Steve Ballmer's time as Microsoft CEO was controversial. His solution for many of the industry pressures was to make Microsoft a device maker with a mobile focus. To catch up with competitors, he pushed through a costly take over of then still mobile giant Nokia and we know the outcome – Windows Phone / Windows 10 Mobile failed so far.
Back in November 2016, in an interview with Bloomberg, the former Microsoft CEO revealed that that decision ultimately led to the breaking of his relationship with Bill Gates.
Ballmer has always believed that hardware was the way to go for Microsoft and has reiterated his belief in a new interview with Bloomberg.
Hardware business and Windows Vista
Despite the fact that Ballmer was CEO of Microsoft since 2000, it took him six years to take full control of the steering wheel.
Ballmer said in his interview with Bloomberg that the reason for the Windows Phone decline is the fact that Microsoft didn't move towards the hardware business earlier.
When asked how he would handle the Windows Phone differently, stating that he “would have moved into the hardware business faster and recognized that what we had with the PC that there was a separation. [Our] chips, systems, and software [success], wasn't largely going to reproduce itself in the mobile world.”
Ballmer also claimed in the interview that the troubled launch of Windows Vista had a negative impact on the Windows Phone business.
The Ex-Microsoft CEO also said that “[Microsoft] should have been in the hardware business sooner in the phone case and [Microsoft was] still suffering some of the effects of [its] Vista release of Windows which sucked up a huge amount of resources for a much longer period of time than it should have because [Microsoft] stumbled over it.”
The decline of Windows Phone
Windows Phone was launched back in October 2010, with Windows Phone 7. The mobile platform of Microsoft has been in constant decline for the past seven years.
Back in April 2016, we reported that Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile numbers slipped to 2.5% of the whole US market in the first quarter of 2016, according to ComScore.
A month later, in May 2016, we reported that in the EU5 nations Windows Phone has all but collapsed. According to Kantar Worldpanel, Windows Phone devices are on rapid decline in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the UK. In just three months through the first quarter of 2016, Windows Phone sales declined by half to hold a 4.9% market share across the EU5.
Recently, Windows 10 Mobile users were hit by another unfortunate event, at least according to a ZDNet report. In the report, ZDNet said that Microsoft will only allow a small subset of Windows 10 Mobile devices to be upgraded to the Creators Update.
Break from first-party hardware and Surface Phone
Windows Phone rarely experienced the success of Google's Android-powered and Apple's iPhone mobile devices. Microsoft appears to have taken a break from creating first-party mobile hardware and is allegedly working on a next-gen smartphone called Surface Phone.
Microsoft has yet to make an official statement on Surface Phone. However, the company will hold a Spring 2017 Hardware event that will see new Surface devices announced.
The obvious category that is almost conspicuous by its absence is mobile. The idea of a Surface Phone has been with us for years and Microsoft could be preparing to make a long-awaited statement on the alleged device this spring.