Beating The Dead Horse That Is Microsoft Windows (Part 2)

John Kirk / July 25th, 2013

This is part two of a two-part series focusing on what’s gone wrong with Microsoft Windows. If you want to read part 1, click here. If you want to know what’s gone wrong with Microsoft Windows and what its probable future will be…well, read on….

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.

Microsoft’s Core Beliefs

A company’s actions invariably revolve around its core beliefs. What then are some of the core beliefs that helped to shape Microsoft’s most recent Windows 8 campaign?

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anaïs Nin

A) “THE WINDOWS AND OFFICE CASH COWS MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS.”

The advantages inherent in protecting the company’s biggest moneymakers is obvious. (The disadvantages, on the other hand, are far more obscure.) Focusing on what the company is especially good at – and where most of the company’s monies are made – is the default strategy of almost all businesses.

If the company is doing something well, then the norm is to keep on doing what they’re doing – only more of it.

“Nothing is more important at Microsoft than Windows.” — Steve Ballmer, CES 2012 Keynote

B) “THE WINDOWS’ BRAND IS VERY VALUABLE.”

Microsoft sincerely believes that the “Windows” Brand is both beloved and valuable. It only make sense then for Microsoft to leverage the value of that Brand by slapping it onto nearly everything they make.

“Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” ~ Nietzsche

C) “WE CAN DO IT TOO AND WE CAN DO IT MUCH, MUCH BETTER THAN YOU.”

Two classic business strategies are the “first mover” and the “fast follower”. I’d classify Microsoft as a “slow follower”. Microsoft seems to believe that the best way to compete in new markets is to do what the new product leader is doing…only do it better. Microsoft waits until a clear market winner has emerged and then they try to jump in, mid-race.

The obvious advantage to such a strategy is that Microsoft is able to wait and identify which markets are going to be winners. They can also learn from the mistakes of those who went before them and incorporate those learnings into their own, subsequent, product offerings.

Most importantly, Microsoft believes that their late start can be overcome by their superior technological know-how — aided, of course, by leveraging their existing Windows and Office monopolies and by exploiting their huge cash reserves. Such a belief reveals the incredible sense of self-confidence that Microsoft has in its own abilities. Some might call it hubris, but in Microsoft’s defense, their seemly arrogant strategy has been validated by past successes.

Microsoft dominated personal computing for 25 years. For many, many of those years, they controlled 95% of the personal computing market – a monopoly that is virtually unheard of without the assistance of government mandates. In computing, Microsoft was the very embodiment of the allegorical 900 pound gorilla. What Microsoft wanted, Microsoft took.

For example, Microsoft was late to the internet market, but when they put their mind and muscle to it, they slowly, but surely, smushed their Netscape internet challenger and made their own Internet Explorer THE default internet browser for the vast majority of personal computer users.

Similarly, Microsoft was a very new entrant in a very old gaming console market, but when they put their full weight behind the Xbox, they eventually (after going 5 billion dollars in the hole) became the gaming console market leader. Is there any other company that has the patience, perseverance or cash reserves necessary to follow such a strategy?

Microsoft won the internet wars and the console wars, and they did it with sheer brute force. When you are as big and as strong and as successful as Microsoft, is it any wonder that you think highly of your own abilities?

“An old belief is like an old shoe. We so value its comfort that we fail to notice the hole in it.” ~ Robert Brault

D) “THE MICROSOFT OFFICE SUITE IS THE KILLER APPLICATION, BOTH IN DESKTOP AND MOBILE COMPUTING.”

The Office Suite gives Microsoft a huge strategic advantage in the notebook and desktop markets. Microsoft Office wasn’t the first killer application, but it is the biggest, baddest suite of killer applications of our time.

Microsoft believes that Office is their ace in the hole in the mobile wars. The other mobile platforms may have a large lead in apps, but the Office Suite is the killer app that levels the playing field.

When in doubt, observe and ask questions. When certain, observe at length and ask many more questions. ~ George S. Patton

E) THE TABLET IS MERELY ANOTHER (LESS PRODUCTIVE) KIND OF PC.

Microsoft has always insisted that the tablet is simply another kind of PC. Microsoft contends that tablets alone don’t cut it. What people really want is a productive tablet, a two-in-one device that serves as both a tablet and a notebook, a hybrid that “powers people on-the-go for the activities people really value.”

A belief is not true because it is useful. ~ Henri Frédéric Amiel

Strategy

I believe Microsoft wanted to both differentiate Windows 8 from the offerings of their competitors and to strike at their competitors where they were the most vulnerable. This is a classic strategy known as “exploiting the line of least resistance.” Walmart parlayed this strategy into an empire by initially building their mega-stores in rural areas that their competitors found unprofitable.

Exploit the line of least resistance – so long as it can lead you to any objective which would contribute to your underlying object. ~ B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy

Microsoft’s line of least resistance was – hybrid computers. In strategic terms, hybrids offered Microsoft a wealth of opportunities. First, no one else was seriously competing there. Second, Windows 8’s dual OS was the seemingly perfect hybrid operating system. Third, hybrids were a natural bridge that could be used to migrate Microsoft’s huge existing desktop customer base onto and into the burgeoning tablet market space.

In strategic terms, Microsoft was partially successful.They did go where Apple and Android were not – which is the beginning of a good strategy. However, they also went where the market was not.

Microsoft exploited the line of least resistance, but the reason it was the line of least resistance was because it didn’t lead to a meaningful objective. It does one no good to exploit a pass unguarded by the enemy if the reason the enemy left that pass unguarded was because it led to nowhere.

A girl phoned me the other day and said, “Come on over; nobody’s home.” I went over. Nobody was home. ~ Rodney Dangerfield

Following the line of least resistance is good strategy – but only if it takes you to your desired goal.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 Campaign

In their Windows 8 campaign, Microsoft made (at least) four key strategic decisions:

1) Create their own (Surface) hardware, but continue to license their operating system software to third-party manufacturers too.

2) Create three separate operating systems for the phone, tablet and desktop, then attempt to unify all three under one name and one user interface.

