Search for the phrase “Windows phone” in Microsoft’s announcement of the new Lumia 650 and you’ll find… nothing. Sure, it’s a Windows phone, but Microsoft has well and truly decided to go all-in on its strategy of aligning its powerful Windows 10 tablet and laptop and desktop devices with the lower-powered Windows 10 Mobile platform to attract customers.
The Lumia 650 looks like a hell of a lot of phone for $299, and there’s no doubt that Microsoft will sell quite a few to business customers that want the best possible integration with Microsoft services like OneDrive and Office apps like Word and Excel. But the phone, also sold at Australia Post and Big W and JB Hi-Fi, isn’t being sold as a Windows phone, and it’s not even necessarily being sold as a phone running Windows 10 Mobile.
That’s fine, of course, but it points to an interesting strategy — in a market where Apple phones proudly tout their iOS credentials, and Google shouts Android from the rooftops, Microsoft is gambling that smartphone buyers don’t care so much about what OS their phone as running as what it does.
Windows 10 Mobile still has an apps problem, and that’s not going to change any time soon. It’s hard to get developers to spend time customising apps for Windows 10 Mobile when only 3.7 per cent of the smartphones sold within Australia in the last three months run Windows — and that’s a 50 per cent drop from the same time last year. But Microsoft does its first-party apps so well, people know and like Outlook and Word, and that’s what the company is selling its Windows phones with. And Windows 10 Mobile has two excellent ideas in it that do deserve plenty of praise.
Continuum has within it the start of an amazing idea, too — it’s a legitimate glimpse into a future where we only have a single device that functions both as a handheld terminal and a desktop productivity tool. It’s not perfect on the Lumia 950, but as the first demonstration of a piece of software that might just be the Next Big Thing it’s pretty impressive. Microsoft’s Continuum, I think, will be the genesis of future services from both Apple and Google, if not Microsoft alone, and that’s proof of its value.
Hello, too, makes signing into your phone even easier — and more secure — than using a fingerprint. It’s as close to a perfect sign-in as I’ve had on any mobile device — it’s more consistent than even the best fingerprint sensors, it works in the dark, and it works from a distance without you having to touch your phone. And it works exactly the same as it does on Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Surface Book PC hardware; that’s the big selling point of Windows.
That needs to happen just a little bit more, and then Microsoft will have us living in the future. Bring desktop Windows apps to smartphones, or make smartphones run Windows So ‘Windows phone’ is dead — but that’s not a big deal. When smartphones get a little more powerful than the Lumia 950, and a little more mature than Windows 10 Mobile is right now, the Windows Everywhere philosophy will ring true.
It’s already happening with Xbox — the Windows 10 Anniversary update of later this year will mean that the Xbox One will be able to run many of the same ‘apps’ as desktop Windows. Universal Windows apps — and devices — are the future. The death of ‘Windows phone’ as a phrase and a marketing term is just one small step along that path.