At its annual shareholder meeting yesterday, some Microsoft shareholders were more than a little concerned about the company's mobile strategy, or if it even had one, reports GeekWire.
The meeting, which started with a request to "silence all Windows Phones and devices," gives the company's owners a rare opportunity to grill CEO Satya Nadella, and among the audience were some dedicated Windows Phone fans. One such Windows Phone-using shareholder, Dana Vance, expressed his surprise that Microsoft had released apps such as its Pix photo app and Outlook apps for Android and iPhone, but not its own platform. Vance is also an owner of the Band fitness wearable, and he alluded to claims that development of the device has been halted. With Microsoft appearing to downplay these two consumer-facing devices, he asked Nadella to explain the company's plans for consumer devices.
In response, Nadella gave the same kind of reply as he's given a number of times; the kind of reply that arguably prompted these questions in the first place. "When we control things silicon-up, that's how we will integrate those experiences," Nadella said. Microsoft 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." Per Geekwire, Nadella did also say that the Windows camera and mail apps would include features found in the apps for other platforms, but it's not clear when this will happen, or whether Microsoft's Windows apps will persistently trail behind its non-Windows apps.
A second shareholder who claimed to use his Windows Phone "18 hours a day" said that he'd heard the company is "stepping away from mobile" and so asked Nadella, "Can you calm me down... and tell me what your vision is for mobile?"
Nadella's answer was that the company would continue to focus on areas of differentiation; manageability, security, and the Continuum feature that enables a phone to be used to run PC-like apps (an ability that is set to be expanded in 2017):
Yes. So, our overall approach again to the previous question is 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. That said we are not stepping away or back from our focus on our mobile devices.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 in Windows phone is its manageability, its security, its continuing capability that is the ability to have a phone that in fact can even act like a PC. So, we are going to double down on those points of differentiation. In fact, the HP X3, which came out recently, is perhaps a great example of a differentiated device built using the Windows phone platform and that sort of points for the direction. We will keep looking at different forms, different functions that we can bring to mobile devices, while also supporting our software across a variety of devices. 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 on that.
Nadella has made similar comments throughout the year. While on the one hand the concept of "the phone as the PC" continues to inspire people—and may be an area that Microsoft can offer considerable value—it doesn't do much for Redmond's platform right now, and it has little obvious appeal to the all-important consumer market. As such, it's unlikely that this answer provides the satisfaction that the dying breed of Windows Phone fans is hoping for.