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Windows Phone Users Grill Microsoft’s Satya Nadella On Mobile Strategy

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

What are you doing Satya? Microsoft boss faces shareholder questions over Redmond’s mobile strategy

Microsoft shareholders have questioned CEO Satya Nadella over Redmond’s future mobile strategy, given the lack of resounding success it has had in the market.

The troubled shareholders said they use Windows Phone devices, and it is clear they are unhappy after Microsoft killed off the platform and retreats from the mobile consumer space.

To be fair over the past two years Microsoft has faced a shrinking mobile market share, but critics argue that Redmond’s mobile vision is confused, and comes despite the fact that Nadella publicly pledged to create a “mobile-first and cloud-first world.”

satya nadella microsoft 3 Poor Taste

Nadella’s grilling by shareholders told place at Microsoft’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting commenced ironically, with the announcement “please silence all Windows Phones and other devices,” reported Geekwire.

For some shareholders, that announcement could be considered in poor taste after Microsoft killed off the Windows Phone platform and brutally terminated the mobile division it inherited from Nokia.

And this was reflected in a number of pointed questions to the Microsoft boss, from shareholders unhappy about that strategy and Redmond’s decision to make more of its apps available to rival mobile platforms Android and iOS.

Microsoft shareholder Dana Vance for example is an owner of a Windows Phone and a Microsoft Band. He was unhappy about the fact that the Microsoft Pix app was available for iPhone and Android but not Windows Phone. Vance was also surprised that those rival platforms had an Microsoft Outlook app, unlike Windows Phone.

Another issue that upset Vance was reports that Microsoft has put the Band on the back burner, and he asked Nadella to explain the company’s vision for its consumer devices.

As part of his response, Nadella reportedly said Microsoft’s Windows camera and mail apps will include the same features as in Microsoft’s apps for other platforms.

“When we control things silicon-up, that’s how we will integrate those experiences,” Nadella is quoted as saying. The company will “build devices that are unique and differentiated with our software capability on top of it – whether it’s Surface or Surface Studio or HoloLens or the phone – and also make our software applications available on Android and iOS and other platforms. That’s what I think is needed in order for Microsoft to help you as a user get the most out of our innovation”.

But another unhappy shareholder told Nadella that he uses his Windows Phone “18 hours a day” and said he had heard Microsoft is “stepping away from mobile”.

“Can you calm me down … and tell me what your vision is for mobile?” he asked Nadella.

“We think about mobility broadly. In other words, we think about the mobility of the human being across all of the devices, not just the mobility of a single device,” Nadella replied, before insisting that Redmond was not moving away from mobile.

“That said, we’re not stepping away or back from our focus on our mobile devices,” Nadella reportedly said. “What we are going to do is focus that effort on places where we have differentiation. If you take Windows Phone, where we are differentiated on Windows Phone is on manageability. It’s security, it’s Continuum capability – that is, the ability to have a phone that can act like a PC. So we’re going to double-down on those points of differentiation.”

Nadella pointed to devices such as HP Elite x3 device as an example of a Windows 10 phone that follows this strategy.

Mobile Confusion

“We will keep looking at different forms and different functions that we can bring to mobile devices, while also supporting our software across a variety of devices,” Nadella said. “So that’s the approach you will see us take. We are not stepping away from supporting our Windows Phone users. But at the same time we are recognizing that there are other platforms in mobile that have higher share, and we want to make sure that our software is available to them.”

It should be remembered in May Microsoft sold its feature phone business to Foxconn subsidiary FIH and HMD Global for $350 million (£242m).

HMD Global said yesterday that it plans to bring back Nokia branded smartphones to the market in 2017.

Microsoft commitment to mobile device had been questioned ever since it acquired Nokia’s smartphone business for £4.6 billion, as its ‘Lumia’ phones were the flagship range for Redmond’s Windows Phone operating system.

Satya Nadella and Stephen ElopCritics point out that Satya Nadella rapidly lost faith in the mobile business after a number of ill-received Windows Phone devices, but Redmond (publicly at least) repeatedly maintains that it is still committed to Windows 10 on mobile devices.

The firm is reportedly working on new smartphones, but these seem to be aimed at the business and not the consumer segment. It has been suggested the first ‘Surface’ phone could make its debut in 2017.

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