Windows Phone 8: 3 Things Microsoft Needs to Do to Catch Up

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 is a thing of legend. Having completely and utterly reached a breaking point with Windows Mobile, Microsoft later spent the next four release cycles building a new mobile operating system from the ground up. It was a calculated risk that, in the end, mostly paid off.

Microsoft might have counted on iOS gaining a foothold, but it seems it didn’t see Google’s Android juggernaut coming at all. The reset left Microsoft with an operating system that was well designed and could be just as intuitive and useful as Apple’s iOS. It also left Microsoft in a perpetual game of Android catch-up that still plagues it to this day.

To be frank, the gap is clearly evident when comparing Android and Windows Phone. Here are some of the steps Microsoft needs to take to make Windows Phone an actual true alternative to Android.

Move to Windows Core Faster

Most Windows Phone flagships like the HTC 8X, have decidedly mid-range specs thanks to the operating system.

Most Windows Phone flagships like the HTC 8X, have decidedly mid-range specs thanks to the operating system.

When Microsoft first announced that it would be getting rid of the Windows CE underpinnings it had used to create Windows Phone and replace it with the Windows core, many industry watchers hailed it as the moment when Microsoft would finally be able to give Windows Phone the same scale and breadth of Windows.

To date, that’s hasn’t happened. Instead, Windows Phone device makers are still stuck on a constant treadmill of waiting for specific updates to Windows Phone before they can introduce their advanced devices. According to Nokia, that’s why it took it so long to release the Lumia 1020. Microsoft needs to move quicker in transitioning Windows Phone to using the kernel and code from Windows, preferably Windows RT.

Rethink App APIs & Add a File System

At no time does Windows Phone display it’s immaturity more than in dealing with applications. Like Apple’s iOS, Windows Phone sandboxes applications, meaning that (excluding actions that are allowed by the operating system) apps on Windows Phone are completely unaware of each other. On paper, that’s great. Apps can’t interfere with other apps and can’t harm the operating system. These are both good things.

On the other hand this leads to all sorts of strange, and decidedly bad, experiences for users. For example, a Bit-Torrent application can only download information if it’s open, barring that Windows Phone suspends the application. Even worse, even when that file is downloaded other apps aren’t able to see that file. In a world where smartphones really are hand-held computers, Windows Phone should be a little more computer like and a little less device like.

Introduce Accessories Program


While Nokia has kept the accessories market interesting with things like it’s wireless charging system, other OEMs and Microsoft have done very little to encourage accessory makers.

How Windows Phone doesn’t have some kind of “Works with Windows Phone” program is beyond me, but more than three years after the platform’s introduction, the accessory ecosystem remains absolutely weak. That isn’t to say that it’s a complete loss — Nokia has introduced a huge line of accessories that integrate with their own applications.

That’s the real shame though. For a platform that prides itself on making it easier for users to transition between devices by mandating a user-interface, Microsoft hasn’t even attempted to bolster an accessories market for Windows Phone. That’s a shame, since products from Apple and Google are all about extending the users’ experience with all sorts of third-party accessories.

Of course, none of this virtually guarantees Microsoft more market share for Windows Phone, but it would mean that the company wouldn’t continue being hit over the head for having mediocre experiences when compared to iOS and Android.

Unfortunately, Microsoft isn’t expected to ship another major update to Windows Phone until early next year. We’ll have to wait until then to see if Microsoft makes any significant progress in addressing the issues holding its platform back.