Microsoft kicked off its annual Build developer conference yesterday by touting bots, artificial intelligence and Windows 10, among other things. Mobile, however, was almost entirely absent.
Cnet reported that the word "phone" wasn't uttered until an hour into Microsoft's keynote address yesterday, and even then only in passing. "We're fully committed to that 4-inch screen, there will be a time for it to be our focus, but right now it's part of the family but it's not the core of where I hope to generate developer interest over the next year," Windows head Terry Myerson told The Verge. "There's no lack of recognition to realize how important that form factor is, but for Microsoft with Windows and for our platform it's the wrong place for us to lead."
Myerson went on to concede that Windows isn't the way "to reach a lot of phone customers" due its tiny market share, adding that the Xbox and the augmented reality headset HoloLens are the company's focal points for "new and exciting things."
Windows 10 Mobile wasn't even mentioned during the company's two-plus hour Build keynote, Mashable noted, and the only developer session addressing phones during the conference focuses on Continuum, Microsoft's dock that displays a phone's content on larger screens.
Myerson insisted that Microsoft still has plans to "do some cool things with phones," but its unwillingness to make mobile a priority at Build is noteworthy. Microsoft claimed a scant 1.1 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Gartner, less than half the 2.8 percent share it owned during the same period a year prior. Meanwhile, Android and iOS continue to dominate mature markets such as the U.S., Western Europe, and even China, and smartphone penetration rates are ramping up in major emerging markets such as India and Brazil.
It's possible that Microsoft is throwing in the towel after years of largely futile attempts to challenge the market's two dominant smartphone platforms. There's virtually no evidence of consumer demand for a third mobile OS, and while carriers insist they'd like to see more competition in smartphones, they haven't aggressively marketed any alternative platform in years.
However, Microsoft has been rumored to be developing a flagship Surface phone that would launch in the second half of this year as a challenge to the iPhone and other high-end devices.
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