3) Start a brand new, incompatible, tablet platform named “RT” and supplement it with software from the existing Windows Office Suite.

4) Create a dual OS operating system that would work on tablets, notebooks and desktops but be tailored to run on tablet/notebook hybrids.

Every one of Microsoft’s major campaign decisions contains an inherent contradiction, an internal inconsistency, a self-destructive insistence on having things “both ways”. Let’s see how these decisions played out in practice.

You can’t dance at two weddings at the same time; nor can you sit on two horses with one behind. ~ Yiddish proverb

1) CREATE THEIR OWN HARDWARE, BUT CONTINUE TO LICENSE THEIR OPERATING SYSTEM SOFTWARE TO THIRD-PARTY MANUFACTURERS TOO.

1.1) Microsoft’s share of connected devices sales (in effect, PCs plus iOS and Android) collapsed from over 90% in 2009 to under 25% today.

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 9.32.23 pm
Source: Benedict Evans

Microsoft is painfully aware of the fact that their Windows operating system is rapidly sliding from monopoly status to third place, behind Android and iOS.

“If things go wrong, don’t go with them.” – Roger Babson

1.2) Microsoft’s smart phone licensing strategy has been an utter disaster. Not only is Microsoft’s share of the smart phone market tiny, but Microsoft can’t charge the consumer for the operating system like it does on the PC, and Microsoft’s royalty fees from licensing the Windows Phone OS to manufacturers like Nokia, HTC and Samsung are being given back to these companies in the form of marketing dollars.

1.3) In light of these facts, Microsoft decided to adopt Apple’s integrated model and make their own hardware as well as their own software.

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other ~ Eric Hoffer

Microsoft is virtually telling the world “Our business model works great — except when it doesn’t.”

1.4) The good news is:

— Vertical integration allows Microsoft to better control the user experience from start to finish.1

— It enables Microsoft to make money on hardware.

— It puts Microsoft in a position to directly compete with Apple.2

1.5) Make no mistake about it, this is a fundamental shift in the company’s business model, and it could absolutely end up backfiring.

— Microsoft has decided that third-party hardware manufacturers are part of the problem, and not part of the solution.

— Microsoft has stripped funding from its partners and reallocated it to their own hardware efforts.3

— Microsoft’s strategy distances their interests from the interests of their hardware partners, such as Acer,4 Samsung,5 Nokia,6 device makers based in Asia,7 and trade shows such as Computex.8

— Microsoft’s policy encourages their hardware partners, such as AMD,9 to migrate to Android.10

— Hardware is – no pun intended – hard. Probably a lot harder than Microsoft thought.11

— All of this hardware diversification is causing massive customer confusion. Quoting from “Making Sense of All the New Laptop Flavors“:

“Milunovich cites the two different models of Microsoft’s Surface — the ”RT” model running on an Nvidia (NVDA) microprocessor, and the … “Pro” model running on Intel‘s (INTC) microprocessor, as one prominent instance of possible “confusion among consumers relating to software versions and the herd of vendors churning out product.”

“Milunovich thinks the increasing diversity in tablets offered on the market plays to Apple’s advantage, because “user confusion favors Apple given its leading brand, relatively simple product line, and retail store support,” he argues.”

1.6) The entire exercise is counter-productive. The Surface RT and the Surface Pro are not taking sales away from iOS and Android devices. If anything, Microsoft’s hardware is cannibalizing their partner’s Ultrabook sales.12 What purpose does that serve?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

2) “CREATE THREE SEPARATE OPERATING SYSTEMS FOR THE PHONE, TABLET AND DESKTOP, THEN ATTEMPT TO UNIFY ALL THREE UNDER ONE NAME AND ONE USER INTERFACE.”

It has always been the dream of programmers to use one underlying code base to run software everywhere. Microsoft has turned that dream on its head and has, instead, devised a scheme that uses three, wholly separate and incompatible phone, tablet and desktop code bases, to run one, seemingly self-same, user interface.

Microsoft has gotten it completely backwards.

Try imagining using one user interface on three different form factors. For example, would you want the same user interface on your bicycle, your motorcycle and your car? On a trowel, a shovel and a backhoe? On a cork-board, a blackboard and a scoreboard? Even the iPad – which critics view as “merely a big iPod touch” – employs a separate user interface from that of the iPhone.

The form factor should not be tailored to the user interface. It’s the other way around. The user interface should be tailored to the form factor. In Microsoft’s desire to have one user interface across all of their Windows devices, they forgot about the most important thing – the user experience.

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” – Abraham Lincoln

How many operating systems do you have if you call them all “Windows 8”? Three. Calling three operating systems by one name does not make them one operating system.

3) “START A BRAND NEW, INCOMPATIBLE, TABLET PLATFORM NAMED “RT” AND SUPPLEMENT IT WITH SOFTWARE FROM THE EXISTING WINDOWS OFFICE SUITE.”

3.1) Microsoft knew that Windows RT was starting at a severe disadvantage to the incumbent tablet makers. It was late, late, late in the platform game and their iOS and Android competitors had literally racked up millions of competing mobile apps. What to do, what to do?

Well, here’s a couple of things that you should probably not do when launching a brand new platform:

— Call your new platform “RT” for “Run Time. (I mean…are you kidding me?)

— Craft your tablet advertising campaign around…a keyboard? RT is supposed to be a tablet platform, right? Focusing tablet advertising on the keyboard is like focusing car advertising on the trailer hitch.

— Introduce the platform with virtually no native software.

— Introduce a platform that doesn’t run Windows 8 applications on the very same day that you introduce Windows 8.

— Make it hard for App developers to know where they’re supposed to focus. (Windows Phone 8, Surface RT, Windows 8?)

Osborne yourself by telling potential customers that you will be, in a few months, releasing a Windows Pro tablet that will do everything that the RT tablet does not.

— Introduce your platform with no clear message, no clear identity and no clear use case.

You have two systems (and operating systems) that look the same and run some of the same apps, but aren’t the same. ~ Mashable

Let me put this to you, the reader. Can you adequately explain the difference between Windows RT and the Windows Pro in a sentence? In a paragraph?

