Steve Jobs Reveals The Only Way Forward For Windows Phone

on August 11, 2014

The only way forward for Windows Phone — that is not death — is work. Real work. In the 21st century, real work is inherently collaborative.

Collaboration is the Achilles Heel of all things iPhone, iOS, and Apple.

Steve Jobs, for all his greatness, for all he achieved, did not play well with others. Evidence is legion. Jobs forced the future upon us, refusing to budge to present day concerns. His iconoclast’s vision is reflected in every Apple product and has been since the beginning.

Jobs exalted the individual, from the singular 1984 rebel through to the lone, joyful iPod listener to now, where budding creatives obsessively focus their gaze upon the shimmering, inviting iPhone screen and not upon the people, life and physical flotsam whirring about.

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Apple marketing dutifully reflects both Apple products and Apple culture, a culture which reveres solitary pursuits and nourishes individual genius.

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This leaves a strategic opening for Microsoft and Windows Phone. Not by creating a disingenuous demarcation between “work” (Microsoft) and “play” (Apple), but by optimizing its platform, its cloud, its tools, its services — and especially its mobile devices — for collaboration.

Steve Jobs empowered us, liberated us, heightened our creative abilities. He transformed us into digital cowboys, technological gunslingers, mad genius loners. Not collaborators. His heroes do not need others nor do they require consensus.

crazy ones

To quote Jobs:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules…

Such people are the opposite of collaborative. Yet, for all but a few crazy ones, greatness may only be accomplished via continuous collaboration and teamwork, not by being that round peg in the square hole.

Out Of Many One

Make no mistake. This is not about an Apple failure. Apple products, spanning the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac, are exemplary. But, their design and intent, empowering the individual, offers a clearing for whichever company develops computing and communication hardware and services which exalt the group.

Enabling new forms of work and new forms of creativity, facilitating time-shifting, globe-spanning, multi-modal collaboration from men and women, girls and boys whose full potential is untapped when pursuing their visions in isolation is the only way forward for Windows Phone.

The pieces to make this happen may already exist:

  • multi-screen function (desktop, mobile)
  • cloud support
  • Yammer
  • Skype
  • Exchange
  • Office 365
  • Office Lens
  • OneDrive
  • OneNote

Each of these are capable of providing highly functioning services, synchronized sharing, and any time, any place collaboration. The problem, of course, is none of these are yet fully optimized for mobile in general, or for Windows Phone in particular.

Jobs Informs Nadella

The recent revisionist history (such as herehere and here) proclaiming Steve Jobs as a world class “collaborator” is simply unfounded. Recall the single biggest change at Apple since the passing of Jobs: Tim Cook’s executive management shakeup, which the company itself positioned thusly:

Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services (emphasis added)

Apple’s pro-individual, non-collaborative, go-it-alone DNA runs deep. This has created an opening for giant Microsoft’s tiny Windows Phone: collaborative creativity, collaborative work.

It bears repeating: by “work” I do not mean those activities presently optimized for PCs inside the enterprise. Microsoft’s fading retort that Windows is the platform for “work” badly underestimates how capable, valued and productive users of Apple devices are. But Apple hardware and supporting services are purposefully created for the individual. The future demands devices — hardware — for the group, not the one.

It also bears repeating: time is quickly running out for Windows Phone.

In his “bold ambition” statement, Nadella mentioned Microsoft’s commitment to “first party hardware” four times. Yet, within his 3,500-word manifesto, he mentioned “Windows Phone” only twice, and even then withholding clear affirmation:

(1) Today the Cortana app on my Windows Phone merges data from highway sensors and my own calendar and simply reminds me to leave work to make it to my daughter’s recital on time.

(2) We will responsibly make the market for Windows Phone.

This and other Nadella statements led me to state several weeks ago that:

Prediction: Microsoft will focus its mobile hardware efforts not on Windows Phone but on Surface, on new mobile gaming devices, and new mobile “productivity” devices; anything and everything that might help them uncover that next great mobile computing inflection point. Smartphones are lost to them.

I now wish to amend that prediction. Microsoft lost the smartphone wars — that much is clear. But smartphones are lost to Microsoft only in how we define such devices at the present. An entirely new or repurposed mobile device which advances creative and productive collaboration as easily as iPhone advances personalized empowerment is still within Microsoft’s reach.