon, ask for a Nokia  or Lumia phone and get a dumb blank look from sales people. Yes, Nadella is myopic, worse even than Ballmer and contender for "Bum of the Year", but the AT&T's weren't getting enough in their grubby little hands anyway.
  • Go study the future of Surface with telephony.
  • This is what happens when shareholder needs are held superior to the customer's needs. (the person who truly keeps you in business). Rather than building consumer confidence that will lead you into an ever growing future. Microsoft chose big profits now, rather than constant profits over time. These articles that just keep coming, show us how badly dropping phones will continue to effect long term gain for Microsoft. Consumer confidence is very low for Microsoft. Their only saving grace right now, is Windows on a computer holds the mindshare for computers. They don't hold mindshare anywhere else. Smart speakers, very little. Smart phones is all bad press at this point. The focus is clearly on shareholders. Not customers. The sad part is, the shareholders future is dependent on customer confidence. Keep the customers happy, and shareholder needs will be met.
  • “This is what happens when shareholder needs are held superior to the customer's needs.” What customers?   They had no phone customers.   Well, not enough to be worth continued investment in a money losing business.   OTOH, Microsoft is focusing on their REAL customers’ needs.   PCs, Windows, businesses are the customers they need to focus on.   We are not talking about Apple dropping their mobile business, leaving hundreds of millions of customers (a billion?) with dead end phones and tablets.  Microsoft had at best, 20 million active users.  Probably way less.  And the numbers were going down, not up.   No business can survive by focusing on small, non profitable markets.  Markets where there are already established leaders with HUGE market shares.  
  • The next telephony devices, including one for your pocket are aimed at business users, will push into the personal market. Apple and Android cannot do that.
  • Killing off mobile will hurt in so many ways for MS going into the future.
  • That’s something nadulla and bill gates don’t seem to grasp. 
  • Does Bill Gates still have a say?
  • Bill Gates was hired as a technical advisor, he doesn't have the final say due to the premise of chain of command. Every business has a hierarchy, Bill Gates can't undermine the CEO. He could but that would constitute to a 'hostile takeover' and therefore need to hold majority of the shares (51%) as a controlling interest or party. To combat this other active investors can pool resources and buy up 51% and remove him and Satya Nadella along with other Microsoft lifers should he not do their bidding. It goes both ways.
  • Seems a lot of the failed opportunities by Microsoft are just knee jerk reactions to something else.  Jason has shared many articles on opportunities to come or out there and even lost.  But if you look back in depth, Microsoft did start aiming for the starts in a way, only to refocus efforts else where...
  • There is no willingness to follow through anymore or to take any risks. Ballmer and Bill Gates took risks and were willing to follow through hence why they made Microsoft into a power house. Sure, they did have monopolistic tendencies in the past, we can't forget about that. But talking about it constantly won't change the present or future. It help define the dialogue or a path but it doesn't have to be circular. Going back to present day, it's all short term quarter to quarter these days. Who ever 'masterminded' this may think they were smart, but they forgot sustainability and implementation. By focusing on ios and android what else can they do now? Think about it, almost all their services are on the competitions platform but not all of their services are available to customers on their own platform. They can't leverage any more growth from the competition any more so they will plataeu. Unless they focus on UWP.
  • To be fair, Microsoft never really started making camera-focused phones.  It was Nokia.  Microsoft purchased Nokia phones, but it was still the same people making them. Microsoft failed because they have never known how to market anything.  Then when Nadella came one, he has blinders and the only thing that matters to him is the cloud.  Anything else gets trashed.
  • Marketing is really hard when your product sucks. Great products are easy to market.
  • Microsoft also has to overcome the Apple Cult. Apple and Android have nothing over my 950xl.
