Many reasons have been given why Windows Phone has failed to gain significant traction in the three years since its release. Some maintain that there is no room for a third mobile phone operating system. Others would point out that there are not enough apps in the Windows Phone Store. Really, the blame falls on the Windows Phone operating system itself.
In one way, Windows Phone is an amazing operating system. If you find Apple iOS too austere, and Android too busy, Windows Phone occupies a nice position in the middle. The Live Tile interface gives at a glance information, in a less cluttered manner than most Android interfaces. In a world with a billion Facebook users, Windows Phone’s deep Facebook integration should have been another selling point. But as good an operating system as Windows Phone is, its biggest failing is hardware support.
When the first Windows Phone 7 devices were launched in the fourth quarter of 2010, their WVGA displays and fast single core processors were still sufficient to launch interesting hardware. Windows Phone 7 itself was an unfinished product, not ready for prime time. That would soon be remedied by two updates to the Windows Phone operating system. The problem was despite the updates, Windows Phone only supported WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolutions and single core processors.
This would ultimately see Windows Phone manufacturers offering few models in 2011, and Nokia, trying to compete with Apple’s iPhone and Android flagship phones with the Nokia Lumia 800 and 900 into 2012. It is hard to compete, when the best a manufacturer can do is repackage two year old hardware.
Windows Phone 8 brought new promise. But surprisingly, Microsoft seemed as shortsighted about hardware support as they had been during their Windows Phone 7 launch. Windows Phone 8 was released in October last year, it included support for Qualcomm dual core processors and higher HD (720 x 1280 pixels) and WXGA (768 x 1280) resolutions. But by this time, Android had moved on to Full HD (1080 x 1920) devices with quad core processors. The result is that the best Windows Phone, would have specifications similar to mid-level Android devices.
Because of the limitation on screen resolution, HTC cancelled plans for a bigger screened Windows Phone 8 device.
The next version of Windows Phone will include support for Full HD displays and quad core processors. If Android and Apple stand still, Windows Phone manufacturers may finally be able to offer competitive hardware.
Ultimately, the failure of Windows Phone to gain traction, is the result of the inability of Microsoft to develop operating systems optimized for, or even capable of running the next generation of hardware. It is hard to play catch up, when your hardware is lagging behind.