Deconstructing Satya

Last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella laid bare his vision for the tech giant. It is borderline revolutionary.

From its early days, Microsoft has focused on using software and computing to empower people and businesses around the world. Nadella still clings to this laudable vision. However, he has now fundamentally flipped the seat of power, even as he fears to let go of all Microsoft has amassed over the decades.

Just as America’s Constitution enumerated inalienable rights all its people are endowed with, forever empowering even a single individual against the full force of the government, in a similar manner Nadella has positioned the user above all else.

This is radical. For Microsoft, it’s nearly unthinkable.

Nadella does not simply place emphasis on users instead of PCs, on productivity instead of Windows. He changes the equation of the software behemoth going forward.  This could set Microsoft apart from all others.

The most user-friendly tech company in the world, Apple, emphasizes ecosystem over device, lock-in over empowerment. Google takes from its own users when they are not looking. Amazon confounds its customers with Prime service, making it nearly impossible to ever fully know the actual price — or value — of any single item.

Nadella is positioning Microsoft on the side of the user. Security, privacy, productivity, empowerment. I believe this will have a profound and lasting impact on the company and its customers forever. This call to great and permanent and never ending change is buried inside Nadella’s 3,500 word memo to Microsoft staff. I understand if you choose not to read (any/all of) it.

My analysis of his manifesto is below, in bold italic.

Nadella word cloud


From: Satya Nadella

To: All Employees

Date: July 10, 2014 at 6:00 a.m. PT

Subject: Starting FY15 – Bold Ambition & Our Core

As we start FY15, I want to thank you for all of your contributions this past year. I’m proud of what we collectively achieved even as we drove significant changes in our business and organization. It’s energizing to feel the momentum and enthusiasm building.

This is all wrong. Platitudes, corporate management speak and 3,500 words are absolutely the wrong way to begin a discussion about “significant changes” and “enthusiasm building.” That within the first paragraph we are twice reminded FY15 has commenced, all I can think is Nadella is too steeped in the pre-existing conditions of Microsoft to achieve anything great, let alone revolutionary. 

The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation. I also said that in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul – our unique core. We must all understand and embrace what only Microsoft can contribute to the world and how we can once again change the world. I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done.

“What only Microsoft” can do should be plastered across every meeting room in Redmond. Nadella mimics Tim Cook’s penchant for “change the world” pablum but to be fair, very few companies really can. Microsoft is one. Kudos to Nadella for not shying away from this. 

We’ll use the month of July to have a dialogue about this bold ambition and our core focus.

The very corporate nonsense-speak that turned me into a freelancer.

Today I want to synthesize the strategic direction and massive opportunity I’ve been discussing for the past few months and the fundamental cultural changes required to deliver on it.

Means nothing.

On July 22, we’ll announce our earnings results for the past quarter and I’ll say more then on what we are doing in FY15 to focus on our core. Over the course of July, the Senior Leadership Team and I will share more on the engineering and organization changes we believe are needed. Then, at MGX and //oneweek, we’ll come together to build on all of this, learn from each other and put our ideas into action.

Rigid, bureaucratic and enslaved to artificial dates. 

We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices – in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs – are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.

This is brilliant. Better, it launches the long, painful slog of fully re-positioning Microsoft away from PCs, away from Windows, away from Office, away from its past, which now binds it, and onto a future of screens, data and insight.

The only company at present that can challenge a fully engaged Microsoft in this is Google. 

In this new world, there will soon be more than 3 billion people with Internet-connected devices – from a farmer in a remote part of the world with a smartphone, to a professional power user with multiple devices powered by cloud service-based apps spanning work and life.

Microsoft will be the anti-Apple, delivering services and value to all, not just the world’s 10%. 

The combination of many devices and cloud services used for generating and consuming data creates a unique opportunity for us. Our customers and society expect us to maximize the value of technology while also preserving the values that are timeless.

Means nothing. Wasting employee’s time.

We will create more natural human-computing interfaces that empower all individuals. We will develop and deploy secure platforms and infrastructure that enable all industries. And we will strike the right balance between using data to create intelligent, personal experiences, while maintaining security and privacy. By doing all of this, we will have the broadest impact. 

Preach! Only Google can challenge Microsoft in delivering services to all. But, only Microsoft can deliver these services and effectively protect individual privacy. 

Mobile First Cloud First

Microsoft was founded on the belief that technology creates opportunities for people and organizations to express and achieve their dreams by putting a PC on every desk and in every home.

Microsoft’s business practices rightly angered many of us. But their efforts also helped deliver us directly to this future. We should be thankful for that. 

More recently, we have described ourselves as a “devices and services” company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.

I am not Steve Ballmer.