Neither can Microsoft.

If you want to give God a good laugh, tell Him your plans. ~ Yiddish proverb

3.2) Microsoft thought that the Office Suite would be the killer app that would drive sales of the RT platform. But does RT’s ability to run the Office Suite make up for its inability to run the 199,999 apps it’s missing? Not hardly.

Office is not the killer app that Microsoft thinks it is. Non-Microsoft competitors are already far more useful on touch devices. Porting the desktop Office to the touchscreen device is merely an exercise in futility.13

Microsoft’s Office gambit has failed. If you really want Office on your computer, RT is not the solution for you. You’ll be far happier with a Windows laptop or desktop.

Most manufacturers have already dropped plans for developing Windows RT-based products, given the timid sales of their first batch, due to the limited number of applications for the platform. Microsoft’s second Surface RT tablet might be the sole king of a barren land.

“A half-baked idea is okay as long as it’s in the oven.”

4) “CREATE A DUAL OS OPERATING SYSTEM THAT WILL WORK ON TABLETS, NOTEBOOKS AND DESKTOPS BUT WILL BE TAILORED FOR TABLET/NOTEBOOK HYBRIDS.”

4.1) Microsoft seems to truly believe that tablets are underpowered, unproductive devices and that people don’t really want to use them. Of course, this completely ignores the success of the iPad, but let’s set that aside for the moment.

Microsoft believes that what people really want is a single device that they can use to get serious work done; what people really want is a hybrid that does it all; what people really want is a replacement for both the PC and the iPad. According to Microsoft, ordinary people may need to use a tablet here and there, but what they really want in a tablet is the power of a PC and a PC powered by Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft’s products and advertising say it loud and say it proud:
— Two operating systems are better than one;
A two-in-one device is twice as good as owning two separate devices; and
— A dual Operating System that runs on tablets and desktops and hybrids (oh my!) is the best of all possible worlds!

Whenever you look at a piece of work and you think the fellow was crazy, then you want to pay some attention to that. One of you is likely to be, and you had better find out which one it is. It makes an awful lot of difference. ~ Charles Franklin Kettering

4.2) Only, here’s the rub. All of Microsoft’s assertions and assumptions fly in the face of reality.

— No single manufacturer has successfully combined a full PC with the form factor of a tablet and made it work. That should be telling you something.

— The Windows 8 interface baffles consumers.

— People don’t want to use apps on their desktop PC. People don’t want a two-in-one device or touchscreen on their PC. People don’t want a tablet OS with the desktop OS bolted on. People don’t want a tablet on their PC.

— People don’t want legacy Windows applications on their tablet. People don’t want a two-headed OS on their tablet. People don’t want a desktop computer on their tablet.

— People don’t want an all-in-one computer. People DO want multiple connected devices

“Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn’t require a lot of computing power or local storage,” said IDC analyst Loren Loverde. “Instead, they are putting a premium on access from a variety of smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces.” ~ AllThingsD

The market has voted: Tablets that are just tablets are trouncing Microsoft’s hybrid tablet/PC devices.

thin-many

PCs are like Humpty Dumpty; they are being broken into pieces and won’t be put back together again. ~ Stratechery

4.3) The sad thing is, Microsoft knew better.

Mossberg: What’s your device in five years that you’ll rely on the most?

Gates: I don’t think you’ll have one device. I think you’ll have a full screen device that you can carry around and you’ll do dramatically more reading off of that – yeah, I believe in the tablet form factor – and then we’ll have the evolution of the portable machine and the evolution of the phone will both be extremely high volume, complimentary, that is if you own one you’re likely to own the other… ~ AllThingsD, 2007

144300-3dc6ca66-edc1-11e2-a799-ec5c9dace08aBill Gates saw the future, but he – and Microsoft – abandoned their vision in an attempt to salvage their Windows empire. The future, they knew, was multiple connected devices. But that future had touch operating systems – not Windows operating systems – at its core. And Microsoft couldn’t have that.

Windows 8 is not an attempt to create the future of computing.

Windows 8 is an attempt to preserve Microsoft’s past.

Vision without action is daydream. Action without vision is nightmare. ~ Japanese proverb

Conclusion

“If you cannot answer a man’s argument, all it not lost; you can still call him vile names.” – Elbert Hubbard

Are Microsoft’s Windows 8 problems fixable or are they intractable?

— So long as Microsoft does both hardware and software, either Microsoft’s hardware sales, or the hardware sales of their partners, or both, will suffer.

— So long as Microsoft has 3 different operating systems, Developers and app development will suffer.

— So long as RT tries to use the Office Suite as a substitute for native apps, RT sales will suffer.

— So long as Microsoft’s tablet OS runs dual operating systems tailored for hybrids, their tablet sales (and their tablet owners) will suffer.

Post-PC does not mean no PC. It means that the PC is no longer the dominant device; the center of the computing world.

It is a certainty that Microsoft Windows will continue too. But it is just as certain that it will no longer be the dominant operating system. And unless Microsoft radically changes its strategy – which I highly doubt – Window’s will not be vying for dominance – it will be vying for relevance.

One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it. ~ French proverb

wp7-parade-100910

Whose funeral is this, anyway?

