Microsoft, Slow and Steady Can Win Ecosystem Race
I don't live in a bubble. Daily, I go to a variety of periodicals to fill me in on the facts and opinions floating around the stratosphere. This week, I read Serdar Yegulalp's post in the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog titled "How Microsoft's 'silent majority' hurts Windows," which brought up serious concerns users have been expressing about UI changes in Windows 8 and Office 15. It highlights the term "user telemetry" and explains that many changes are based on data coming in from users' actual behavior in Microsoft software, such as when search is used or which menus are accessed and in what order. Some people believe the term serves as a buzzphrase to give Microsoft carte blanche to do whatever it likes with the UI, regardless of users' complaints.
I came away feeling down. Then I read the CNN Money post "Microsoft's master plan to beat Apple and Google" by David Goldman. It looked not only at Windows 8 but at three products that, collectively, could change the game in Microsoft's favor: Windows on the desktop and tablet (that is, Windows 8), the Xbox gaming console, and the Windows Phone mobile operating system.
[InfoWorld's Galen Gruman explains how Microsoft's and Apple's post-PC strategies differ -- and where they are the same. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in InfoWorld's Technology: Microsoft newsletter.]
The key to Microsoft's play is patience. The company knows it won't win this today, Goldman says; he also calls Microsoft the "underdog," an interesting position for the Redmond giant. Microsoft is doing what the other two big players (Apple and Google) have decided not to do. Apple is focused on leaving the PC behind, while Google wants everything in the cloud.
Microsoft can hold on to its existing enterprise consumer base with Windows 7 because -- let's face it -- Windows 8 will not be quickly adapted by the enterprise base that's just now weaning itself off Windows XP. At the same time, Microsoft can stretch out and be more innovative in making a seamless experience between your PC (morphing more and more into a tablet device that can be taken on the go or snapped into a larger monitor with keyboard and mouse), your gaming console, and your smartphone.
I believe this vision is possible. I just purchased my first Xbox for my son, and the Metro UI doesn't bother me when working with a gaming system. Today, I'm going out to pick up my new Windows Phone. Yes, I've avoided it until now because I like my Android, which still feels a bit rough around the edges and has never matched up to the iPhone.
I've decided to try something new, and Windows Phone is it. I'm not oblivious to the fact that the iPhone is still the leading product, but I'm a Microsoft guy, so I'm getting myself a Microsoft phone. It's time I support the company that I write, speak, and teach about 24/7.
What will I do with Windows 8? I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to buy an iPad. I bought one for my wife, and it's like something Michael J. Fox brought back from the future! Between that and the Apple TV, I'm becoming more of an Apple fan than I realized. I also had a Galaxy Tab and liked it, but I sold it to my sister after a few months since I already had one Android device (my smartphone).
I'm patiently waiting to make a decision on the Windows 8 side. I'll have it on my desktop the day it's released to manufacturing; after all, staying up with Microsoft products is my job. But on the tablet? My first reaction to Windows 8 was pretty negative, so I may get that third-gen iPad unless I'm wowed by the final Windows 8 version.
The good news for Microsoft is that this is not an end-game decision. I bought an Android smartphone when the first Windows Phone devices failed to impress, but now I'm switching to Windows Phone. If I get an iPad, I still can see myself eventually moving over to a Windows tablet. Microsoft's ecosystem is likely to improve over time, and people don't need to adopt it wholesale; they can ease into it piece by piece.
Microsoft has the resources to be patient and retake the market, along with the best developers in the world to ensure it reaches that goal. My only request is that it pays less attention to so-called user telemetry and more attention to individual voices. Success will come faster if Microsoft follows that path.
This article, "If Microsoft is patient, it can win," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.