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Microsoft can gain ground on Apple and Google, by innovating with Windows Phone

Microsoft, now you can gain ground on Apple and Google -- just innovate with Windows Phone

The mobile market is very much a three horse race. On mobiles and tablets, Apple, Google and Microsoft battle it out for dominance, but Microsoft always seems to find itself trailing in third place — BlackBerry can be all but ignored when looking at mobile devices as they are just not the force they used to be.

None of these three platforms is new — each has been around for some time. They have had time to develop and evolve, build up a user base, establish an ecosystem and generally take hold. Despite this, Windows Phone always seems to find itself in last place. The operating system may be making inroads in some parts of the world, but it still has a great deal of catching up to do.

“The number of apps produced for Windows Phone is growing, but it is still embarrassingly low.”

Why is this? It’s not because of the limited hardware that’s available, that’s for sure. Android certainly leads the way when it comes to choice, but Apple has shown that offering users a limited number of devices does little to stifle popularity. Anyway, more recently, there has been plenty of handsets to choose from for Windows Phone.

Maybe it’s a lack of focus. Apple has several corners of the market covered. One the one hand, the iPhone is an aspirational device. It’s not cheap, but it’s not so horrendously expensive that it is rendered unobtainable. On the other hand, splitting users into 5c and 5s owners opened things up even further — anyone who has been put off by the price of an iPhone how has one less obstacle in their way.

The Android section of the market is rather much more fragmented. There is a plethora of handsets to choose from, and something to suit every budget. Android appeals to a wide range of people because of this but also thanks to the fact that the handsets are delightfully hackable. Android is a solid operating system and there are numerous variants available from different handset manufacturers, all of whom like to stamp their mark on the OS.

iOS is also quite customizable, but where iOS and Android both really shine is in the range of apps available. The number of apps produced for Windows Phone is growing, but it is still embarrassingly low — and there is the added problem that a very large proportion of as are poor quality, unknown third-party offerings, or both.

“We need someone to shake things up, deliver something mindblowing and take things in a new direction.”

With recent OS updates, iOS and Android alike have continued their gradual evolution. And this is where Microsoft could steal the lead. iOS 7 has just been released, as has KitKat — there are going to be no significant updates in the foreseeable future. Microsoft has Windows Phone 8.1 on the horizon and this is a gold opportunity to become a significant mobile operating system once again.

Now is not the time for little tweaks and minor changes, now is not the time for evolution and gradual improvements. Now is the time for revolution. Windows Phone in no way needs to ape iOS or Android, but at the same time it could learn a great deal from both of them. Both rival operating system have features that Windows Phone would benefit from, but Microsoft is going to please few people by just going ahead and copying them bit for bit.

We’ve spent too long enduring minor updates to our mobile operating system. We need someone to shake things up, deliver something mindblowing and take things in a new direction. Microsoft still has time to do this with Windows Phone 8.1 — there’s still time to pull something out of the bag, to surprise and amaze us.

We already know much of what to expect from Windows Phone 8.1, but I’m holding out for a few secret extras. Microsoft is already delivering a very different experience to Android and iOS, but it can be so much more. Hopefully the developers are ready to take the world by storm; it’s much needed.

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