  1. “What this reorganization makes clear is that Microsoft now thinks it will have to control its own destiny: no longer will it depend on Intel for the computing power, Dell for manufacturing expertise, or HP for marketing heft (and, lest we forget, all of them for its technical support) to get its technologies in front of the public.” []
  2. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CRN in an exclusive interview Monday that the company’s Surface tablet marks a new era in which the computer software giant will leave no “stone unturned” in its innovation battle against Apple. []
  3. “Microsoft’s marketing budgets that are allocated so far for Q2 2013 include absolutely no support for Windows Phone partners.” []
  4. Acer won’t do Windows Phone this year, wants Microsoft to pick up the pace. []
  5. Something Else Revealed At Samsung’s Launch Event: Disdain For Windows RT. []
  6. Nokia pulls plug on Windows RT tablet, signals end MSFT []
  7. Device makers based in Asia are not keen on Windows RT. That has become painfully clear. []
  8. One year after debut, Windows RT is a Computex no-show. []
  9. After years of Windows OS exclusivity, Advanced Micro Devices is opening the door to design chips to run Google’s Android and Chrome OS in PCs and tablets. []
  10. Android has become a hedge against Microsoft and Windows. []
  11. Switching from software to hardware, however, is proving very hard. I’m sure quite a bit harder than (Microsoft’s) management thought. []
  12. “Surface Pro is really a PC, and potential buyers will also be considering notebooks and ultrabooks.” noted Moorhead. []
  13. Microsoft Office for the iPhone Is Here. Yawn. / Office for iPhone downloads start with a bang, but fizzle before 4th; Office Mobile for iPhone: Why? / Microsoft Doesn’t Seem To Be Fooling Anyone With Its New Office For iPhone App / Office for iPhone is a belated, ambivalent move, analysts say / Microsoft Office not worth wait / Microsoft’s Office For iPhone: Wrong Product, Wrong Market []

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Defendor

    Much food for thought there.

    Re: 1.4) – creating their own HW.

    I haven’t looked into it, but is Surface HW revenue booked under the same “Windows” column as OS licenses?

    If so I wonder if the greater motivation for creating their own HW wasn’t doing better HW than OEMs, ( which I seem to remember MS publicly stating they needed to do this because OEMs weren’t doing a good enough job) but instead padding shrinking Windows revenues. One $1000 Surface Pro, generates more revenue than One Hundred lost Windows licenses (though not as much earnings).

    • FalKirk

      “I wonder if the greater motivation for creating their own HW wasn’t doing better HW than OEMs” – Defendor

      There’s no real way to know until someone spills the beans or writes their memoirs.

    • FalKirk

      “Much food for thought there.” – Defendor

      About as high a compliment as I could ever receive. 🙂

    • DarwinPhish

      Yes, Surface HW has been reported under the Windows division. That may change with the re-org.

      MS needs to make hardware now because they need a way to monetize Windows. It’s hard to sell Windows RT licenses when Google gives Android and Chrome away for free.

  • Defendor

    RE: 1.2) Microsoft’s smart phone licensing strategy has been an utter disaster.

    But is there really anything wrong with the strategy here? It seems rather conventional, straight forward and similar to competitors, there are no weird Dekstop/Touch bifurcations, no high cost licenses. It seems reasonably competent.

    Is this just a case of sound strategy, but too late, to a market that already has two top players (typically the most an OS market will sustain).

    If you are late, you need a disruption or clear outright superiority. I wouldn’t call failure your to generate a disruption when needed a strategic disaster.

    Maybe this even drove the questionable tablet strategy. Doing the competent, conventional thing in Phones has been a failure, so they determined, they needed more leverage for tablets.

    • FalKirk

      “Is this just a case of sound strategy, but too late…” – Defendor

      Yes. New products which aim to overcome the lead of an entrenched competitor must be: 1) much better in every respect, or 2) similar or at parity in every respect, but at a much lower price point.

  • Defendor

    Re: 3) “START A BRAND NEW, INCOMPATIBLE, TABLET PLATFORM NAMED “RT”
    AND SUPPLEMENT IT WITH SOFTWARE FROM THE EXISTING WINDOWS OFFICE SUITE.”

    I have to comment on RT, my favorite, and most blatant tech failure in years. It really never made any sense. While there might be an argument for a convertible OS, used on a convertible device, it is completely baffling with RT.

    The whole point of the MS convertible strategy is to leverage the amazing Windows ecosystem with literally millions of applications, in the richest software ecosystem the world has ever seen.

    Except RT can’t leverage it. Why compromise Surface RT SW/HW tablet capability to enable switching into a laptop mode, best used with software switched to a desktop mode that can’t actually leverage the incredible Windows desktop software legacy.

    RT HW and SW seems to be totally built around the concept of leveraging that Windows legacy, but it can’t.

    This is such an epic level of stupid, it blows my mind. There is also no sign that the RT strategy is changing.

    Compared to RT, Microsofts other gaffes seem miniscule.

    • Neil

      Actually, Windows RT was Microsoft’s answer to the iPad, which like Windows RT lacked access to Mac applications when it launched.

      The difference is that the iPad ran a variant of iOS, which already had an army of developers, and Apple led by example with true touchscreen ports of its Office suite and other desktop applications.

      In other words, Microsoft tried to hedge its bets, but failed to fully execute. I love all the quotes above, but the half baked quote best illustrates what went wrong with Windows RT.

      • Defendor

        Regardless what RT was an answer to, it was still built to be a convertible in both HW and SW, not built to be a focused tablet (like an iPad).

        Microsoft still doesn’t have a focused tablet OS, they have a convertible OS. A convertible can make some kind of sense to leverage the huge Windows legacy.

        But a convertible that only runs one application suite, and will never run anything else, in desktop mode, is just … insane.

        I really can’t understand how anyone tasked with product decisions, thought (possibly still thinks) this could succeed.

        • Shameer Mulji

          Maybe what MS should do is take a page out of Apple’s playbook here. Leverage Windows Phone to be their smartphone / tablet OS and keep Windows 8 for traditional desktops / laptops for those that need the legacy desktop.

          • Defendor

            Except Microsoft has no Windows Phone success to leverage.

            If I were in Balmers shoes, deciding what to leverage my tablet future from: Desktop Windows, or Windows Phone? I might have chosen Desktop as well. At least Desktop Windows was a success.

            Also consider that underneath they are all Windows NT Kernel OS based.

            All that you really want common between your Phone and Tablet OS is that they are very easy to port between them using common API calls for most operations. You really don’t want to run phone apps on your tablet as you get inferior tablet apps that way. You want it to be easy for your phone developers (if you have them) to make the transition to tablet development.

            If you look at the platform overview section here:

            http://developer.nokia.com/Community/Wiki/Co-development_for_Windows_Phone_7/8_and_Windows_8_guide

            You will see that Window phone 7 to 8 transition was a big step toward unifying the languages/APIs used for both Phone and tablet apps developed for Windows 8.

