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Microsoft’s exit from smartphone manufacturing actually makes a lot of sense

Microsoft’s exit from smartphone manufacturing actually makes a lot of sense

Microsoft's exit from smartphone manufacturing actually makes a lot of sense

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Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it was further “streamlining” its mobile phone business. The company will lay off more than 1,800 workers and “focus its phone efforts where it differentiates itself,” according to Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. So while that certainly doesn’t mean Microsoft will ignore smartphones in the future, it certainly seems like it’s no longer interested in selling Lumia phones – or others – to the average consumer.

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It might seem a bit crazy to exit the smartphone market now, when everyone and their mothers are glued to their mobile devices. And this latest move means Microsoft has written off more than the $9.6 billion (about Rs 64,661 crore) it spent to acquire Nokia’s handset business in 2014. But that’s actually not not a bad idea, and it gives Microsoft the chance to focus its efforts on the next wave of the smartphone revolution.

Because the smartphone game – at least this round – is more or less decided. Microsoft wasn’t just trying to sell phones; he was trying to sell his own platform. And when it comes to smartphone platforms, Apple and Google won, with around 96% global market share between them, according to Gartner’s February smartphone market report. Microsoft, in this report, came in third place, with 2.8% of the market.

Let’s repeat that: 2.8%.

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. It’s easy to mock Microsoft now, but it’s worth remembering that there was a time when clever analysts thought the Windows Phone mobile operating system could overtake Apple’s iOS by the end of 2015. Windows Phone had some great features, it promised integration with the world’s dominant computer operating system, and those candy-colored Lumia phones were generally well made.

But by the time Nadella took the wheel at Microsoft – and former Nokia head Stephen Elop said “so long” soon after – it seemed Microsoft’s entire smartphone business wasn’t long for this world. Instead of catching up on hardware, Nadella has focused the company’s efforts more directly on software and the cloud, where its mobile efforts have actually seen a renaissance. Rather than trying to get more developers to write programs for its anemic app store, Microsoft has focused on getting its own apps into more places. Since Nadella took over, the Office suite has come up with pretty good mobile apps, even for non-Microsoft products, including – gasp! – the Iphone.

And Microsoft is also clearly thinking beyond apps. It might be hard to remember, but Microsoft was the company that started this wave of “bots are the future” talks at its Build conference in March. And while its efforts to launch a bot didn’t go so well – Tay, the innocent millennial-voiced bot, ended up being seriously corrupted by humanity – the company should be credited with a bit of forethought. avant-garde.

After all, bots could really be signaling app decline, unifying the services you get from a dozen or more separate apps into a single product. Assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana are already trying to unify Reminder, Calendar, Traffic, and Search apps — and that’s just the beginning.

Smartphones are not finished, of course. But they’re becoming more and more important for what they can do rather than just what they are, and that seems to be Microsoft’s goal going forward. It pursues a lifetime operating system. Because whoever can crack this code and create a central program that works everywhere – regardless of the device we use – will be the leader for the next few years.

© 2016 The Washington Post

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