An App too far? Can Windows-8 gain enough traction.

"last to market" worked as a strategy in the past for Microsoft.
But "everything is a PC" is probably false and theyll be sidelined in the new Mobile Devices world.

A response from a friend, this page by John Gruber on Daring Fireball, is worth reading.

Gruber points out that Apple and Microsoft have radically different marketing strategies.
Apple shows The Real Deal when it's ready, Microsoft pre-announces a long way out.

Neither is "better" in itself, they're just different.

I'm wondering if Microsoft's "Windows 8" is too little, too late.
Yep, they've finally got an Apps Store, Cloud Storage and are trying to engage App Developers.

With Smartphones, people buy Apps, not O/S features.
This works against Microsoft.

Win-7 didn't take off, why should this latest attempt?
Remember that launch parade by MS with a coffin, 'cause they were going to bury the iPhone... How did that go for them?

If I was a rusted-on Microsoft ISV, then I'd appreciate the API I already knew and get stuck in and deliver 'new product'.

But will these iconoclasts produce really interesting or useful Apps?
At a price the market will bear?
Can they adjust their Big-Footprint mindset into the nimble, lightweight World of Mobile?

You'd think it'd be a stretch.

For established App providers, supporting 2 environments (iOS, Android) is a necessary evil. But a third???
They won't pick it up in droves until they *need* to, and customers won't buy the platform until it has all the Good Apps.

It's the chicken-and-egg problem that ironically has allowed Microsoft to maintain dominance of the Desktop market for a couple of decades.

Companies like Woolworths have a dual-platform App to drive grocery sales, the App is a loss-leader. They'll be early adopters, because they must. The App is given away and all development costs are absorbed.
That business model can't work for software-only enterprises.

Nokia has committed to Windows 8, but who else?
Samsung "fondleslab" were given away at the 'BUILD' conference, so there are obviously some.

Microsoft is initially targeting 'tablets', but is that enough of a market for them?

The Win-8 memory footprint is half the size of "Windows 7", so kudos to them.
But is it enough?
Saying that you've improved fuel-economy from 3 miles-per-gallon to 6 mpg is irrelevant when all your competitors are giving 30mpg.

Mobile Platforms are about usability - which critically depends on battery life.
Platforms that spent special attention to power-management did well (eg. PSION 3, the prototypical 'smart device').

It's more than just memory footprint, it's code complexity and CPU efficiency - areas where Microsoft has traditionally been lacking or profligate.

Talking CPU's, solidly supporting ARM is potential threat to their long-standing partnership with Intel.
Will that lead anywhere? [Probably not]

Counter-intuitively, Microsoft's exceptionally long release cycle (3 years) isn't a "drop-dead" for mobile devices because upgrades are overwhelmingly by replacement, not in-place reimaging.

As iOS and Android release new features and better usability every 6-12 months, vendors tied to Microsoft will be very displeased and the majority of users will be unimpressed at the "old and boring" interface.

Microsoft can only be a follower, and a distant one, in this market, unless it radically changes its development process/pipeline.
Something it has either been unable or unwilling to do for the last 20years...
Which doesn't bode well for them in this niche market.

Will Microsoft follow its X-Box strategy and attempt to buy Market Share with direct hardware subsidies?
Not sure how you make a profit that way...
Which might (finally) lead to a shareholder revolt.

Or will Microsoft come up with another surprise?

Microsoft became the behemoth it is through exceptional marketing and a strategy, intentional or not, of "last to market" and it certainly is last to bring out a competitive mobile platform. [and then, it's avoiding phones, only selling into the smaller tablet market.]

This has worked well for them so far, but are mobile devices a "disruptive change" or is Microsoft really right in "Everything is a PC"?
They are taking a "Bet The Company" gamble on this one.

With the global PC market going off-the-boil, the next step is the Japanese route and into a serious decline, suggesting that Microsoft has to make the transition to the mobile platform or face dwindling revenues - soemthing it's never had to face before.

Windows has a strangehold on the Enterprise Desktop and, IMO, deservedly so:
  • Active Directory created a solid, even definitive, framework for the management and admin of Enterprise PC's.
Microsoft and its partners have leveraged this framework to good effect.
This is a business with a bright, if not exciting, future.
Personally, if I could invest in just this line of business, I would be sorely tempted.

What's next for Microsoft?
We'll know within 3 years if this play works or not.


The Register report on the BUILD conference.

This quote from the AllthingsD D9 conference, June 2011, is prescient:

When Sinofsky took the stage at D9 yesterday, Walt Mossberg began by asking how he felt being left out of the "Gang of Four" which are running the Internet (Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook).

Sinofsky replied, "You know, I'm watching it and feeling like the guy who's in the race and not winning it." In addition, nothing that starts as a "Gang of Four" ends well, either."

Another piece on the announcement.

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