  • I hate edge. Just dumped my fully typed comment. Another reason why Windows is suffering. Anyways... This is another example of how the customer's needs (innovative, useful features not found elsewhere) have obviously been trumped by shareholder profits. (cutting innovative funding, cutting phones entirely) Back when things like CityLens and MyPeople existed, it was the fans showing off those innovative apps that was making people switch from android and ios to windows. At least, that was my experience. Now, Microsoft shut down the innovation. Eliminated the cool features. Burned the preachers who were selling the phone's innovation to friends and family. Instead of constant profits long term, they chose short term profits, that have seriously hampered their future product mindshare. To consumers, the only mindshare they have is that Windows is the only operating system for computers. And a fair number of consumers wish there were other viable options. or at least that Apple was cheaper. Windows has little mindshare in smart speakers. They have disdain and ridicule (now, not two years ago) for their smartphone products. Aside from Surface, in the consumer hardware space, they seem to just be getting it right when they pull the plug. Everything is just getting good, when they decide it isn't worth it. I had a Lumia 640 when windows 10 came out. It was at that point that my friends and family really started to take an interest in my phone. It was also then that Microsoft seemed to dump the whole idea of phones, started cutting the best features and stopped the follow through. I had co-workers and my parents nearly convinced and had development continued strong, I have no doubt they would be Windows phone owners today. Instead, Microsoft does what it seems to do best. Get it 80% finished, then dump and run. 
  • I hate it too. I keep going back to IE and my boys like chrome. Simple to use. 
  • I really just don't understand all the hate for Edge because I never ever have a problem with it unless I'm trying to use VPN.
  • Same here, except I have no issues with VPN (VPNUnlimited)
  • The goal has been a single OS on all devices for a long time. That is the future.
  • Completely agree. It made them so unique. People still ask me once in a while if my Windows Phone has that 40-ish megapixel camera
  • Microsoft need to get rid of all the deadwood and rot, hire graduates with vision, passion and knowhow and rebuild and maybe add an advertising executive into the mix....
  • If you consider the key functions of a modern smart phone they seem to be 1. Screen quality / image quality 2. Camera quality 3. Sound quality 4. Storage / Memory So any serious phone manufacturer needs to focus on those key attributes if they want to attract buyers.  The question is how much of this is hardware, how mush is OS and how much is 3rd party app.  All have an impact on the end result,  Windows Phone missed out totally on the 3rd party app part which is why it failed.  Be nice if Windows 10 for ARM fares better.
  • M$, by itself, never left to produce smartphone with good cameras. Even 5MP cameras without flashlight support could take interesting pics. It's last device, 950/xl, has an amazing hardware/software combination hard to be beaten even today, with double-cameras and new algorithms. If its collaborators didn't take AR/AI based on images forth, the decision was obviously a mistake, worsted by the dramatic retreatment from the mobile market.  Unhappily for all of us, M$ ex-supporters. Decadence isn't a casual and subtle fact, it has to be hardly builded through the years, Go ahead, M$! In the bottom of your self digged pit there's a little door to the basement...
  • The real question you should ask is, why MS and Bill Gates chose Nadulla? 
  • It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • So depressing.
  • Well, wel, well, yet another fail by Nadella. How many mistakes must a CEO make before he's booted? Of course cameras, phones and mobile OS are linked. How is it possible that a person paid such a high salary can be so myopic?
  • Watch the future with Surface with telephony.
  • I still have my 1020 with the camera grip. I use it as a point and shoot.
  • I agree with the premise except that the Lumia 1020 was purely a Nokia device not Microsoft. Microsoft was investing in Nokia at the time but they did not own any of Nokia. But the Lumia 1020 was the only superphone that Windows Phone ever had and it created a lot of buzz and mindshare that well beyond WP sales at the time. It felt like I had the best phone in world when i bought my 1020. The camera, the OIS and the accessories were never equaled by any subsequent Windows Phone despite what the Microsoft engineers claimed, and I've owned all of the top end models. Microsoft buying Nokia was a bad for Nokia, Windows Phone and to a lesser extent Microsoft and not following up with the 1020 with a Nokia-like, funky 1120 was a tragic blunder.
  • All I wanted was a faster 1020. Carry a 950XL now, waiting for someone to build a phone with a camera better than the 1020.
