Microsoft’s experience of mobile has, kindly put as possible, not been a pleasant one. Windows Phone was a victim of mass apathy that even the power of Nokia couldn’t save, and even when embracing Android, the Surface Duo is seemingly invisible to consumers. Quite a feat for such a massive handset.
But in an act of admirable determination (or hopeless optimism, depending on how you look at it), Microsoft is trying to get a grip on mobile all over again. This time via a dedicated Xbox app store for smartphones, first revealed by the Financial Times back in March.
Those plans are progressing nicely, according to Xbox head Phil Spencer, who’s been hanging out at the CCXP comics and entertainment convention in Sao Paulo.
“It’s an important part of our strategy and something we are actively working on today not only alone, but talking to other partners who’d also like to see more choice for how they can monetize on the phone,” he told Bloomberg.
That’s all quite vague, so when might we see such a store shoot its shot? “I don’t think this is multiple years away, I think this is sooner than that,” he said.
Next year would seem a likely window, given the EU is about to push both Apple and Google to allow third-party app stores on their handsets. The deadline for that is March next year, so that would seem a sensible time for Microsoft to sidle its way back into the picture (assuming Apple’s protests don’t bear fruit).
While Microsoft’s experience of mobile has been painful, it does have a secret weapon now, thanks to its NZ$100 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard. One of the subsidiaries of its new toy is King — the brains behind Candy Crush Saga. That could prove every bit as important to Microsoft’s mobile plans as Call of Duty is to Xbox.
Moving beyond its own consoles is a bit of a theme for Microsoft at the moment. Elsewhere, the company has stated that it wants its Xbox Game Pass on “every screen that can play games”.
“That means smart TVs, that means mobile devices, that means what we would have thought of as competitors in the past like PlayStation and Nintendo,” Xbox CFO Tim Stuart told an audience at the Wells Fargo TMT Summit.
Suffice it to say, Sony and Nintendo might have something to say about that. It might include the words “body”, “my”, “dead” and “over”. Though probably not in that order.
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