This is what happens when an ecosystem dies
Windows Phone 8 is another lesson we’re learning the hard way. You know, it’s been a while since Marilyn Monroe’s now-famous quote was uttered: “if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”. You can debate whether that resonates with most people or not, but when your “worst” is basically “useless”, there’s nothing you can really do about it.
More recently, the HUAWEI-Google drama taught us the importance of services in the success of a product. It’s not all about hardware, of course, but when services, or, to be more specific, lack of services, render a product that’s still capable hardware-wise useless, we tend to realize how much we rely on said services.
It’s not just only for our usage scenario or particular apps. Sometimes the entire existence (or extinction) of a product (or entire generation), otherwise still capable hardware-wise, depends on it. This is what happens when you kill an ecosystem.
When I was at my best: Lumia 1020
I’m showing you the Lumia 1020 because this model happens to still be in my drawer. Long-time Windows Phone users (OGs) know that there are many other Nokia Lumia models in the same situation.
These are phones that didn’t get the Microsoft update treatment to Windows Phone 10 and were stuck on Windows Phone 8 (my particular one is on Cyan). And, as we know, Microsoft has killed off support for Windows Phone 8. To my surprise, this went way beyond the inability to get updates (for the OS or for apps). This rendered the Lumia 1020 useless. It’s basically a camera that is able to make phone calls and send texts. It’s that bad.
When I’m at my worst (read: useless)
One would think that, even without software or app updates, you’d still be able to use a capable phone. One would be wrong, at least in this particular case.
With services gone, the first thing out is the Store. You are not able to access it, since it’s no longer there. This means that your apps don’t get updates. This also means that if an app is already on your phone (Skype) as a placeholder, tapping it to go to the store and downloading it will fail.
How about email? While back in the day, you had plenty of e-mail options to choose from, believe me, that none can be set up. I can’t log in with a Microsoft Account. I can’t log in with a Yahoo account. And, I can’t log in with a Google account. Needless to say, all those accounts are active; Microsoft seems to have pulled the plug and stopped allowing users to add those to their phones.
With that, e-mail, calendar, and contacts don’t work.
Facebook came preinstalled, and it launches alright. The problem is you can’t log in with a valid Facebook account. I think you know where I’m getting at with this.
What works? You can still edit Office documents locally, but what’s the point if you can’t share them or access incoming ones? The calculator still works, if you’re out and want to calculate the amount of the tip you want to generously hand out. Of course, I’m being sarcastic: apps baked into Windows Phone 8 that don’t require services or connectivity will work. Maps are still working and Internet Explorer is still alive.
I’m just a camera that can make calls
What was once a true statement of stellar hardware on a platform that had the potential to grow is now sadly just a camera (still a damn good one at that) that can make phone calls and send texts.
And, this should serve us as a valuable lesson, in case we didn’t learn from the demise of Symbian, BlackBerry OS, and others before it. You can’t help but wonder about the potential disaster that could hypothetically happen if a company like Google pulls the plug. I know, it’s highly unlikely to happen, but the most important takeaway, at least for me, personally, is how important it is for a company to be in charge of both hardware, and software.
Apple is pretty much the only one among the top players whose hardware products don’t depend on third-party services, or at least not existentially. HUAWEI might try to (is being forced to) mirror that, but it’s a sad pill to swallow for all the Windows Phone fans of yesterday.
In the case of Windows Phone, the ecosystem did not die out. It was killed and leaves nothing behind but pages of tech history and memories to fuel your nostalgic tech conversations.
Have a classic phone from yesteryear that was rendered useless due to its ecosystem dying out? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
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