  • And a better display. I won a photography contest using my 1020 where it was assumed everone would use a camera. We had to list our device. I don't know many people actually knew Lumia 1020 was a phone! I miss my 1020, I ruined it from water damage but I would still use it if it worked. I also have the 950XL. I'm been putting off getting an iPhone but I know i have to break down at some point
  • Just another missed opportunity, basically a lack of understanding and commitment to the platform. Had they had the vision and more importantly the commitment it might of been a very different story. Sadly this is not the only example of innovation whether by acquisition or internal development that they let just slip by. I sometimes wonder if Microsoft are even proud of what they do and again I do not think they realise the damage this lack of staying power is doing to the brand long term. Short sighted thinking based on some long term vision which has yet to materialise.
  • I believe a term for that in some ways is called "success trap". Someone else here in the forums has shared this insight too.
  • Yes.   A victim of their own success.   The most recent example is Polaroid.   A company that owned the instant picture business 15 years ago.  They ignored digital photography for far too long. Today, Polaroid is gone.  After owning the market for 50 years.   There are many similarities with Microsoft today.   In fact, the entire photo film business is nearly gone.  Digital has almost completely taken over.  20 years ago every drugstore/grocery store/etc had film processing.  Drop off your roll of film, have them developed and printed in a few hours or the next day.  All of that is gone.  
  • Surface with telephony is the future along with 950xl camera quality and better
  • i always like your articles.  this website was WPcentral, I still have it bookmarked as such.  its too difficult to pretend I like all things MSFT when I'm pretty sick of the fact they were throwing everything away.
  • When MSFT came out wiwith two nasty looking Lumias, cheap plastic feel, stale colors, and rounded edges took away the beauty from Nokia's Lumias.  I could tell at that point, with the 950's, that Nadella was intentionally running this into the ground. (aka Retrenching).
  • I've never had a better phone than the 950xl.
  • I bought several cheaper-than-dirt Windows phones when we moved to our new house just because they were inexpensive smartphones. One of the same type for each major cellular provider, in our new location.  (We'd suffered from less-than-acceptable connectivity prior to that, at our old rental, even with our Nexus phones.) Those cheap Windows phones were only to test connectivity. Instead, I was so impressed with how well they worked (in comparison to the vastly superior hardware on the Nexus), I changed platforms.  My only other criteria (after connectivity) was getting the best damn camera phone available. It was the 1020. Of course it was lol. There's still nothing like it (I know: we kept ours, though they're no longer the daily carry, and they still take better pix). I can't count the number of people who'd see the pix we were taking/sharing back then and ask what camera we were using ...and were floored that the pix were all taken from our phone lol. That lens, and OIS, and the Nokia software ...were superb. Still are. Fast forward a couple of years ...I remarked to my wife when W Mobile started falling apart that it was almost like Nadella had always been an iPhone guy. I was right. He was. That alone pretty much explains the subsequent result of MS's mobile business decisions. Chalk it up to lack of vision. He may make the company some money. For awhile. The accounting types usually do, short term. It's almost an inevitable truth, especially at companies with that kind of market share in their industry. Those MBA guys can always find corners to cut that increase the bottom line. For a while. But only visionaries bring their company into the future. He's not.
  • Surface with telephony is the future. One OS for all is the way to go.
  • btw, if you factory reset an older lumia, will you have a citilens that still works?
  • It's more than just the camera... the phone has become part of the average person, used more than pretty much anything else in our lives.  I read a security article that stated that the average smartphone user uses their device an average of five hours per day.  That much usuage would seriously help Microsoft's AI efforts.
  • How exactly do you know for certain they don't still have these assets, just because none of us are seeing evidence? Just wondering because there's still a heck of a whole lot they don't tell everyone 👀
  • A lot of the Nokia folks were fired, some left and began working for other companies.