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

Wow. This is a truly revolutionary message and within Microsoft’s skill set to make happen. I will be happy if Microsoft simply comes close to this vision, as it is glorious: “empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.” 

We think about productivity for people, teams and the business processes of entire organizations as one interconnected digital substrate. We also think about interconnected platforms for individuals, IT and developers. This comprehensive view enables us to solve the more complex, nuanced and real-world day-to-day challenges in an increasingly digital world. It also opens the door to massive growth opportunity – technology spend as a total percentage of GDP will grow with the digitization of nearly everything in life and work.

I think this is wrong. Backwards, in fact. It’s not about an “interconnected digital substrate,” a nonsense phrase, but about building a product that truly empowers that one person. If it empowers one, it will empower millions. Apple has taught us this. Microsoft has yet to learn this. 

We have a rich heritage and a unique capability around building productivity experiences and platforms. We help people get stuff done. Stuff like term papers, recipes and budgets. Stuff like chatting with friends and family across the world. Stuff like painting, writing poetry and expressing ideas. Stuff like running a Formula 1 racing team or keeping an entire city running. Stuff like building a game with a spark of your imagination and remixing it with the world. And stuff like helping build a vaccine for HIV, and giving a voice to the voiceless. This is an incredible foundation from which to grow. 

Nice reminder for the troops and the public. 

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

Repeating this is not productive.

Microsoft has a unique ability to harmonize the world’s devices, apps, docs, data and social networks in digital work and life experiences so that people are at the center and are empowered to do more and achieve more with what is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity – time!

It took far too much time to get here, but Nadella has shrewdly set in motion not only Microsoft’s mission, but its marketing message as well, which is almost as important.

Microsoft will save us time. 

Productivity for us goes well beyond documents, spreadsheets and slides. We will reinvent productivity for people who are swimming in a growing sea of devices, apps, data and social networks. We will build the solutions that address the productivity needs of groups and entire organizations as well as individuals by putting them at the center of their computing experiences. We will shift the meaning of productivity beyond solely producing something to include empowering people with new insights. We will build tools to be more predictive, personal and helpful.

The deconstruction of Word, Excel et al shall commence starting now. 

We will enable organizations to move from automated business processes to intelligent business processes. Every experience Microsoft builds will understand the rich context of an individual at work and in life to help them organize and accomplish things with ease.

This will be tricky. Even in a data driven, always-on world, people vigilantly maintain different lives: work, home, and those known only between the person and her browser history. Nadella wants to create a whole where I believe people want to maintain separate, if porous, fiefdoms. 

Productive people and organizations are the primary drivers of individual fulfilment and economic growth and we need to do everything to make the experiences and platforms that enable this ubiquitous.

I love how Nadella and Microsoft are the anti-Apple. Steve Jobs was famous for talking about computers and creativity whereas Microsoft is now focused on computers and productivity. Both are worthy visions: Apple is more likely to garner passionate adherents, Microsoft is more likely to lift up all boats. 

Users Not Consumers

We will think of every user as a potential “dual user” – people who will use technology for their work or school and also deeply use it in their personal digital life. They strive to get stuff done with technology, demanding new cloud-powered applications, extensively using time and calendar management, advanced expression, collaboration, meeting, search and research services, all with better security and privacy control.

Privacy, privacy, security.

Wise of Microsoft to attack Google’s Achilles Heel. Obviously, we embrace the many benefits that accrue as our data, all of it, flows between many clouds and many screens.

We will want to know, however, that some data will remain forever cordoned off to all but exactly whom we wish and when. Only Microsoft can deliver this — Google’s business model is almost in direct opposition to it and Apple refuses to embrace Microsoft scale.

Warning, Mr. Nadella: do not abdicate user privacy. Do not screw this up. 

Microsoft will push into all corners of the globe to empower every individual as a dual user – starting with the soon to be 3 billion people with Internet-connected devices. And we will do so with a platform mindset. Developers and partners will thrive by creatively extending Microsoft experiences for every individual and business on the planet.

None of this sounds even remotely appealing. Platforms empower the maker, not the user. That’s why every company in tech talks platforms.

“Microsoft experiences” sounds no better than, say, a visit to the dentist. 

Across Microsoft, we will obsess over reinventing productivity and platforms. We will relentlessly focus on and build great digital work and life experiences with specific focus on dual use.

Nadella has hitched his future to a belief in “dual use.” That is, our work and home lives meld into one interconnected digital sphere. I think this is wrong and will be his undoing.

Microsoft Everywhere

Our cloud OS infrastructure, device OS and first-party hardware will all build around this core focus and enable broad ecosystems. Microsoft will light up digital work and life experiences in the most personal, intelligent, open and empowering ways.

Key words: “first-party hardware.” Surface, Lumia, Xbox — these are only the start of Nadella’s hardware ambitions. Ballmer must be pleased. 

Developers and partners will thrive by creatively extending Microsoft experiences for every individual and business on the planet.

Requisite acknowledgement of developers and partners now out of the way… 

We will deliver digital work and life experiences that are reinvented for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. First and foremost, these experiences will shine for productivity. As a result, people will meet and collaborate more easily and effectively. They will express ideas in new ways. They will experience the magic of ambient intelligence with Delve and Cortana.

This is the future we expect and I am looking forward to Microsoft’s implementation of “ambient intelligence.”

It’s easy to believe Microsoft will be unable to match Google Now and other iterations of Google’s ambient intelligence capabilities. It’s nearly as easy to believe Microsoft won’t be able to deliver a service as simple to use as Apple’s Siri. These are legitimate concerns. That said, Bing, Yammer, Office, Exchange, Skype, Lumia, and the reach of Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure are critical resources to be tapped, and will help guide users in all facets of their digital life. 

Moreover, for the shareholders, ambient intelligence will be a business revolution, and in this, Microsoft is far ahead of the pack. 

They will ask questions naturally and have them answered with insight from Power Q&A. They will conquer language barriers and change the world with Skype translator. Apps will be designed as dual use with the intelligence to partition data between work and life and with the respect for each person’s privacy choices. All of these apps will be explicitly engineered so anybody can find, try and then buy them in friction-free ways.  They will be built for other ecosystems so as people move from device to device, so will their content and the richness of their services – it’s one way we keep people, not devices, at the center.

I hope you succeed at this. Right now, these remain mere words.

This transformation is well underway as we moved Office from the desktop to a service with Office 365 and our solutions from individual productivity to group productivity tools – both to the delight of our customers.

Please ban the use of the word ‘delight’.

We’ll push forward and evolve the world-class productivity, collaboration and business process tools people know and love today, including Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Bing and Dynamics. 

The next revolution will be in the office, not in the home. In this, new Microsoft still acts like old Microsoft. 

Increasingly, all of these experiences will become more connected to each other, more contextual and more personal. For example, 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. In the future, it will be even more intelligent as a personal assistant who takes notes, books meetings and understands if my question about the weather is to determine my clothes for the day or is intended to start a complex task like booking a family vacation. Microsoft experiences will be unique as they will reason over information from work and life and keep a user in control of their privacy.

Dear tech bloggers: the ‘Microsoft is doomed’ stories are just stupid. 

The Cloud Everywhere

Our cloud OS represents the largest opportunity given we are working from a position of strength. With Azure, we are one of very few cloud vendors that runs at hyper-scale. The combination of Azure and Windows Server makes us the only company with a public, private and hybrid cloud platform that can power modern business. We will transform the return on IT investment by enabling enterprises to combine their existing datacenters and our public cloud into one cohesive infrastructure backplane. We will enable our customers to use our Cloud OS to accelerate their businesses and power all of their data and application needs. 

The cloud will be where nearly all our data and all the intelligence connected to that data resides. But not all. We will use our mobile devices to store and share data and content which we dare not send via the cloud.

That said, the cloud will be paramount, and Mr. Nadella is wise to focus so much attention upon Microsoft’s capabilities here.

His statement also reminds us Nadella is a techie and he understands how to fully leverage the breadth of Microsoft’s infrastructure. I wish his statement, however, wasn’t so buried underneath enterprise-speak. How will this cloud benefit me — not me at work, not me doing work. Simply, me. 

Beyond back-end cloud infrastructure, our cloud will also enable richer employee experiences. For example, with our new Enterprise Mobility Suite, we now enable IT organizations to manage and secure the Windows, iOS and Android devices that their employees use, while keeping their companies secure. We are also making it easy for organizations to securely adopt SaaS applications (both our own and third-party apps) and seamlessly integrate them with their existing security and management infrastructure. We will continue to innovate with higher level services like identity and directory services, rich data storage and analytics services, machine learning services, media services, web and mobile backend services, developer productivity services, and many more.

Nadella may talk of “dual use” and of the merging of work and home. Microsoft remains, however, a work company.  

Our cloud OS will also run all of Microsoft’s digital work and life experiences, and we will continue to grow our datacenter footprint globally. Every Microsoft digital work and life experience will also provide third-party extensibility and enable a rich developer ecosystem around our cloud OS. This will enable customers and partners to further customize and extend our solutions, achieving even more value.

Cloud “APIs,” essentially, could revolutionize how we create, manipulate and benefit from data. Microsoft should be a leader in this, and it will propel tremendous business value. 

Hardware Everywhere

Our Windows device OS and first-party hardware will set the bar for productivity experiences.

Again, that phrase “first-party hardware.”

Microsoft is (now) a hardware company. But a good one? Can an applications, services and infrastructure company also do great hardware? I have my doubts. I welcome being proven wrong. 

Windows will deliver the most rich and consistent user experience for digital work and life scenarios on screens of all sizes – from phones, tablets and laptops to TVs and giant 82 inch PPI boards.

Does anyone believe this will ever be so?

We will invest so that Windows is the most secure, manageable and capable OS for the needs of a modern workforce and IT.

Nadella will not cede one organization to Google Docs and not allow a single corporation to let iPhone, iPad or BYOD to loosen its grip on the enterprise. This will be a bloody fight. I can’t wait.  

Windows will create a broad developer opportunity by enabling Universal Windows Applications to run across all device targets. Windows will evolve to include new input/output methods like speech, pen and gesture and ultimately power more personal computing experiences. 

Multi-mode inputs will absolutely create more personal computing experiences. The burden of proof that these should — or even can — be offered by Microsoft is quite high, however.

Very, very few humans use speech, pen or gestures to interact with Microsoft products or applications. Microsoft has repeatedly failed to lead the world in this. 

Our first-party devices will light up digital work and life. Surface Pro 3 is a great example – it is the world’s best productivity tablet.


In addition, we will build first-party hardware to stimulate more demand for the entire Windows ecosystem. That means at times we’ll develop new categories like we did with Surface. It also means we will responsibly make the market for Windows Phone, which is our goal with the Nokia devices and services acquisition.

Being deliberately inexplicable is not productive, Mr. Nadella. What exactly is “responsibly make the market?” You intend to be a hardware company, in direct competition with many of your very best partners. Say so. 

I also want to share some additional thoughts on Xbox and its importance to Microsoft. As a large company, I think it’s critical to define the core, but it’s important to make smart choices on other businesses in which we can have fundamental impact and success. The single biggest digital life category, measured in both time and money spent, in a mobile-first world is gaming. We are fortunate to have Xbox in our family to go after this opportunity with unique and bold innovation. Microsoft will continue to vigorously innovate and delight gamers with Xbox. Xbox is one of the most-revered consumer brands, with a growing online community and service, and a raving fan base. We also benefit from many technologies flowing from our gaming efforts into our productivity efforts – core graphics and NUI in Windows, speech recognition in Skype, camera technology in Kinect for Windows, Azure cloud enhancements for GPU simulation and many more. Bottom line, we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft.

Brilliant. Nadella has scuttled all rumors about Microsoft abandoning Xbox. He has reminded analysts gaming is a primary driver behind mobile and while Microsoft lags in mobile it is a leader in gaming. Nadella also reminds us in our new age of data, collaboration and ideas, “gaming” will become a crucial component of productivity.

While today many people define mobile by devices, Microsoft defines it by experiences. We’re really in the infant stages of the mobile-first world. In the next few years we will see many more new categories evolve and experiences emerge that span a variety of devices of all screen sizes. Microsoft will be on the forefront of this innovation with a particular focus on dual users and their needs across work and life.
 Microsoft will continue to vigorously innovate and delight gamers with Xbox.

My take: Microsoft to acquire Zynga. That’s just for starters. 

Our ambitions are bold and so must be our desire to change and evolve our culture.
I truly believe that we spend far too much time at work for it not to drive personal meaning and satisfaction. Together we have the opportunity to create technology that impacts the planet.

Good, lord, this memo is just ridiculously long. 

I’ve Seen All Good People

Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy. Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve. New partnerships will be formed. Tired traditions will be questioned. Our priorities will be adjusted. New skills will be built. New ideas will be heard. New hires will be made. Processes will be simplified. And if you want to thrive at Microsoft and make a world impact, you and your team must add numerous more changes to this list that you will be enthusiastic about driving.

If you are not a star, I strongly advise you to get to work on your resume. 

I am committed to making Microsoft the best place for smart, curious, ambitious people to do their best work.

If you are a star, I strongly advise you to get to work on your resume. 

First, we will obsess over our customers. Obsessing over our customers is everybody’s job. I’m looking to the engineering teams to build the experiences our customers love. I’m looking to the sales and marketing organizations to showcase our unique value propositions and drive customer usage first and foremost.
 In order to deliver the experiences our customers need for the mobile-first and cloud-first world, we will modernize our engineering processes to be customer-obsessed, data-driven, speed-oriented and quality-focused. We will be more effective in predicting and understanding what our customers need and more nimble in adjusting to information we get from the market. We will streamline the engineering process and reduce the amount of time and energy it takes to get things done. You can expect to have fewer processes but more focused and measurable outcomes. You will see fewer people get involved in decisions and more emphasis on accountability. Further, you will see investments in two new or combined functions: Data and Applied Science and Software Engineering. Each engineering group will have Data and Applied Science resources that will focus on measurable outcomes for our products and predictive analysis of market trends, which will allow us to innovate more effectively. Software Engineering will evolve so that information can travel more quickly, with fewer breakpoints between the envisioning of a product or service and a quality delivery to customers. In making these changes we are getting closer to the customer and pushing more accountability throughout the organization.

