Can Windows 10 Help Microsoft Sell Windows Phones?

Microsoft Windows 10 event


It’s clear already that Windows 10 is incredibly popular among computer and tablet owners. But what’s unclear is whether the operating system’s success so far can translate into a revival of Microsoft’s Windows Phone mobile platform once the new software launches for mobile devices this fall.

Steve Lohr reports for The New York Times that 75 million users downloaded Windows 10 on their computers or tablets in the first month of its release. The adoption rate was the first point in a list tweeted by Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s senior vice president for Windows. Mehdi also reported that the operating system has been downloaded in 192 countries, and 90,000 unique PC and tablet models have upgraded to Windows 10. Additionally, more than 122 years of gameplay have streamed from Microsoft’s Xbox One to Windows 10 devices, Cortana has told half a million jokes in response to the prompt, “Tell me a joke,” and the Windows Store for the operating system has logged six times more app downloads per device than Windows 8.

Lohr notes that the goal of making Windows 10 a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 was to jumpstart “the old Microsoft magic of building a flywheel of rising numbers of users and developers around its operating system platform.” That’s becoming more difficult as users’ and developers’ interest has shifted to other platforms, most importantly Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. But despite the auspicious adoption rates so far, Lohr points out that Microsoft still needs to contend with the challenge of not having a strong presence in the smartphone market.

Offering the software for free demonstrates that Microsoft is paying attention to the new economic realities of offering software to consumers. Quickly establishing an installed user base for Windows 10 is critical in attracting developers to the new operating system. As Emil Protalinski reports for VentureBeat, Windows 10 was built in a very different way than its predecessors, and it’s still being built. Windows 10 will be updated not only with fixes, but with new features in the coming months and years. In fact, Microsoft recently released a new Windows 10 preview build for PCs, asking users to test the latest bug fixes and features.

The continued development of Windows 10 for computers and tablets is happening in conjunction with Microsoft’s work on Windows 10 Mobile, which is expected to be released late this quarter. As users upgrade to Windows 10 on their computers and tablets, it seems likely that a good experience with the operating system will convince at least some of them to consider a Windows Phone when it comes time for a new smartphone. Using both a smartphone and a computer from the same manufacturer can yield some unexpected benefits. Owners of both an iPhone and a Mac, for example, can take advantage of Continuity, which enables them to seamlessly use Handoff, Phone Calling, Instant Hotspot, and SMS on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

However, many people have reservations about Windows 10 Mobile and its ability to sell Windows Phones. Jared Newman recently reported for PCWorld that Microsoft’s goal of upgrading all Windows 8 phones to Windows 10 looks out of reach, as many phones lack the necessary software updates. More than a third of modern Windows Phones in the U.S. aren’t eligible for the upgrade. While some flagship phones that aren’t currently expected to get the update could get Windows 10 Mobile in the future, users of many other phones may not be as lucky as they await the upgrade.

ComputerWorld’s Preston Gralla, on the other hand, doesn’t need to look any farther than the nature of Windows 10 to find reason to doubt that Windows 10 can save Windows Phone. Windows 10 is designed to offer a unified experience across desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones, and “Universal Windows apps” will run on all Windows 10 devices.Apps sell phones, and Windows Phone is at a distinct disadvantage because the platform has far fewer useful apps than iOS or Android. It thinks universal apps written for computers will draw new users to its mobile platform.

But Gralla reports that the Windows apps built into Windows 10 are “far from spectacular,” and the other Windows apps you can download from the Windows Store won’t get anyone to switch from iOS or Android. Even though Windows has hundreds of millions of users worldwide, developers haven’t flocked to the operating system to write apps. If Microsoft were serious about using Windows 10 to breathe new life into Windows Phone, Gralla thinks that it would have made sure that there were a number of compelling new apps for the operating system at its launch. The few interesting Microsoft-created apps that could draw people to Windows Phone are available or will soon be available on iOS and Android. Office already runs on those operating systems, as does Cortana.

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