Note: the original version of this story commingled Huawei with Xiaomi. Sorry about that, I'll chalk that one up to my 20 hours of traveling yesterday. --Paul
Before this year's explosion of new Windows Phone licensees, Microsoft could point to one post-Nokia success story: Huawei. The Chinese smart phone company adopted Windows Phone in 2012 and has shipped devices in China and abroad. But now, the bad news: Huawei's Windows Phone releases are "on hold," and the firm plans to focus exclusively on Android.
It was big news 'round here parts when Huawei entered the Windows Phone market two years ago.
But it is likewise big news to discover this week that Huawei is now no longer interested in Windows Phone.
"We have tried using the Windows Phone OS," Richard Yu, the head of Huawei's consumer business group, told the Wall Street Journal. "But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows Phone. It wasn't profitable for us. We were losing money for two years on those phones. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google."
If it helps—and it shouldn't— Huawei's focus on Android exclusively means that it is also dropping plans to use Samsung's DOA mobile OS Tizen. Huawei never actually shipped a Tizen phone, of course. But it was planning to do so.
Likewise, Huawei has no plans to develop its own OS, having discovered what so many others have discovered before it: It is hard to create and foster a successful ecosystem. So far, only major players like Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have been able to do that.
Going all-in on Android isn't super surprising. But as a Windows Phone fan, the revelation hurts. As with HTC, I look at Huawei's phones (and phablets and tablets) and think "what-if." And this is especially poignant since Huawei is now plotting a massive international expansion. The firm is already the third-largest smart phone maker in the world, behind Samsung and Apple, and ahead of Lenovo, and its market share jumped 95 percent in a year in which both Samsung and Apple lost share. The firm shipped 52 million smartphones in 2013, and it plans to ship more than 80 million smart phones to consumers in 2014.
And virtually none of them will be Windows Phones.