Editorial by Luke Jones on Thursday October 08, 2015.
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Microsoft delivered two pretty stellar smartphones at its launch event yesterday, but the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are already proving that the company's uphill battle against iOS and Android cannot merely be fought on a hardware level. The software plays a huge part and while there is plenty to get excited about surrounding the whole Windows 10 ecosystem, the platform will have to break down barriers to be seen and shout from soap boxes to be heard.The truth is nothing very new has happened at all. Windows Phone 8.1 was a solid operating system, and some of the high end Lumia devices were perfect carriers for the platform, yet Microsoft and its mobile ambitions floundered. Sales failed to impress over the last few years, and have been largely stagnant since Microsoft purchased the Lumia brand from Nokia in 2014. Microsoft is well aware that it faces plenty of challenges in just convincing consumers that its platform is worth leaving iOS and Android for. It can sell the Windows 10 experience, which increasingly looks like it will be an ecosystem in every sense of the word and be spread across multiple form factors. However, iOS and Android users are entrenched in those fairly robust ecosystems too and many may see no need to jump ship. It is usually hardware that does the trick, the iPhone 6s will probably steal a few Android users for example in the coming months. Are the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL better than anything else out there? No they are not, but neither is the iPhone 6s incidentally, so perhaps Microsoft just needs to market things right, just like Apple does. Features like Continuum, which turns the 950 duo into mini fully fledged PCs, will help in that aspect, but that admittedly innovative addition is unlikely to be enough. Microsoft making it a free accessory may have been the ticket, but the company is likely to sell the dock needed to use Continuum for between $50 and $100. I personally think that Microsoft should give the dock away; sure the company will lose money, but it is that kind of aggression that could get the Windows 10 platform into the spotlight. I think it is safe to say that Microsoft has its own house in order, in many ways the company has done all it can do, delivered quality smartphones, included interesting features (I haven't mentioned the eye scanning tech yet), made them decently priced, and wrapped them in an ecosystem that has bags of potential. However, while Microsoft sorted itself out, it needs to find a way to pull the industry along for the ride, because until now that has not been the case. On that front the situation remains worrying for the company, with carriers around the world still not sure about committing to the Windows platform. Apparently carriers in Canada are going to pass on offering the new Lumia handsets, and at the moment only AT&T has committed in the United States. Of course, having the second biggest carrier in the nation on board is a good sign, but Microsoft will need more backing for confidence and sales to grow. Redmond says that the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL are not exclusive to AT&T, so that means the company at least has aspirations for other carriers to pick them up, and T-Mobile's mooted interest will be encouraging. Speaking of getting involved, Microsoft will need to convince developers that its platform is worth building on and in some cases concentrating on. Android and iOS have this area sewn up it seems, but with a much better version of Windows (10 destroys 8) perhaps developers can be convinced to build apps for Android, iOS, and Windows, all three on an equal footing. For the Continuum idea to take off that is perhaps a necessity as some apps and games to not resize themselves accordingly to fit a bigger screen, so developers will have to be convinced to build work arounds for that particular problem into their apps. Whether they can be bothered to do such a thing when all the money comes from Android and iOS remains to be seen. So, Microsoft has certainly made everyone sit up and take notice with its hardware, features, and software, but now much of what happens next is out of the company's hands. Redmond needs the mobile industry to think it is a worthwhile bet to work with Windows, because at the moment the industry is very much focused on iOS, Android, and then Windows. Microsoft wants that to change, the company wants focus on iOS, Android, Windows, and then the rest. I love what I have seen so far from Microsoft, but at the moment the company is lumped into "the rest" category and the company arguably needs a perfect storm of events to get out of it.
Luke Jones is the Managing Editor at MobileBurn.com and is the person you need to speak to about the content on the site. Luke studied creative writing at degree level before carving out a reputation as a freelance tech writer. He settled here at MobileBurn, where he reviews devices and contributes to the news, as well as overseeing the site's content and direction.