            For the most part I think this breakdown is not unreasonable from a developer perspective.

  • Heinz Peter Bredow

    > 3.2) Microsoft thought that the Office Suite would be the killer app
    that would drive sales of the RT platform.

    Of course to be able to use Microsoft Office in a meaningful way
    on a Surface tablet you really, really, really need a keyboard.

    That’s why Microsoft pushes the keyboard as something needed.

    And you have to sit down at a table to be able to work with it.
    That’s why Microsoft added the kickstand.

    I own an iPad and I (personally) don’t need MS Office, nor a kickstand nor a keyboard.

    BTW:

    I think this just shows how unfit Microsoft Office is for mobile use.

    Microsoft just doused a thin layer of touch elements onto the user interface of Microsoft Office. But it but didn’t solved the problem how to use it with touch only.

    • Neil

      I disagree but at the same time I don’t know if we’ll ever see a quality touchscreen version of Office. In other words, I think it’s possible but Microsoft seems to lack the ability or will.

      For example, the Office team used to communicate regularly with thought leaders and journalists in the legal vertical. Law firms are power users of Word thanks to their use of features like paragraph numbering and track changes.

      However, the Office team no longer communicates with anyone in the legal vertical. This is just one example, but I wonder if the Office team has ignored other small but important verticals because of its current obsession with consumers.

      Many people use Word out of habit, but could easily switch to a text editor. Microsoft should ignore these people, and instead talk to power users who need some of Word’s advanced features. Using the 80/20 rule, Microsoft could figure out which advanced features to bring to a touchscreen version and abandon the rest.

      Will this actually happen? I doubt it but hope springs eternal.

      • rationalchrist

        Listen to power users extensively is just like customer told Henry Ford, “give me faster horse.”

        • Neil

          No, it’s not. Microsoft Word is already a high end product that over serves most people. By simplifying it but keeping the most important advanced features Microsoft can keep many people in the fold who switch to tablets, especially those who would be just as well served by a text editor or Pages.

      • I don’t know if we’ll ever see a quality touchscreen version of Office

        Imagine a world were Microsoft was again the first and foremost maker of productivity software for an Apple product. Imagine Microsoft’s Surface RT Office programs if they had spent the last 6 years tuning up a touch screen Office version on iOS. The size of the boat that Microsoft missed by not immediately turning their Macintosh software department on iOS cannot be understated.

        Instead, as noted by many, Microsoft has given the last 6 years over to other companies that have conclusively proved that the majority of people using computers of one stripe or another really don’t have a need for Office.

    • DarwinPhish

      A big problem with the Office on a tablet strategy is that you are competining against all the other devices (laptops, ultrabooks and even desktops) which run Office. I am sure MS makes far more selling a Windows and Office license on a non-tablet then they make on the sale of a Surface.

    • Mauryan

      You forgot the mouse. Office needs a mouse for moving objects or pasting items.

  • Shameer Mulji

    “Post-PC does not mean no PC. It means that the PC is no longer the dominant device; the center of the computing world.”

    Best & most accurate definition of Post-PC I’ve seen yet.

  • rationalchrist

    Microsoft are blind to all the contradictions in their decisions simple because they want to protect their W+O cash cow. That is the natural consequence of putting sale guy at the top of your company, as Jobs said once.

    • FalKirk

      “If you are a “product person” at IBM or Xerox, you make a better copier or better computer. So what? When you have a monopoly market-share, the company’s not any more successful. So the people who make the company more successful are the sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the “product people” get run out of the decision-making forums. The companies forget how to make great products. The product sensibility and product genius that brought them to this monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product versus a bad product. They have no conception of the craftsmanship that’s required to take a good idea and turn it into a good product. And they really have no feeling in their hearts about wanting to help the customers.” ~ Steve Jobs

      • MurryC

        Only thing worse is to make an accountant CEO–aka, Rick Waggoner @ GM.

  • def4

    Microsoft during 2000s: phones are PCs.
    Microsoft during 2010s: tablets are PCs.
    Microsoft during 2020s: who cares why Microsoft thinks?

  • DarwinPhish

    Some very interesting points, though very hard to appreciate as they were buried amongst too much fluff. Reading all of this I couldn’t help thinking you are paid per inch of screen space.

    • FalKirk

      “I couldn’t help thinking you are paid per inch of screen space.”

      Sorry, I thought it was long too. Wanted to make it shorter, but in the words of Blaise Pascal:

      “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

  • Glaurung-Quena

    regarding your core belief #2, “Microsoft sincerely believes that the “Windows” Brand is both beloved and valuable.” — They also seem to think that people love Office as well.

    In actual fact, of course, people tolerate (at best) or despise both Windows and Office. Microsoft seems to have mistaken their market dominance (achieved through illegal anti-competitive and monopolistic practices) for customer loyalty.

    • FalKirk

      “They also seem to think that people love Office as well.” – Glaurung-Quena

      Agreed.

    • jfutral

      “They also seem to think that people love Office as well.”

      If that’s true, and I believe it is, too, they are overstating their position. People think of Office by default. I just purchased a new MBP for the company I work for and without hesitation the first thing the person in charge of it said was “We will need Office installed”. While true enough for most of our old files, I have been trying like all get out to move everyone from this notion. A great deal of our internal communication is handled through Google Docs and calendars.

      Technically, for what the laptop is to be used for, it does not _need_ Office. And with iWork available as a “buy once use on all your devices” (he has an iPad and I plan on one for his position as well) option I really wanted to avoid Office. But the user was just ingrained and the transition is going to take longer than I want. Oddly, he doesn’t think like that about any of our other computing devices, just laptops/desktops.

      It isn’t that people love Office. They just don’t know how to think otherwise… yet.

      Joe

  • “Every one of Microsoft’s major campaign decisions contains an inherent contradiction, an internal inconsistency, a self-destructive insistence on having things “both ways”. “

    Precisely. But this was obvious to anyone who was paying attention to Apple and just plain paying attention in general that Microsoft’s efforts were unfocused and chaotic. It was also clear that the demographic they were claiming to target was a demographic that existed entirely in the minds of Microsoft’s management.

