Microsoft giving away a Lumia 950 to users who buy the $649 Lumia 950 XL

Microsoft quietly launched a promotion offering customers a free Lumia 950 when they buy a Lumia 950 XL at regular price through its online store.

Microsoft sells the 5.7-inch 950 XL for $649 and the smaller 950 for $549. Both phones are unlocked, so users don't have to commit to an installment plan with a service or contract to receive the deal.

The two handsets run Windows 10 and were introduced at a media event in New York last October. But the flagship phones don't appear to have gained any real traction among mobile users. Microsoft said last week that it sold only 2.3 million Lumia handsets in the first quarter, marking a 73 percent plunge in Lumia sales year over year.

The company also said phone revenue declined 46 percent "in constant currency."

While Microsoft's recent plunge has been dramatic, the company has seen its mobile presence wane fairly steadily over the last two years. Kantar WorldPanel reported earlier this month that Windows ran on a tiny 2.6 percent of smartphones sold in the U.S. during the three-month period ending in February, down from 4.8 percent the previous year. Windows also lost ground in some key European markets -- such as Germany and the UK -- where it had begun to make notable progress a few years ago.

The new promotion is likely a way for Microsoft to clear out inventory as it hones its focus on cross-platform software and services, leveraging Android and iOS rather than trying to compete with them. That may be a wise strategy considering Microsoft -- like so many other players -- has long failed to threaten the two dominant mobile operating systems.

The looming question is how aggressively Microsoft will court the mobile market over the next few years. Rumors linger that it is developing a Surface phone to launch later this year, although producing quality hardware doesn't seem to be Microsoft's bigger challenge in wireless. And whether it can establish itself as a player in mobile on the backs of Apple and Google is still far from clear.

For more:
- see Microsoft's online store

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