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At one time the Windows Phone seemed like a promising gadget worth keeping an eye out for as a potential competitor to Android and iOS. It had interesting integrations with Microsoft’s Office software suites among many other benefits. However, time has not been kind on Microsoft’s ambitions for the handset.
Microsoft officially ended support for Windows Phone 8 in 2017, and Windows Mobile 10 was the successor to that ill-fated effort to bring Windows to small form factors. It ran on devices with screen sizes below 7” or what most phones, phablets and mini tablets come with. As of December 10 this year, support will officially end.
You may ask, does this mean exactly? No, your phone will not blow up with a kill switch all of a sudden or stop working, it merely means that Microsoft will end support via security updates and things of that nature past Dec. 10, 2019.
On Microsoft’s Windows support page, Microsoft released a FAQ (frequently asked questions) with answers related to this question and what users should expect. Here is the summary what it basically will entail:
As of December 10, 2019, Windows 10 Mobile users are no longer eligible to receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft for free. Third parties or paid support programs may provide ongoing support, but it is important to recognize that Microsoft support will not publicly provide updates or patches for Windows 10 Mobile.
Apps, themselves will continue to be supported as they are independent of the OS Lifecycle policy. To compound this good news with some bad, however, Microsoft mentions that the actual Store only “may” continue to work after the Dec. 10 date. This means that you may start looking at other options come Christmas of this year.
If you are still inclined to hand onto your Lumia 640 past this date, however, do not panic. It will still work with more unofficial methods or support going forward.
The Lumia lineup was acquired by Microsoft from Nokia as part of Microsoft’s push into handsets. The 2013 acquisition was huge with a staggering sum of money involved. According to Microsoft’s press release from the time, the acquisition involved EUR 3.79 billion changing hands.
In just a couple of years after the acquisition, Microsoft had to write off $7.6 billion and admitted it was a failure, according to a Computerworld report from 2015 about the write off. It was an acquisition that was heavily pushed by former CEO Steve Ballmer and its objectors included names such as Satya Nadella, who succeeded Balmer as the current Microsoft CEO.
With this end of the line coming for Microsoft’s plans for Windows on small form factors, Microsoft even encourages its users to switch to rival phone makers or operating systems.
“With the Windows 10 Mobile OS end of support, we recommend that customers move to a supported Android or iOS device,” reads one answer on Microsoft’s FAQ support page.
It is also worth noting that on the FAQ support page, Microsoft mentions that device backups will also fade away and it will happen within a few months time after support ends:
“After the end of support, automatic or manual creation of new device backups for settings and some applications will continue for 3 months, ending March 10, 2020. Some services including photo uploads and restoring a device from an existing device backup may continue to work for up to another 12 months from end of support.”
Keep in mind that although Microsoft has pretty much now conceded defeat in trying to bring Windows to handsets or devices with screen sizes below 7”, it still has tablets it is supporting. The Surface lineup of Microsoft tablets run Windows 10 S mode by default with potential upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
Windows 10 S is a mode where users are restricted to installing apps officially support by Microsoft by relying on the Microsoft Store. You can see which operating system the various models of Surface tablets support or can be upgraded to from Microsoft’s website.
Following the acquisition of Nokia’s devices and services division, Nokia continued to exist focusing on other technologies such as telecommunications infrastructure and the Internet of Things (IoT). You can read more about Nokia’s current ambitions on its vision page. Topics such as machine learning, 5G networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) are mentioned.
However, the company also returned to form and is running a phone business again due to Microsoft’s giving up on its handset ambitions.
A Guardian report from 2016 mentions this and the fact Microsoft actually sold the brand to a company called HMD, which was actually ran by Nokia employees in Finland.
Digging further into this story, the HMD Global website proudly displays, “Hi. We’re HMD. The home of Nokia Phones” with a “We are pleased to meet you” below.”
The company’s website may not be up to date as it mentions its 2017 plans of entering the smartphone market with Nokia phones running Android. It also shows support for Nokia 8.1, which is an active phone on the market right now.
With all these acquisitions and mobile businesses changing hands interchangeably it is easy to get confused. To compound this further, Nokia’s main website makes it look like the company may be running a phone division of sorts with a product page showing the Nokia 7 Plus. On the handset’s support page, it lists Android 9 Pie as the operating system and not Windows 10 Mobile however. However, upon closer inspection it seems that Nokia is simply pushing the HMD phones branded under the Nokia banner on its site.
Android Authority wrote an analysis of the HMD-ran Nokia business since its acquisition from Microsoft and says that in many ways it stayed true to Nokia’s former vision and in others it has made some mistakes.
For many phone users, this latest move ending support for Microsoft’s mobile OS does not come as a surprise and many saw this move coming. The list of supported devices that can run Windows 10 mobile can be found here and it mostly includes different models of the Lumia lineup of phones. However, do not count out the big Redmond-based gorilla out just yet.
A Surface-branded phone is in the works and Microsoft will be making a comeback in the recent future to its handset plans. The question is what Microsoft needs to do to make it successful with previously-failed plans and such a strong market hold both Apple and Google have on the market with their iOS and Android ecosystems. A step in the right direction is the branding of Surface rather than trying to steal Nokia’s thunder and run on that brand image. It is good Microsoft is confident in its own hardware now and has seen success with the Surface to not have to rely on other manufacturers and it will need to offer something compelling in this crowded market to finally achieve that success it has been striving for.
January 23, 2019 at 12:16PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs