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Microsoft will make Windows phones, even if nobody else will

Lumia 430

Microsoft chief defiantly refuses to quit the smartphone market

Microsoft boss Satya Nadella has dismissed rumours the company is preparing to pull out of the mobile phone business, insisting his company will continue to deliver Windows handsets, even if no other manufacturers will. Rumours that Microsoft might quit the mobile business were given fresh impetus last week, when the company announced massive lay-offs in its smartphone division.

The company made a further 7,800 staff redundant and wrote down the value of its mobile business by $7.6 billion, as Nadella announced that the company would make far fewer models of its Lumia handsets in future. Despite buying Nokia’s handset business for $7.3 billion in 2012, Microsoft has struggled to make any significant headway in mobile, with a single-digit market share in most markets. 

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However, in an interview with ZDNet, Nadella insists the company isn’t about to turn its back on smartphones. “We will do everything we have to do to make sure we’re making progress on phones,” Nadella said.

“If no OEM stands up to build Windows devices we’ll build them,” Nadella added. “There will be Lumia devices.”

Microsoft is currently the only major smartphone maker still turning out Windows Phone devices. Companies such as Acer have dabbled with Windows Phone handsets, but they only make up a small fraction of the company’s line-up, which is dominated by Android handsets.

iMac moment?

The lack of OEM enthusiasm for Windows mobiles doesn’t seem to have deterred Nadella – at least, not publicly. The Microsoft boss even went as far to suggest that the company’s Lumia handsets could be Microsoft’s equivalent of the iMac, which helped swing Apple out of long-term decline to become the world’s biggest technology company. “You’ve got to remember even the Apple regeneration started with colourful iMacs,” Nadella said. “So let us first get the colourful iMacs. I think with what we’re doing with Lumia, we’re at that stage. I want to do good devices that people like, and then we will go on to doing the next thing and the next thing.”

What’s more, Nadella insists that one of the reasons he made Windows 10 a free upgrade for PC owners is because it will encourage more developers to write apps for Windows phones, with developers now able to write “universal” apps that work across both mobile and desktop. “If anything, the free upgrade for Windows 10 is meant to improve our phone position,” said Nadella. “If somebody wants to know whether I’m committed to Windows Phone, they should think about what I just did with the free upgrade to Windows, rather than – hey, I’m making four more phone models of value smartphones.”

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