Statistics can be wildly misleading. Being third place in a market that’s anticipated to be worth $US355 billion by 2020 sounds like a pretty sweet spot to be in. But there are degrees of third place, and when first and second gobble up a cumulative 99.6% of the pie, it’s probably best to cut your losses and admit that a life of eating crumbs isn’t what your shareholders signed up for. Microsoft is taking the first step to that today, by officially ending support for Windows Phone 8.1.

On one level, this means very little. Windows Phone 8.1 is over three years old now, and Microsoft has since moved to Windows 10 Mobile OS. The devil is in the details though: Last summer, Microsoft cut thousands of jobs from its mobile division, and the last phone it produced inhouse was 2015’s Lumia XL. Plus AdDuplex estimates that as of last month, just 20.3% of Windows Phone devices were running Windows 10, with 73.9% still on Windows Phone 8.1.

And it’s not like the signs for Windows 10 Mobile have been particularly rosey, either. While desktop Windows 10 got a major facelift with the Creators Update, the mobile version barely got a look in, and as The Verge notes, nothing from the Fall Creators Update has found its way into testing on mobile. It seems increasingly likely that Windows 10 Mobile is just going through the motions until its scheduled retirement party next October.

It’s been pretty obvious for a while that smartphone domination was turning into a two horse race – it’s just that a decade ago, you’d have thought that at least one of those horses would have Microsoft, BlackBerry, Nokia or Palm branding.



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