Despite its best attempts to capture a slice of the smartphone market, Microsoft on Tuesday announced that it has officially terminated support for Windows Phone 8.1, ushering in the end of an era where the PC-maker sought to directly compete with Apple’s iPhone and Android-powered devices, which have since created a smartphone duopoly.
While the company will continue offering support for Windows 10 Mobile (its most recent update that’s pre-installed on devices like the high-end HP Elite x3) it remains unclear exactly what kind of support there will be moving forward. Once upon a time, Microsoft pushed regular updates for Windows Phone 8/8.1; however its latest update, Windows 10 Mobile Creators, barely included any carry-over features from the upcoming Windows 10 Creators update for PC that’s due out later this fall.
According to Microsoft’s official product lifecycle database, support for Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise, which was released in August, 2016, will continue being supported only until October of 2018 — and after that, the Windows 10 Mobile as we know it may be on the chopping block, altogether. The Verge cited rumors suggesting that the company has transitioned its Windows 10 Mobile development into a so-called “feature 2” brand, which sources believe will merely maintain the OS until all support is terminated next year.
Birth and Death of an ‘Icon’
Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s first attempt to take on devices like the iPhone, was introduced back in 2010, and brought a unique tile-based interface to the table that was unlike anything iOS and Android had to offer. Despite some key advantages, however, Windows Phone 7 was missing crucial features at launch, and its debut hardware was anything but noteworthy. Since then, the company has tried to streamline and make the beleaguered OS competitive; however, by the time Microsoft updated the software to version 8.1 back in 2014, the smartphone market had already been dominated by iOS and Android.
Microsoft’s last major effort to penetrate the smartphone market was with its $5 billion acquisition of Finnish phone-maker, Nokia, back in 2013. However the move was ultimately unsuccessful, and the PC-giant has since been winding down its smartphone operations while promoting the hell out of its new line of Surface devices like the portable SurfaceBook and desktop-class Surface Studio.
Ironically, Microsoft appears to have adopted a more services-oriented strategy in recent months, with CEO Setya Nadella announcing during the company’s recent Build and Inspire conferences that it will henceforth focus on what it calls the “intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.” These efforts will revolve largely around creating apps and cloud-based services for iOS and Android users — and can already be seen, for example, in the company’s latest Office Suite offerings for iPhone and iPad.