  • Nokia didn't get purchased by Microsoft, it got eaten and passed through it's alimentary tract. Balmer initiated the purchase and Nadella made sure it was used as a food source and nothing much more and proceeded to digest it bit by bit. I think that this is what we see when a new manager comes in, he often disdains what his predecessor has done and wants to erase it. Even people with sky high IQs are carried by more base emotions. It is obvious to everybody except Nadella that there was a room for a third player in the mobile phone space. Balmer did blow it but Nadella finished it off. Sure it may have been a smaller player but it would have been in there with a following. I think the article covers the use of cameras for AI and AR and enhancing the interaction between the device and the user. Microsoft can still do this with it's always connected next round of laptops. The Surface Pro 3 I had did have Face recognition for instance. I turned this off as it wasn't reliable enough. I now have an iPhone X and predictably being Apple it just works and under much tougher circumstances than where Face ID failed on my Surface Pro. I sold my Surface Pro too. I got tired of being a Microsoft fan boy as a lot of us did. They don't build with the dedication and testing that Apple do. We need more players in this area and I hope Microsoft does use it's next round of always connected laptops to do better. Microsoft whether it likes it or not needs to build hardware as well as do software. It needs to do better on both.
  • All I know is that whenever I am vacationing and taking pictures, everyone with an apple phone is jealous.  My 950 takes way better pictures than my wife's iPhone 6s.  My cousin and his wife on our last trip were very impressed with the pictures from my phone.  Especially in low light conditions.  Cas in point.  In a cathedral, we were shown a gravestone.  This is a stone that covers a grave inside a cathedral.  Now it is placed on a wall.  The guide said the gravestone was painted.  But given the poor lighting in a cathedral, it basically looked brown.  But with my 950 with the 3 LED lights and the HDR capability, you can see the colors vividly.  
  • All of my IPhone Friends want me to take pics on my 950XL whenever we are together.
  • I believe, Microsft transferred all the camera tach back to Nokia.  I believe in a year or so, Nokia will release an Android phone with the best cameras.  I know they sell android phones now.  But, Nokia still has the patents and it will take them a bit longer to get the android phone up to snuff with Samsung and Apple.
  • Microsoft didn't transfer back anything, they merely licensed the technology to put it simply.
  • MS shouldn't have stopped making smartphones, period! The Nokia acquisition was idiotic. All MS had to do was prop up Nokia making Lumia phones for another year, while they released the 950 series as a Surface phone v1.0. All that was needed was a nicer exterior and a few more months of development on W10M to ensure the bugs were ironed out. A somewhat lower price would have gone a long way towards gaining market share.
  • Actually, Nokia was going to be making Android phones one way or another. Microsoft had no choice to buy the d&s division. As Nokia's contract to make windows phone was coming to an end. Plus Nokia still exists as a seperate entity, only a division was acquired by Microsoft not the whole company.
  • With all the update my HP Elite x3 camera is a disaster. Very disappointed with MS. Now thinking of getting a Nokia 8 or just wait for the Nokia 9.
  • Some of you are not looking at the holistic view of what this company has accomplished.  I've owned an HTC Titan, Lumia 920, 1520, 640XL, 950 XL, and currently use  an IDOL 4S,  not to mention Xbox One,  and Surface 3, so to say I'm invested in the MSFT ecosystem would be an understatement.  I've also been a shareholder for the past five years as well, and my investment has more than doubled.  So I have to look at this from both sides.  Does it frustrate me on what MSFT has done with their mobile efforts.  Absolutely.  It's why I still use Windows 10 Mobile even though I know MSFT has confirmed to gutting any new developments for it.  I still think it's the best mobile OS for basic applications and utilization.  It has the best UI experience, and it presents me with readily available information at a glance.  I still keep my 950XL because of the superior camera that still rivals that of the newest iPhones and Andriod phones. The reality is that MSFT has to make generational decisions that would impact the company not just for the next five years, but for the next 25 years and beyond.  They chose to invest resources in cloud computing and that in my opinion even to my personal objection has turned out to be a successful move.  Just look at their earnings in the past quarter, let alone  past year.  MSFT gets most of its revenue from two sources,  Office applications and cloud computing.  Everything else to include Surface products are bottom feeders. I think Jason is correct in stating about their exploration of camera focused phones, but the question ultimately is always about money when it comes to their mobile efforts.  Would the financial investment MSFT would've made given their market share value in mobile put the company in a more advantageous position then the change of focus to cloud computing did?  Outside of Amazon, MSFT owns the cloud space, and they're capitalizing on that. I think their approach to re-entering the mobile space by coming in at an angle rather then coming in head on will pay off in the long run when they do launch some sort of new foldable device with inking, and ARM/C-shell capability.  People want to crucify Satya, and all he's done is given MSFT it's highest share value ever.  How is that failing??
