Microsoft has finally unveiled its Arrow software on the Play Store for users to try. For those who don’t know, Arrow is a tool which acts as a kind of Android takeover and allows you to organise your apps in a clear manner.
The app from Microsoft is a launcher which changes the existing interface of your Android device and is aimed at making the process of searching for favourite apps and even sending messages to friends more streamlined.
The end of Windows Phone?
The sad truth is that Windows Phone just never really got going. For all of the neat features like live tiles and Cortana integration the lack of 3rd party app support (Instagram anyone?) and the continued success of the big players in the mobile game Apple and Samsung meant that Windows Phone for all its positives as a mobile OS just didn’t make the grade. It was something of an endless and unwanted circle for the company with app developers in London, California, Singapore and elsewhere not committing to the platform due to a diminished user base and customers not committing to the platform due to a lack of app support. The issue was never fixed no matter how much money Microsoft threw at it.
Earlier this year Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke of the need to “generate opportunity for the Windows ecosystem more broadly.” This essentially meant stop ignoring the other platforms out there which are seriously outperforming Windows. Under Nadella’s leadership we have seen something of a U-turn in the thinking at Microsoft which has borne fruit in the porting of Cortana and Microsoft Office software to iOS and Android whereas before they would have been exclusive.
While Arrow does not quite see the death of Windows Phone it is certainly the beginning of something new for Microsoft in the way it sees itself and portrays itself. Microsoft intends to streamline its Windows Phone output by concentrating on key areas like business which makes perfect sense because out of all the OS’s out there Windows OS is better suited to the needs and requirements of business and corporate users.
Windows Phone is still alive then but its focus is changing, as is the company’s in general in terms of hardware and it is shifting its focus back to software which is, after all, where it has achieved most of its success.
Pointing the Arrow
This brings us back to Arrow, the latest piece of software from Microsoft which has been built for Android devices. It certainly is a smart move by Microsoft. One of the reasons why Windows Phone did not succeed was Android and the sheer amount of devices out there. Let’s not forget that Apple itself failed with its ‘C’ range of iPhones. In fact, they seem to have been scratched from Apple’s history entirely. Why did they fail? Because iPhones are supposed to be slick and sophisticated pieces of hardware, not plastic, and so even the iPhone could not compete against the amount of Android devices in the lower end of the market.
The same was true for Windows Phone. But now with Arrow Microsoft has the chance to prove to Android users that it can do it. It is Microsoft’s way of saying ‘This is Android but better’. And the company can use the data it learns from Arrow to improve its own ecosystems and, who knows, get Windows Phone in through the back door, or at least an appreciation of what Microsoft can do.
And it can do a lot. Many Android users don’t like multi-swiping screens and digging around for apps. With Arrow Microsoft has pared back the system and made it easier for users to find their favourite apps. It even has a Recent screen which shows recently used apps and apps which are most used will automatically find their way to the top of your list without having to manually organise. Smart. Additionally it allows you to find people and call or message them with a swipe making communication as well as app searching quickly too.
There are other Android launchers out there of course, with many manufacturers changing the existing Android interface themselves; Huawei is a good example of this for instance. But Arrow has positioned itself within Android as a minimal, functional interface that lets you get to what you need and who you need quickly.
Arrow is yet to fully be launched by Microsoft with this something of a ‘light launch’ to see if it can gain traction. If it can it will be a positive step for Microsoft and it gives the company chance to plug its other offerings like Cortana and Office and really establish its brand again with a user base that might have forgotten how good it was.