Microsoft's latest earnings report revealed that sales revenue from its Windows phones plummeted to just $5 million last quarter, compared with $1.4 billion during the same quarter two years earlier. The company predicted "negligible" revenue from its phone hardware division during the current quarter, and with no new handsets expected anytime soon, its phone business is effectively dead.
Meanwhile, Microsoft recently split development of Windows 10 Mobile away from that of Windows 10 for PCs, for the first time since it launched in 2015, raising questions about the company's commitment to the mobile version of its operating system. The mobile OS was barely mentioned during Microsoft's Build 2017 developer conference last week, prompting further speculation about its future.
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, who recently returned "with renewed energy" to the company after a lengthy sabbatical, made it clear that it hasn't turned its back on Windows handsets. Speaking with Business Insider, he said: "We're going to continue to support Windows phone."
But he added that "Windows is a platform that drives the experience on a whole range of devices." Indeed, at Build 2017, Microsoft revealed new cross-platform experiences to help users easily continue their activities across not just Windows devices, but those running iOS and Android as well.
While Belfiore emphasized Microsoft's ongoing support for Windows phones, it's still unclear what that support will look like. Microsoft's Bill Karagounis said in February that new Windows 10 Mobile builds would continue to arrive "beyond the release of the Creators Update", which began rolling out a few weeks ago - but those preview releases have so far lacked the features and improvements made available to PCs in the latest Insider Preview builds.
The Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update brought only a handful of new features, and some additions that were promised - including Night Light, and improvements to the PC-like Continuum experience - still haven't appeared, even in preview form. Microsoft is likely to bring these features to Windows 10 Mobile eventually, but with vanishingly few Windows phone users remaining - and the OS now officially supported on just 13 devices - there's little incentive for Microsoft to dedicate significant resources to developing new features for those handsets.
Support for Microsoft's new Fluent Design System - formerly known as Project NEON - will also come to Windows 10 Mobile, but so far, it seems that the new visual style will only be seen in apps, rather than at the OS level.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said earlier this month: "I'm sure we will make more phones, but they will not look like phones that are there today." Microsoft's Alex Kipman, who created its HoloLens headset, said that "the phone is already dead; people just haven't realized it yet", although his comments referred to smartphones in general, rather than Windows phones specifically.