Microsoft has made an announcement that could mean the end of the Windows Phone.
Amidst a flurry of major announcements such as its plan to expand broadband access to rural Americans, Microsoft also announced that it would be ending support for the mobile edition of Windows 8.1, which is the operating system used by the majority of Windows phones.
Windows Phone 8.1
When the mobile version of Windows 8.1 was first released, it was a big moment for Microsoft and represented what was, perhaps, the last real push for Microsoft to position its Windows operating system as a legitimate competitor to Android and iOS. The mobile edition of 8.1 brought a lot of new features to Windows phones such as Cortana support, a revamped UI, and general system updates. However, despite their best efforts, Windows Phones simply never caught on.
Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows 8.1 makes sense from the perspective of focusing on the mobile edition of Windows 10, but it is debatable how much Microsoft is even focusing on that. The latest Creators Update brought a host of new features and improvements to the desktop OS, but few to the mobile version. Beyond that, there is also the issue that Microsoft generally offers mainstream OS support for five years, but the mobile version of 8.1 is only about three years old.
The Future Of Windows Mobile
All of this begs the question, is Microsoft done with the Windows Phone? If we had to speculate, we would say that Microsoft is likely done with the Windows Phone branding, but not ambitions for the mobile space. We believe that the Windows Phone brand is simply too damaged at this point. What might happen is for Microsoft to release a Surface Phone within the next few years to capitalize on the popularity of that brand. Unlike the Windows Phone, the Surface line of products has sold very well and done a lot to build Microsoft's reputation as a legitimate hardware manufacturer.
Theoretically, it is possible that Microsoft might license the Windows OS to third party manufacturers, but we don't see that happening. The Nokia Lumia did not sell very well and Microsoft only has one more chance to demonstrate that the Windows OS can compete with Android and iOS. If it does make another serious attempt at the mobile space, we expect the latest version of Windows running on a custom-built Surface device.