    Microsoft was essentially standing in the midst of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts and singing the praises of the horse drawn carriage they were convinced everyone really wanted to buy.

    • Moeskido

      Not to mention having trained a national team of buggy drivers and horse wranglers to talk up the obviously superior benefits of a horse-only-based transportation system.

      • “You won’t believe the quality of the leather on our buggy whips. Much more desirable than the leather seats on those two wheel novelties you only bought because they were cool.”

        • Moeskido

          “And, really… those boutique devices only slow down all the traffic. They’re so chatty on the road. They’re just expensive toys, after all.”

  • Joe Bloggs

    Microsoft are third in the global console market, that’s not winning.

    • FalKirk

      I was focusing on how they attacked the console market and bending over backwards to give them all the credit that I could.

  • James King

    “Similarly, Microsoft was a very new entrant in a very old gaming
    console market, but when they put their full weight behind the Xbox,
    they eventually (after going 5 billion dollars in the hole) became the
    gaming console market leader. Is there any other company that has the
    patience, perseverance or cash reserves necessary to follow such a
    strategy?
    Microsoft won the internet wars and the console wars, and they did it with sheer brute force.” – John Kirk

    I have to repeat this: Microsoft has PARITY with Sony in consoles now, they did not “win” the console wars. Even Steve Ballmer pointed out in his memo re: Mattrick leaving Microsoft for Zynga that the XBox 360 had only outsold the PS3 in NORTH AMERICA. The PS3 dominates everywhere else and is the #1 Netflix streaming device. It is a myth perpetuated by U.S. tech “journalism.” This frustrates me because it is another market distorting storyline that has little basis in fact.

    “– People don’t want to use apps on their desktop PC. People don’t want a two-in-one device or touchscreen on their PC. People don’t want a tablet OS with the desktop OS bolted on. People don’t want a tablet on their PC.” – John Kirk

    The economics of an all-in-one tablet/PC hybrid would easily nullify this statement. The failure is in the OS. The hardware for this type of device is already nearly perfected.

    Another great article John but I do think you are interpreting some failures on Microsoft’s part as lack of consumer demand. As Apple has shown, demand often follows proper execution.

    • Defendor

      >”they did not “win” the console wars

      The Console Market is also marked by a very significant difference, that makes it so much easier to buy your way in, that this really is an overplayed, and I would claim, invalid example anyway:

      The console market resets from ZERO, every 5-10 years.

      In 2005, the seventh generation consoles began shipping. They all started essentially back at zero, needing all new software again. Thus the incumbents have little advantage except brand recognition, and business relationships.

      So in relative terms is much easier to break into the console market from “behind” because you really aren’t behind at all during the reset points. Not to mention Sony made it even easier by launching late, and overpriced.

      Even with that relative increased ease, it was incredibly expensive to break into the console market.

      Mobile will not offer any such easy entry. Microsoft is far behind and there are no reset points coming. We have two runaway market leading ecosystems that just keep getting stronger. It is almost impossible to buy your way in, under these circumstances.

      • James King

        Great observation. 100% agree.

      • Samuel

        Android also started from behind in many respects. Now as you say they are the second market leader.

    • FalKirk

      “Microsoft has PARITY with Sony in consoles now, they did not “win” the console wars.” – James King

      I actually think that Microsoft has lost the console wars, but that’s a whole nothing article. 🙂

      My point was how they operated: Simply overwhelm their opponent by using their money and their vast engineering might. The equivalent of a frontal assault on an entrenched position.

      • Samuel

        It wouldn’t matter how much they spent, if consumers didn’t want the Xbox they wouldn’t have bought it. They didn’t rob 80 odd million of their free will.

        • Defendor

          They bought the lifeblood of consoles: Game exclusives.

          The console market resets to zero every 5-10 years. At that point a new player can enter almost on a level playing field.

          Drop a few hundred million dollars to buy exclusives/studios and you really can spend your way in, to parity or beyond. There was nothing special about Xbox. They essentially bought their way in.

          It also can’t be done to mobile. Ecosystems don’t reset, so without some major new disruption, Microsoft will be mired well behind the leaders for the foreseeable future.

        • FalKirk

          “It wouldn’t matter how much they spent, if consumers didn’t want the Xbox they wouldn’t have bought it.” – Samuel

          Yeah, it kind of does matter. Not many companies could have afforded to go 5 billion dollars in the hole before turning a profit. Microsoft was only able to continue to sell the Xbox at reasonable prices because they were willing to go years and years and years without making any profit (and incurring terrible losses.)

          • Samuel

            Microsoft spent billions on Kin but it didn’t matter because people didn’t want it. Xbox had money behind it but also innovated with software and services like xbox live. Introducing an online gaming platform and successfully monetizing it shouldn’t be handwaved away. They could have offered that for free but they got people to pay for it. Sony has been bad at integrating hardware, software and services which is also why the walkman got disrupted by ipod.

    • FalKirk

      “The failure is in the OS. The hardware for this type of device is already nearly perfected.” – James King

      I’m going to respectfully diagree. Hybrids are niche, no more.

    • FalKirk

      “I do think you are interpreting some failures on Microsoft’s part as lack of consumer demand.” – James King

      I’m interpreting their failure as a lack of strategy. Rather than starting with what would be good for the consumer and working backwards, they started with what would be good for Microsoft and tried to impose that solution on the consumer.

      • James King

        I was addressing your statements re: “hybrids.”

        “People don’t want a tablet on their PC.” – John Kirk

        Is this because people don’t actually want it or because no one has created a compelling solution? I think the latter is the case. Based on one of your responses to my original post, you seem to think the former. We just have to disagree on this.

        • Defendor

          James,

          You indicated that such hybrid device hardware is “already nearly perfected”.
          I also don’t think it has and possibly can never be. I think there are basic size mutual exclusions, which prevent a device from being both a great tablet and great laptop. Something simply has to give. It is a question of compromises.

