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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Complete guide to Windows 10 mobile features, apps and devices

Future of Microsoft rests on Windows' success in the mobile era

With a shifting smartphone business and big changes in the latest Windows OS, Microsoft's next moves will define its future as a business.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Modern Mobility: The good and bad of supporting Apple devices

Mobile technology continues to hammer away at the once-dominant position of Windows PCs, and the future of Microsoft hangs in the balance as the company takes bold steps that will either right the ship or make it even less relevant.

From the antitrust suits of the 1990s to the utter failure of Windows Vista, it seems as if Microsoft is always facing one existential crisis or another. Erasing the mistakes of the past is a crucial component of Microsoft's strategy to move forward.

CEO Satya Nadella wrote off his predecessor Steve Ballmer's $7.2 billion Nokia acquisition this summer, shortly after former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop left the company. The 2013 deal, the second biggest in Microsoft's history, had failed to substantially alter the company's fortunes in the smartphone market.

And the free Windows 10 upgrades currently offered to every Windows user are as much about introducing the new operating system as they are about getting customers off Windows 8 -- an OS that clung too tightly to history at the expense of embracing the mobile future.

These moves do not come without risk. At a time when smartphone sales continue to grow and PC sales drop, Microsoft finds itself without a flagship manufacturer for its Windows Mobile devices. Although Nokia wasn't even one of the top five smartphone manufacturers by market share, according to Gartner, it had some presence. Nadella said Microsoft is committed to its own branded smartphones and pledged to reinvent its business, but details -- which will ultimately determine the company's success or failure -- remain scant.

The Windows 10 update option Microsoft pushed out will make it significantly easier for Windows 7 and 8 users to give the new OS a spin, but this creates a double-edged sword situation. If customers try it and like it, adoption could skyrocket. If it's buggy, or if the learning curve is too steep, people could abandon Windows altogether -- especially if the downgrade process is cumbersome. (Microsoft makes it easy to revert to Windows 7 or 8 within a month of upgrading to Windows 10, but users who wait longer will have to reinstall the old OS from scratch with a USB drive.)

Windows is Microsoft's core business, and its success in the mobile era is essential to the future of Microsoft. Windows is also the core computing platform in the business world, and if it falls out of favor with end users, it will have serious ramifications for IT.

Next Steps

How cross-device apps could sway Windows decisions

Windows 10 can't save slipping PC sales

This was last published in September 2015

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How can Microsoft stay relevant in the mobile age?
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I think it all has to stem from Windows - if adoption is strong, and the experience adapts well to all devices, then Microsoft is in business and will have leverage with smartphone manufacturers. 

I do think the Surface plays a role here as well.
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I agree that Surface will play a role, and I suspect that role will have more to do with their success than Windows phones will, largely due to the foothold that surface already has and the lack of a strong foothold that the Windows phone has.
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I think more people will consider the Surface in light of the iPad Pro announcement, which is good for Microsoft (especially when you compare the two on price).
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SORRY Microsoft NO WAY will WIN10 succeed.......
REASON
You have just thrown millions of users under the bus.
These users told you WIN8 was a FAIL and WHY the UI and said the wanted the "Classic Start/Menu UI" as it was in WIN7 selectable with NO Tiles or METRO.
Now here we are with WIN10 same CRAP NOT LIKED or WANTED, along with the tracking, Auto Updating, Cortana voice we as business users DONT want or need VOICE.

WHAT we want is a UI that reflects our needs and WIN10 does NOT.
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