(by Francis Groves, Senior Analyst)
Windows 10, due for release on Wednesday January 21st, is being reported as Microsoft’s latest effort to establish itself in the smartphone business. At first glance this looks like a lost cause with sales of Windows smartphones globally only making up 3% of global sales in the third quarter of 2014. With such poor market penetration, many mobile app developers are simply not including Windows in their calculations. Certainly, MyPrivateBanking’s findings on app deployment by financial institutions suggest that Windows smartphone users are very rarely catered for. In some cases Microsoft is reported to have been paying important developers to develop Windows phone apps.
In these adverse circumstances, Microsoft is doing what it can to make its mobile platform more appealing to app developers and mobile app market. With regard to Windows 10 this means that developers are going to be able to adapt compatible applications available on personal computers more easily to mobile use.
Many commentators seem to hold the opinion that nothing that Microsoft can do can overcome their original late entry into the mobile market and the relative failure of Windows smartphones ever since. A contrarian view might be that Microsoft still remains supreme in terms of work-place computing, even if not in terms of devices used by workers, and there might yet be ways to grow the market for Windows as a mobile platform by leveraging the average office’s reliance on Windows on its laptops/desktops.
To a large extent the success (or failure) of different platforms for mobile has been a matter of fashion. So which way does fashion flow, from experience of technology in a work context into leisure and recreational activities or the other way around? Sadly for Microsoft, we think that apps for recreation are the trendsetters BUT there may be hope for Windows in some contexts where the purchasing decisions lie with employers rather than individuals. Apps for staff ‘on the road’ or ‘in the field’ are big business though not as high profile apps for leisure. And, of course, increasing numbers of people have more than one smartphone in their possession; my work mobile - as opposed to my mobile - is common.
In terms of mobile apps for wealth management clients, we expect that they will continue to be content with apps for Android and iOS, where all their other after-work app requirements are being met. But if Microsoft were to come up with awe-inspiring developments in cloud computing or Internet security or its natural language research program, Windows as a mobile platform could have a new start in life.