          Now I have seen people claim they are willing to make these compromises, but I have no idea how big a niche this is.

          • James King

            I disagree with this assessment simply for the simple reason that, when we are talking about tablets, we are referencing screen size and weight. New IGZO display technology will significantly decrease the weight of LCD screens, likely allowing 12″ to 14″ tablets at comfortable weight ranges. Laptops are already produced at those sizes and sell extremely well.

            The issue is primarily the OS interface. By now, the shift to true vector-based graphics and separation of commands and content should have allowed interfaces that can scale more effectively over a variety of screen sizes. That hasn’t happened. The reason hybrids seem like a compromise is because operating system development has stagnated.

          • Defendor

            The convertibles of today are definitely compromised in one usage mode, and most are compromised as both tablets and laptops.

            IGZO accounts for a small increase in light transmission and thus a potential small decrease in weight. Nothing that would make a 12″ tablet weigh what a 10″ one does today, and isn’t merely weight, but overall bulk which will also make larger tablets less acceptable. I really expect sub 9″ tablets are the future. Devices that you can comfortably hold in one hand will using them with the other. That will never be the case for 12″-14″ tablet in the foreseeable future. Once you have device that big that you need to rest them on something to use, you may as well just have a laptop.

            Scaling does not make apps suitable for any screen size. That is exactly the problem Google has with tablet apps. As screen sizes change, layouts must change as well. You need to design applications with specific screen size in mind to make optimal usage of different screen sizes.

          • James King

            “IGZO accounts for a small increase in light transmission and thus a
            potential small decrease in weight. Nothing that would make a 12″ tablet
            weigh what a 10″ one does today, and isn’t merely weight, but overall
            bulk which will also make larger tablets less acceptable.” – Defendor

            The combination of IGZO plus GF2 touch sensor technology should significantly decrease not only the weight but also the bulk of displays and tablets, estimates to the tune of 25% and 15% respectively. More efficient displays also mean smaller, thinner batteries which should also significantly decrease tablet weight and bulk:

            http://online.wsj.com/ad/article/vision-breakthrough

            New glass technologies are also yielding lighter, stronger glass panels. The combination of these factors should easily enable touch screens in the 12 to 14 inch range that are ergonomically comfortable to use.

            “I really expect sub 9″ tablets are the future. Devices that you can
            comfortably hold in one hand will using them with the other. That will
            never be the case for 12″-14″ tablet in the foreseeable future. Once
            you have device that big that you need to rest them on something to use,
            you may as well just have a laptop.” – Defendor

            I won’t dispute this because I was pretty much making this claim when the 10″ iPad was selling like hotcakes. But, once again, proper software makes all of the difference. Writing, drawing and drafting are a few of the tasks that are better served with larger surface areas. The utility of larger tablets is a factor of software. Everything else being equal, more display area generally trumps less.

            “Scaling does not make apps suitable for any screen size. That is exactly
            the problem Google has with tablet apps. As screen sizes change,
            layouts must change as well. You need to design applications with
            specific screen size in mind to make optimal usage of different screen
            sizes.” – Defendor

            I’ve been doing research into this for over a decade. The problem with current scaling is that it is based on bitmaps, therefore the perspective becomes distorted once certain screen sizes are reached. A vector based GUI system can properly be designed to scale all the way up to HDTV sizes.

            The problem with having this exchange is that, until it is done, people won’t actually believe that it can be done. But I know for a fact that the technology is there to do it and do it in a compelling fashion. The iPad faced the same scepticism when it was released after 10 years of Microsoft’s failures to popularize tablets.

            I guess I can’t really claim that hybrids WILL be huge sellers, because there are plenty of factors that are likely to prevent such an outcome. But there is no technological or ergonomic reason why they CAN’T be huge sellers.

          • Defendor

            On size/weight issues for tablets, I think you give too much credit to claims, inflated by marketing departments.

            We will have to call this one, a disagreement settled in years to come, at some date when these 6000 gram magical 14″ tablets do or don’t materialize. Even if they did, a 14″ tablet would be too unwieldy to use, as we use an iPad today. It would largely be a desk bound device IMO. We already live in a world of people primarily viewing the world through their smartphone, 14″ tablets?? Not likely.

            On scaling, you don’t seem to be reading what I wrote. Scaling isn’t the issue.

            iPad actually benefited initially from bad scaling because it forced people to design targeted applications, and as a result iPad got optimal UI layouts for the tablet size screen class that they needed.

            Android tablets actually suffer because the have better scaling, and people do one layout, which is non optimally for multiple screen classes.

            Layout is the real issue. When you write an Application for a smartphone, your really don’t have much choice, but to write it for once simple column, that might work up to the size of small one handed tablet like a Nexus 7, but by the time you are up to iPad size, better applications are using multiple columns, sidebars etc… They have much better layouts for a tablet.

            Proper layout is the real problem trying to run the same application across different screen categories.

            You don’t use the same elements, in the same numbers and in the same locations when designing applications for different screen class sizes.

            Layout needs proper UI design targeted to the specific screen class, if you actually care about quality results.

          • James King

            “On size/weight issues for tablets, I think you give too much credit to claims, inflated by marketing departments.” – Defendor

            Maybe, but I am also a fan of the material sciences. Computers use to be the size of houses, now they fit in our pockets and are 10000x more powerful. I think it’s a foolish bet that we have achieved everything we are going to achieve in this area.

            “We will have to call this one, a disagreement settled in years to come,
            at some date when these 6000 gram magical 14″ tablets do or don’t
            materialize.” – Defendor

            Very much agreed. You make a strong argument and I am relying on science not standing still to support my points.

            “Even if they did, a 14″ tablet would be too unwieldy to use, as we use
            an iPad today. It would largely be a desk bound device IMO. We already
            live in a world of people primarily viewing the world through their
            smartphone, 14″ tablets?? Not likely.” – Defendor

            We already use paper products of varying sizes and styles. The key factors are weight and bulk. If a tablet is sufficiently thin and light enough, there is no ergonomic disadvantage to using it. Whether they will ever be thin and light enough is a more credible argument IMO.

