Windows Phone 8.1 is officially dead as Microsoft ends support

Lumia 650
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Microsoft has officially ended support for Windows Phone 8.1, the third iteration of the company’s operating system built specifically for mobile that arrived on the scene in 2014. As of today, it will no longer receive updates going forward, according to Microsoft’s support site.

Every year it seems another aspect of Windows Phone is quietly killed off, and this news leaves only Windows 10 as the remaining active platform for the few handsets capable of running it. The last phone Microsoft released was the midrange Lumia 650 in February 2016.

About this time last year, Microsoft heavily scaled back its mobile group by roughly 1,850 jobs. The bulk of the cuts came to those at the division’s headquarters in Espoo, Finland. Formerly Nokia’s home, Microsoft completed its acquisition of that team in 2014, renamed it Microsoft Mobile, and adopted the Lumia brand while licensing the Nokia name out to HMD.

However, for Windows Phone owners, the death of version 8.1 is perhaps the most serious blow to the platform yet. An estimated 76.3 percent of phones running Windows are still on 8.1 according to figures from AdDuplex. Many of those devices are presumed stranded on 8.1, though analysts add it’s just as likely users abandoned those phones for Android and iOS.

Meanwhile, it is estimated only 17 percent of mobile devices made the leap to Windows 10, which is slated to reach end of life in the fall of 2018. Microsoft unified the Windows Phone brand with Windows 10 in 2016, but the Creators Update released earlier in the year left out any major feature additions for phones.

Combined with the platform’s historical lack of the same breadth of apps available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, it seems Windows 10 has been condemned to languish on phones for another year and a half, with perhaps the only updates coming in the form of security patches and bug fixes.

Instead, Microsoft has turned its attention to supporting devices it used to compete with. Cortana is now available on Android and iOS. Sprinkles, the company’s machine-learning-powered camera app, is exclusive to iPhone. Even Garage, Microsoft’s hub for unique projects that operates similarly to Google’s Area 120, is routinely pumping out interesting apps that never make it to the Windows Store.

While the fate of Windows Phone appears to be all but sealed, its developers are making sure their best ideas reach the public in one form or another — even if they’re on devices without the Microsoft name printed up top.

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