Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows smartphone strategy has been anything but clear as of late, and now the company has muddied the waters a bit more. Microsoft said this week that it is delaying its Project Astoria tool, which would have made it easy for Android developers to port their apps over to the Windows 10 Mobile platform.
Astoria was only just announced back in April, so it's a bit odd that Microsoft would have such a quick change of heart toward the project. The company hasn't completely killed off Astoria (at least not officially), but The Verge reported that Microsoft is concerned that the Android apps don't run well through Windows and are less secure.
Another mobile misstep?
The news comes just as Microsoft begins selling its new Lumia 950 and 950 XL smartphones. Microsoft chose AT&T to sell its devices exclusively in its stores, essentially ensuring that the devices will hardly make a dent in Microsoft's goal of selling 1 billion Windows 10 devices (including phones, tablets and computers) over the next three years.
At this point it's a bit difficult to follow Microsoft's mobile strategy. The company says it wants to allow developers to easily bring over the Android apps to Windows 10 phones, only to backtrack on the offer. Then it launches two new Windows phones, but only allows one U.S. carrier to promote and sell the devices. Meanwhile, Microsoft sets a goal of getting 1 billion Windows 10 devices into the hands of users.
Right now, smartphones running Windows only account for 2.5% of mobile operating market share. On top of that, Apple's iOS accounts for about 92% of all global smartphone profits. So what Microsoft is left with are mobile phones that it won't let most carriers sell, running on a platform that most consumers don't want, without giving app developers an easy way to bring their Android apps over to the system. It's hardly a recipe for success.
The bigger picture
Microsoft obviously knows its precarious phone position, but the company also knows that creating a cohesive experience across all of its Windows platforms could be one of the best ways to keep both its software and hardware products relevant.
Astoria could have brought lots of Android apps over to the Windows platform, but then users wouldn't have had a true Windows experience on the phones. For Microsoft, that was likely too much of a gamble. The company is still trying to convince consumers that Windows can be a great mobile platform, and allowing poorly performing Android apps into the system wouldn't have helped that cause.
Sure, Windows 10 Mobile will allow some iOS app porting, but those reportedly work much better than the Android apps do, and shouldn't hurt a user's overall experience with Windows 10 Mobile platform. Stopping Astoria in its tracks now essentially sends a signal to developers that Windows Mobile is here to stay.
Microsoft now has the daunting task of convincing developers to spend time building for its platform. The company is making that easier by allowing apps built for Windows 10 to work across all of its devices, including PCs, tablets, and phones. That could help spur new interest in the platform, and hopefully drum up more interest in Windows phones. While Microsoft's overall mobile strategy may still be a bit murky, one thing is clear: the company is still making a big bet that Windows 10 Mobile can succeed.
Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.