We should not be surprised when thousands of Microsoft staff are shown the door.

Second, we know the changes above will bring on the need for new training, learning and experimentation.

That’s you, old, middle management gatekeepers.

Over the next six months you will see new investments in our workforce, such as enhanced training and development and more opportunities to test new ideas and incubate new projects.

Big layoffs by Christmas.

I have also heard from many of you that changing jobs is challenging. We will change the process and mindset so you can more seamlessly move around the company to roles where you can have the most impact and personal growth. All of this, too, comes with accountability and the need to deliver great work for customers, but it is clear that investing in future learning and growth has great benefit for everyone.  

I suspect Microsoft will soon become the GE of personal computing. Massive, always in flux, possessing an agile bureaucracy, driven less by product or business model and more by shrewdly financing initiatives which it can dominate.  

I am committed to making Microsoft the best place for smart, curious, ambitious people to do their best work.

Why hasn’t it been?



every team across Microsoft must find ways to simplify and move faster, more efficiently. We will increase the fluidity of information and ideas by taking actions to flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes.

See note above re: resumes.

Culture change means we will do things differently. Often people think that means everyone other than them. In reality, it means all of us taking a new approach and working together to make Microsoft better. To this end, I’ve asked each member of the Senior Leadership Team to evaluate opportunities to advance their innovation processes and simplify their operations and how they work. We will share more on this throughout July.

Big layoffs by Thanksgiving.

A few months ago on a call with investors I quoted Nietzsche and said that we must have “courage in the face of reality.” Even more important, we must have courage in the face of opportunity.

+1 for quoting Nietzsche. -2 for quoting Nietzsche 3,000 words in. 

We have clarity in purpose to empower every individual and organization to do more and achieve more. We have the right capabilities to reinvent productivity and platforms for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. Now, we must build the right culture to take advantage of our huge opportunity. And culture change starts with one individual at a time.

Validate why you, ye lowly programmer, should continue to be employed by Microsoft. 

Rainer Maria Rilke’s words say it best: “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.”

Want to get on Nadella’s good side? He obviously has a penchant for early 20th century German writers.

We must each have the courage to transform as individuals. We must ask ourselves, what idea can I bring to life? What insight can I illuminate? What individual life could I change? What customer can I delight? What new skill could I learn? What team could I help build? What orthodoxy should I question?

Big layoffs by Labor Day. 

With the courage to transform individually, we will collectively transform this company and seize the great opportunity ahead.

I wish you well, Mr. Nadella, and all of you (still) at Microsoft. 

Why Do All Of You Hate Windows Phone So Much?

I have used mobile phones for two decades. I have tried nearly every single platform. I consider myself a good judge of functionality, durability, usability and value. I have spent the past six months using a Windows Phone — a Lumia 1520 — as my primary device. It is big, beautiful, intuitive, powerful. The battery, more than double the iPhone’s, actually lasts me all day long. Cortana knows my voice better than Siri. Live Tiles provide information at a glance better than any iPhone app and all my iPhone notifications. Nokia’s HERE Maps are more responsive than Google’s. The display is magic.

People stop me in public and ask me if they should buy one.

I always say yes.

A few, however, ask if I can recommend it over their iPhone or Android phone.

For this, I have no answer.

For better or worse, iPhone and Android are good enough for, well, nearly every single smartphone user on the planet. I have no reason to believe this will change soon.


Sales data, mostly. Management shifts inside Microsoft, partly. Plus, I ask people. I ask actual human beings both online and in physical space. I ask why they chose the iPhone or an Android phone. I also ask, and this is always more insightful, why they did not choose a Windows Phone.

But before that, let’s take a look at the numbers. They are unforgiving.

No One Is Using Windows Phone

The smartphone wars are far from over. The near term addressable market for smartphones is in the billions of units.

Global smartphone growth
Global smartphone growth

And yet…

As smartphones become more vital to our lives, as prices drop, as the technology spreads, as smartphones link to more devices, wearables and services, Windows Phone remains barely a blip. Tech.pinions estimates the Windows Phone install base at a mere 2%.

Smartphone install base
Smartphone install base

Love your Windows Phone? Love Nokia design, imaging, sound quality, build quality? Happy with how Windows Phone offers a clear UI alternative, a uniquely innovative means to group contacts, superior music streaming versus Beats?