  • It is NOT failing.  The CEO is the Chief Economic Officer.   Literally in charge of making money.  His job is to kill divisions that are losing money and focus on divisions that are making money.   If he had continued to dump money into WP, he would have eventually been fired.   The people here claiming he should be fired because “he has no vision” are missing the point.  Hemorrhaging billions of dollars is not “having vision”.  Being a distant 3rd in a market is not “having vision”.   Having vision is knowing where your strengths are, and knowing your weaknesses. Long term strategies don’t pay short term salaries.  
  • Microsoft has no vision for the future.
  • Bulloney!
  • I'm still rocking the Nokia 1020 and Lumia 950. Lumia 950 I use as one of my daily. I broke down and got the pixel 2 just for the camera. But the Nokia and lumia still out perform it
  • You basically listed a whole bunch of things that Nokia did and claimed Microsoft did them instead.
  • Actually I stated things Nokia did before Microsoft purchased its smartphone business in 2014, after which the Nokia talent came under Microsoft's umbrella. Had Microsoft invested in that talent and the achievements of what they now(then) had rather then cutting ✂ it, there may have been progress to the cameras-as-a-platform Microsoft inherited. So, if Microsoft kept making Microsoft camera-focused smartphones the benefits if the AI and AR data, even from a niche market, could have benefited its AI and AR missions.
  • "The Lumia 1020, with its 41 MP camera and a UI with granular manual controls, also demonstrated Microsoft's commitment to mobile imaging technology." Seriously, you have no idea about what you are writing do you.... Microsoft had nothingh to do with that, Nokia actually had to go around and outside the phone OS to be able to use the camera on the 1020. Microsoft did not and never had the intention to innovate and actually promote their mobile platform.  Outside of the 1020 Camera, Nokia had to also go outside the OS and really push Microsoft to get 4G on to the phones. They actually did the 4G implementation for the 'The betatest is over' Lumia 900 as the OS did not have any support for it and Microsoft could not be bothered to get it done in time. When Nokia ran out of money and could barely afford to release phones all Microsoft could do was to buy the division and break it down so they could prevent any Android parties to gain access to the Nokia innovations. They cut off the very hand that fed them their innovation and were left clueless.
  • The 1020 was a product of Microsoft's and Nokia's partnership, after Nokia dropped its OS and adopted Windows Phone. It was not a wholly Nokia endeavor.
    Here's a July 11, 2013 interview with Joe Belfiorie, of Microsoft, that reflects Microsoft's collaboration with Nokia for the 1020 and desire to create a great camera 📷 experience as I explained.
    "Q&A: How Nokia and Microsoft collaborated to create the groundbreaking new Lumia 1020 with Windows Phone 8"
    https://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2013/07/11/qa-how-nokia-and-...
    Just a tip. We can all be wrong about things at times. But when you feel that someone may be wrong about something you can express that with a level of humility rather than the way you addressed me above. There are two reasons for this.
    One, its just respectful and honors the mutual dignity we all have.
    Two, in the event that **you're** mistaken with your claim that I (or someone) was wrong, as it turns out you were mistaken here, (as you will see if you follow the link I provided) it's just better for a civil discourse.
  • Joeb incompetence was one of the reason of WP failure...
  • Se have to thank, as usual, the worst CEO ever, who voted against Nokia acquisition (when we was not a ceo) and then dismissed it together with any hope for Ms to succeed in the future.
  • At least I got a Lumia 950 XL before they sacked it all. 🐱‍👤🐱‍👓🐱‍👤🐱‍👓🐱‍👤🐱‍👓
  • Lucky you... my Lumia 920 was still going strong (despite no Windows Phone 10), so I didn't invest in the 950... Now that the 920 has kicked the bucket, I kick myself everytime I look at my cheap Chinese Android Phone...