When Microsoft announced its wrenching $7.6 billion write-down last week, it was easy to presume that the company was giving up on mobile. At the very least, the financial avalanche sent a strong signal that Windows phone in its current guise has failed in a major way.
The 7,800 people sacked in the process, the majority of whom came from the Windows phone division, simply accentuated that point.
Microsoft has badly wanted to be a player in the handset wars, but its market share numbers tell a consistently wretched tale. In the US, it has never managed more than a crawl, and is currently stuck at around the 3 percent mark. The company has seen somewhat higher numbers in some European markets, but there has been evidence that even those relative cratonic bastions have eroded in recent quarters.
Luckily or smartly, Microsoft has placed more than one mobile bet and it doesn’t intend to live and die with handsets. It has other bullets left in the chamber including Windows 10 and the cross-platform mobile apps too.
Whatever happens, Microsoft can ultimately never walk away from mobile because giving up would essentially be ceding a massive portion of the future of computing, and it simply can’t afford to do that. Whatever happens they fight on. They keep trying. The company didn’t give up when the Kin blew up on them, and neither will they give up after the $7.6B write down. They have cash and they can afford to keep going back to the drawing board — again and again. Perhaps they subject themselves to some ridicule when they fail, but they will keep trying because they understand the importance of mobile. Satya’s pitch at the Worldwide Partner’s Conference was clear. If the company can’t get at you today with handsets, it will continue to try to push from the applications angle. When Nadella says there is no clear line between the consumer world and work, he’s clearly onto something, and perhaps Microsoft’s best shot at capturing mobile mindshare is via work where it has the strongest presence today. Nobody could argue after that mammoth write-down that Microsoft’s mobile future is looking bright, but at the same time, it would be a huge mistake to underestimate Redmond. Microsoft clearly recognizes the strategic importance of mobile, and it’s going to continue to try to find a way to succeed, come hell or high water. That means it’s going to attack by app, by OS and by phone and see what works — and it’s going to keep investing until one shoe or another drops because it has no choice.