It does not matter, apparently.

The market has spoken — a billion times over. It can find no valid set of reasons to choose the Lumia Icon or Lumia 920, 1020 or 1520, or any other Windows Phone instead of an iPhone 5c or every model of Android.

It gets worse.

As the Tech.pinions analysis reveals, smartphone sales are dominated by the usual suspects — Apple and Samsung, plus numerous Chinese-based vendors. Nearly all of these are exclusively focused on Android.


Lest you think Tech.pinions numbers are an outlier, Tomi Ahonen aggregates data from several manufacturers and industry groups. His smartphone market share numbers align closely with Tech.pinions.

Spoiler alert: Almost nobody wants Windows Phone.

Smartphone share
Smartphone share

Bad, yes. Worse — the most recent quarter offered little hope, with market share for Windows Phone actually dropping:

Smartphone share

By next quarter, Microsoft’s newly acquired Nokia division, which is responsible for the vast majority of Windows Phone sales, may not even crack the top 10:

Smartphone share

Coolpad/Yulong? Ever heard of them? They sold millions more smartphones last quarter than did Nokia. To be fair, their Samsung Galaxy Note flattery is quite nice. 


How can this be?

Why Is No One Using Windows Phone?

I want Windows Phone to succeed. I want yet another great American company to be a central part of our global, mobile, highly technological future. Plus, Microsoft can offer users a rather stunning array of uniquely valuable services and platforms. Skype, identity, Xbox, Office, OneDrive, Yammer — an unmatched range of corporate, productivity and connectivity tools that may be peerless in the computing world.

Why, then, are their phones so thoroughly rejected?

I said above I asked people why they did not choose a Windows Phone. That is a somewhat misleading statement. Because as it turns out, almost everyone I asked had not even considered a Windows Phone. They could give me no answers.

A few, however, had considered a Windows Phone. Or at least revealed awareness of its existence. Their responses to my informal survey are telling.

1. Microsoft Derangement Syndrome

If I were to state here Microsoft saved Apple from bankruptcy, the vitriolic comments would never end. Should I remark Apple is a great artist — “and great artists steal” — it would generate far more heated, angry response than could ever be justified.

And yet people have no qualms about openly hating Microsoft. The ancient slights, real and perceived, have not healed. I confess I was surprised by how many people made it clear to me they would have nothing to do with Microsoft. Ever. Whenever they have a choice.

I find this Microsoft hate odd and unproductive. I presume a change in perception will occur now Steve Ballmer, the physical manifestation of all that rage, no longer has a lead role at Microsoft.  

2. Live Tiles

In theory, live tiles should flourish on our mobile devices. They deliver timely, desired information direct to the user’s screen, available at a glance.

In reality, the static app won.

Users I spoke with prefer the pull of static apps to the push of live tiles, even if they could not fully explain why. They also did not care for the look (design) of live tiles, how they twinkle and spin, nor did they express any desire to pin an app, a site, or other information to their home screen. 

When it comes to smartphones, the look and feel of Apple’s iOS is what people expect, no matter who provides it.

3. No There There

Whether out of vision or necessity — or more likely both — Apple made the iPhone the center of our computing world. Microsoft continues to place the Windows PC at the center of our computing world.

This is not the future.

This snapshot of the US browser market is telling. On mobile, Microsoft is nearly non-existent.

mobile browser share

Should anyone still think PCs will ever again be the center of our world, take note of this Mary Meeker graphic which reveals time spent in front of our various screens.

screen time

Those I spoke with viewed Microsoft as a PC company, not a mobile one (or a cloud one, even). Satya Nadella’s “mobile first, cloud first” strategy sounds exactly right, but his words have not resonated with end users.

4. iTunes

Of course, iTunes. Children use iTunes. Grandparents use iTunes. We all use iTunes. Over and over again, people tell me — and this includes Android users — that without iTunes, or seamless access to their iTunes content, they won’t even consider the alternative device.


5. There’s An App For That (But Not Really)

It’s been stated a million times and it cannot be overstated. The Windows platform desperately desperately desperately needs more and better apps.

There are far fewer apps for Windows Phone, and most of those do not offer the robust experience found on the iPhone.

It is now far easier to buy far more software and content for Apple devices than for Windows devices. This is a stunning reversal. Every person I asked brought up the ‘app gap’.

6. By Any Other Name

Do customers want a Nokia? Do customers want a Lumia? Is Windows Phone high-end, low-end? Is it a premium, integrated device or an OS licensed by unknown entities such as BLU Products, Yezz, BYD, Wistron and Prestigo?

The Nokia XL, which I consider to be an amazing device for the price, runs atop Android. But it looks like a Windows Phone.