            “On scaling, you don’t seem to be reading what I wrote. Scaling isn’t the issue.” – Defendor

            I very much understood what you meant by scaling as I have been a professional graphic designer and have studied UI/UX technologies as a personal interest for over a decade. The need for multiple columns in layouts in applications comes largely from the functionality of the application being embedded with the particular file or document. If the command elements are disassociated from the file and are designed to “float,” a GUI can be created so that it can scale pretty much without limitation. The limitations are based on using lists and menus. GUIs and applications can be designed to be fully functional without those elements.

            I know it can be done because I’ve already prototyped it. The problem is that it would require a completely vector based GUI engine to run it. You can view a similar concept at http://www.10gui.com. My work is actually more like Sony’s XMB user interface but with significant differences.

          • Defendor

            You are starting to sound like Microsoft. Just because you have some kind of prototype interface that works for you doesn’t really make it optimal across platforms/form factors.

            Anytime you try to create one solution for many problems you inevitably create a solution that is non optimal for many of those problems. It simply isn’t possible for a general solution to compare with specialized ones targeted at the exact problem.

            You can’t build an “All Season Tire” that is as good as a “Summer Tire” and as good as a “Winter Tire”.

            Microsoft’s Metro/Modern UI is exactly one of these kinds of multi-target solutions. They clearly want to deprecate the Win32 desktop and eventually position Metro as the UI for all mouse/kb/finger interaction. But while Metro can be used with a mouse/KB, it is no where as efficient as using a proper desktop OS like the traditional Win32 destkop OS.

            In many ways Microsoft’s current OS solution is a better one than their imagined endpoint.

            If you actually have a device that converts between Finger and Mouse interaction, then, IMO, it actually makes more sense to switch to the OS paradigm that better matches your input method.

            I am beyond skeptical of “one-solution-fits-all” schemes.

            I think we will just have to leave this one at mostly disagreed.

          • James King

            “You are starting to sound like Microsoft. Just because you have some
            kind of prototype interface that works for you doesn’t really make it
            optimal across platforms/form factors.” – Defendor

            And just because you don’t believe it can be done or it hasn’t been done yet doesn’t mean it CAN’T be done. Let’s not turn this into a religious debate.

            “Anytime you try to create one solution for many problems you inevitably
            create a solution that is non optimal for many of those problems. It
            simply isn’t possible for a general solution to compare with specialized
            ones targeted at the exact problem”- Defendor

            This is only an issue when you are confined to 1:1 scaling. The elements of a vector-based GUI could be scaled independently of one another. It’s apples and oranges. Your thinking only applies to current raster based systems. Vector-based systems can allow individual elements to scale to different proportions even within the same GUI.

            “Microsoft’s Metro/Modern UI is exactly one of these kinds of
            multi-target solutions. They clearly want to deprecate the Win32 desktop
            and eventually position Metro as the UI for all mouse/kb/finger
            interaction. But while Metro can be used with a mouse/KB, it is no where
            as efficient as using a proper desktop OS like the traditional Win32
            destkop OS.” – Defendor

            Once again, this is apples and oranges. The problem with Windows 8 is that it is neither fish nor foul. It implements touch inconsistently, that is why it doesn’t work well. However, iOS can be effectively used on devices from 3.5″ to 9.7″ in size. A BT keyboard can also effectively be used in iOS because it is limited strictly to input. It is about the design and mechanics of the OS.

            “I am beyond skeptical of “one-solution-fits-all” schemes.

            I think we will just have to leave this one at mostly disagreed.” – Defendor

            That’s fine by me.

        • FalKirk

          “Is this because people don’t actually want it or because no one has created a compelling solution?” – James King

          Yes, we disagree which is great. The market, not you or I, will make the final decision.

          Hybrids are a tremendous boon for some users. Those users will tend to be the tech elite and they will make a lot of noise about them and not understand why everyone isn’t using them.

          Specialty tools are a godsend for electricians and construction workers. But I get by just fine with a plain old hammer and screwdriver.

          • James King

            The market went through the same thing with tablets. Microsoft got it wrong for 10 years and then Apple got it right. It’s a matter of the technology converging.

            That being stated, as long as Microsoft is the primary OS provider, you are probably correct in your assessment. A hybrid device requires innovation, especially at the OS level. But I think that it will eventually be worked out. Once that happens, the economics easily favor hybrids over laptop/PC combos.

  • Moeskido

    Excellent article. Reminds me a bit of the sort of pieces Daniel Eran Dilger used to write on his “Roughly Drafted” blog, but with a much better ratio of analysis to polemics.

    Microsoft’s continuing, comical arrogance is a product of its Sales Department culture having achieved success by favoring strong-arm domination over quality work. Its internal culture is so driven by groupthink that it forgets to change the dialog when addressing anyone outside of the company, including consumers. We’re all expected to believe what they believe, even after having suffered through years of inferior UI and engineering that had been created by and for IT. And we’re also hearing similar-sounding things from that other big haven of tech nerds in Mountain View who don’t know how to design for consumers (yet believe they do).

    But after having experienced computing that doesn’t require an entire IT department’s support, the consumer market has gradually recovered from Stockholm Syndrome and moved on. It’s about time, too.

    • FalKirk

      “Reminds me a bit of the sort of pieces Daniel Eran Dilger used to write on his “Roughly Drafted” blog, but with a much better ratio of analysis to polemics.” – Moeskido

      That is quite a compliment. Thanks very much.

  • Samuel

    Your writing has quite a bit of conjecture and sensationalistic clickbait. You do your arguments a disservice that way.

    • FalKirk

      My article was heavily sourced, and it was an attempt to construct a logical discussion based on a factual foundation. Please let me know if you can show a flaw in my sources or my facts or my logic. If so, I’ll upgrade my article accordingly.

  • Mauryan

    Steve Ballmer! hey Steve! They are looking for someone to play Lex Luther in the next Superman movie. Interested? They like your stage dance a lot!

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