Given that Microsoft has seen its fortunes in the smartphone market dwindle as Android and iOS have risen to become a duopoly (the company has low single-digit global market share), you would think that the Microsoft would be banging on the doors of every carrier that it could find to get its smartphones into the hands of customers. But the company seemingly wants to keep strapping a 20-pound weight to one leg as it attempts to compete with Google and Apple which are sprinting ahead at a rapid clip.
Look no further than the announcement of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL earlier this week. It was revealed that AT&T will be the only U.S. carrier allowed to sell the smartphones. Customers will be able to purchase the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, off-contract and unlocked, from the Microsoft Store.
The limited availability also means that unless you’re an AT&T customer (who would have access to the AT&T NEXT financing program), you’ll have to pay the full price of $549 to score a Lumia 550 ($649 for the Lumia 950 XL). And even if you did purchase one off-contract and unlocked, it will only work on AT&T and T-Mobile networks — Sprint and Verizon Wireless customers need not apply.
Needless to say, one of the most outspoken figure in the wireless industry has come out guns blazing at Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile strategy:
We have to say, it’s hard not to sympathize with Legere here. He wants to give Microsoft all the support it needs, but the folks in Redmond just don’t seem to want any additional help. In fact, Microsoft told ZDNet in a statement that this is its actual strategy moving forward with the Lumia 950 and 950 XL:
We're refocusing our channel strategy, narrowing it in the short-term and plan for broader operator availability longer term. While there was interest across the board from U.S. operators, currently we've made the decision to have AT&T carry the Lumia 950, and then sell both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL unlocked through our own channel in the Microsoft Stores.
Needless to say, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL aren’t likely to be big sellers — at least in the interim, which is a damn shame. For the first time in years, Microsoft has worthy flagships that are are the equal to their Android and iOS counterparts and with the addition of the Microsoft Display Dock, can be used as near-fully functional desktop Windows 10 PCs. And yet the company is handicapping its own efforts with its AT&T tie-up.
We want to Windows 10 Mobile to succeed so that we have a strong third player in the smartphone sector, but Microsoft doesn’t seem quite prepared to play in the big leagues yet.