Microsoft has struggled to make Windows Phone a viable competitor in the mobile ecosystem for more than five years now. There have been some good devices running Windows Phone, but the lack of apps has been a constant pain point that has limited adoption. On the cusp of Windows 10 coming to smartphones, Microsoft is dealing with a new problem, and it might be entirely their own doing. Developers that have previously been maintaining Windows Phone apps are losing interest, and in some cases dropping support altogether.
The latest developer to pull out of Windows Phone is the financial manager service Mint. The users of the Windows Phone app are not pleased in the least, but Mint’s position is that development resources are not infinite, and it already has Web, Android, and iOS versions to maintain. Windows Phone apparently isn’t worth the effort. This follows the end of support for apps by Pinterest, Bank of America, Kabam, and more.
Microsoft can’t blame all of this on the dominance of Android or the negative portrayal of Windows Phone in the media. Microsoft itself has often not shown Windows Phone the kind of love it should have. Implementations of Skype and Office are better on competing platforms than they are on Windows Phone, and Microsoft has removed many Lumia photography apps from the store as well. You can’t blame third-party developers for wanting to bail when Microsoft seems more interested in supporting iPad Office users than users of Windows Phone.
There’s a chance Microsoft could turn things around with Windows 10 on phones. This will be the first universal Microsoft OS that can share apps between desktop and mobile with very little legwork for developers. And there are a lot of Windows PCs out there, many of which are eligible for a free Windows 10 upgrade. That might keep developers on-board with Windows Phone if they can easily support computers and phones with the same code.
Windows 10 will also support a method for getting Android and iOS apps running on Windows. This is a good move for Microsoft, but it’s probably also the mobile platform’s only hope. It’s not ideal either. Developers will probably port apps to Windows 10 because it’s easy, but they won’t look or work like Windows apps — they’ll work like Android and iOS apps. By making this an option, Microsoft is encouraging developers like Mint to refocus their efforts on native apps for other platforms knowing they can also port those apps to Windows 10 on phones later. Maybe it won’t work perfectly, but it’s not like there are very many Windows Phone users to complain (sorry).
Windows 10 is giving developers every possible opportunity to be part of the ecosystem, even if that won’t always offer the best experience for users. At least they’ll have an experience, right? Windows 10 is expected to start appearing on existing phones in December. After five years of Windows Phone, this might be Microsoft’s last chance.