What is it?

In my regular discussions with non-technical people, primarily in the US, a smartphone is:

  • iPhone first,
  • Samsung second,
  • Android third

in that order.

Microsoft’s marketing team must gain significant traction within our already crowded heads if it hopes to ever sell Windows Phone.

And We Continue…

Now, my personal experience.

7. Separate But Unequal

I have walked into dozens of carrier retail stores in the United States. Until recently, it was difficult even to locate a Windows Phone.

It gets worse.

At multiple retail stores, as I am examining a Windows Phone, a helpful salesperson has steered me toward Android. Microsoft needs to fix this problem stat.

8. No Self Control

What can I control with my Windows Phone?

My smartwatch? My thermostat? My television? My PC? My Xbox?

The smartphone is the center of our computing world. To succeed, Windows Phone must become this. While no one brought this up, I think the lack of an obvious, flourishing ecosystem centered around Windows Phone continues to limit adoption.

9. The iPhone Box

As much as I love the beautiful, colorful, brilliantly designed polycarbonite Lumia 1520 for example, perhaps Microsoft should focus on making devices that much more closely resemble the squared, austere iPhone. This seems to be what the market wants.


Ditch the colors, the curves and the unapologetically plastic design. The Lumia Icon mimics the boxy, metallic design of the iPhone. Perhaps that is how all Windows Phones should look. I hope I am wrong, but the world says otherwise.

10. Continuity

Apple made a splash at WWDC by promising “continuity.” That is, creating a seamless experience across devices — iPhone, iPad, Mac. Microsoft needs to show me and all its customers how Windows Phone can or will offer a seamless, integrated, multi-device experience. 

Nowhere To Go But Up

It no longer matters whether Windows Phone is better, just as good, different, or some combination of these. The iPhone and Android are everything users need, which leaves Microsoft on the outside. 

What happens next is up to Microsoft, not the public.

Apple once faced this exact same situation. They were forced to become something other than what they were, despite their abiding belief they offered a superior, or certainly equivalent, product. After a long, difficult slog, it worked out rather well for them. I hope the same for you, Microsoft. I know it will not be easy.

Rebuttal: 10 Reasons To Not Buy A Windows Tablet

ZDNet posted an article entitled: 10 Reasons To Buy A Windows Tablet Instead Of The iPad Or Android.

[pullquote]If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, come sit by me. ~ Alice Roosevelt Longworth[/pullquote]

The ZDNet article proves to me you’re never too old to learn something stupid. The justifications used to support the proposition one should buy a Microsoft tablet are as stupid as they get.

Let’s review, shall we?

1) It’s all about choice

    “Having options available is always a good thing…”

That just ain’t so. Options don’t matter unless they’re GOOD options or, more specifically, unless they’re better than the options already available. Benedict Evans is fond of saying that some people suffer from “Technology Tourette’s” — a baffling disease that causes some technology enthusiasts to grow neck beards and shout out random tech memes like “Open!” and “Choice!” at inappropriate times. That seems to be what’s occurring here.

Choice is not an end, it’s a means and it’s the quality of one’s choices — not just the availability of choice — that matters. If you demonstrate Windows tablets are better, fine. But just claiming they’re different from what’s already available doesn’t cut it as an argument.

2) Plug it in

    “Windows tablets are full PCs. Most can do anything that their bigger siblings can do, and that includes letting owners plug peripherals in to do stuff.”

[pullquote]When it’s three o’clock in Cupertino, it’s still 1995 in Redmond.[/pullquote]

That argument is like a marshmallow — easy to chew, but hard to swallow. ((Inspired by Alberto Nikas))

First, most everything listed in the article can now be done wirelessly — no cables required.

Second, didn’t Microsoft just spend the last decade stirring up apathy about the wonders of having a full PC on a tablet? How’d that work out for them?

Third, didn’t the iPad become a computing phenomenon without all those cables?

160_F_31117682_7sZOFRNgAwbAjqfA4bMyMcFR9KPkmkekMicrosoft claiming their tablets are equipped with the full PC experience is like a hooker claiming she is equipped with a chastity belt. It’s neither a feature nor a benefit.

3) Keeps getting better

    “Windows 8 wasn’t that great on tablets when first introduced, but that’s a thing of the past.”

I think we can agree. The past is over. ~ George W. Bush

That reminds me of a joke:

Morty comes home to find his wife and his best friend, Lou, naked together in bed. Just as Morty is about to open his mouth, Lou jumps out of the bed and says, “Before you say anything, old pal, what are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” ((Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar, Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein ))

So who are you going to believe, ZDNet or your lying eyes?

Apparently the Windows 8 design team believe if two wrongs don’t make a right, try three…or four…or five…

  1. Saying Windows 8 is getting better on tablets is like saying one’s rash isn’t as noticeable anymore (although it still itches like crazy).
  2. Windows 8 is so bad that if it had been introduced 2,000 years ago, it would have been stoned.
  3. Windows 8 is so bad that if it were your lover it would give you an anticlimax. ((Inspired by Scott Roeben))

And Windows RT (also known as “I-have-no-idea-what-they’re-calling-it-now?”)? Well, that reminds me of another joke.

Q: What do you call a dog with no legs?
A: It doesn’t matter because it’s not going to come anyway.

It doesn’t matter what you call Windows RT because it’s a dog and its got no legs.

4) Double duty

    “Many tablets are available in hybrid form, a slate (screen) that plugs into a dock that turns it into a laptop. These are tablets when you want one and laptops when you need one, as Microsoft is fond of telling us.”

Double “doody” devices are a great problem, masquerading as a great good.

If you’re on a camping trip, you might want to use a Swiss Army knife. But if you’re at home, you won’t ever use it to carve the turkey, open a can or a bottle of wine. You’ll have better tools available.

Similarly, if you’re a road warrior, you may want a two-in-one. Like the Swiss Army knife, it’s a convenient, but compromised, tool. If sales totals mean anything to you — and they certainly mean something to the rest of the world — it appears that even most road warriors would prefer to carry both a tablet and a notebook rather than endure the compromises inherent in a hybrid computing device.

I think well-known-tech-reviewer, Abraham Lincoln, may have best summed up the problem with hybrids:

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee. ~ Abraham Lincoln

5) Then there’s Office…

    “A lot has been said about the need for Microsoft Office on tablets, and while there are decent alternatives to Office on the other tablet platforms, there’s no solution as complete as the genuine article.”

First, many — nay most — do not need to use Office.

Second, there are numerous Office alternatives available.

Third, if you need to use Office, you’ll be much happier using a notebook than a tablet. Office is not optimized for touch.

Fourth, Microsoft is soon going to bring Office to the iPad.

So what was the point ZDNet was trying to make?

6) Do some real work

    “You hear a lot of discussion about what constitutes real work, and while I can do my work on any tablet, some need Windows.”

ZDNet conflates two arguments here. If you need to use Windows, then by all means, buy a Windows machine. (Although some contend “The Best Windows PC Is An Apple Mac.”) However, Windows desktop programs aren’t optimized for touch, so a notebook would probably be more appropriate than a tablet.

If you really need to know if your computer is doing “real work,” then first you have to know what the definition of “work” is and even before that, you need to know what the definition of “definition” is.

“Definition” is “an exact statement or description of the nature, scope, or meaning of something.”

You use a definition to define an object. You do not use an object to define a definition.

Defining “real work” by comparing it to what one can do on a PC or Windows tablet is the same argument — and the same erroneous argument — PC aficionado’s used to make when they contended tablets weren’t “real” computers. They looked at their PCs, listed all of its attributes and then excluded from the definition of computing anything that didn’t have all of those attributes. This is akin to looking at a cow and claiming anything that doesn’t have all of the characteristics of a cow isn’t a mammal.

“Work” is an “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

The “purpose or result” is defined by the user, not by the tool. It’s the user, not Microsoft, who gets to define whether the tool does the “real work” or not and the fact 95% of all Enterprise software on tablets runs on iOS should put to rest Microsoft’s pompous contention that non-Window’s tablets don’t do “real work.”

Unbelievably, here’s the screenshot that ZDNet used as support for their claim one can do “real work” on a Windows tablet.


Yikes! If that’s what ZDNet means by “real work”, you can keep it. ZDNet couldn’t have parodied their argument better if they’d tried.

PedalSkatesI suspect if Microsoft had been in the bicycle business at the turn of the last century, they would have offered “pedal skates” as their alternative to Apple’s roller skates, all the while claiming their pedal skates were “real” bicycles because they had “real” tires.

Sigh. It’s a “tired” argument that falls flat. ((There’s probably a RIM joke in there somewhere too.))

7) Lots of apps

Well, that’s just a damn lie. App support for Windows 8 is third of three, so it’s a reason NOT to buy a Windows tablet, not a reason TO buy a Windows Tablet.

One could contend Windows apps are “good enough.” One could contend it, but it still wouldn’t make it so. There are not only huge holes in the Windows lineup, but the apps that are available are often mere shadows of the originals – unoptimized for touch or poorly implemented copycats.

Windows 8 has less apps, the apps it has are less useful and Microsoft is porting its own apps to Apple devices. So how exactly are “apps” a reason to buy Windows tablets?

Microsoft app not only in the Mac App Store, but featured as Editor’s Choice. Different era, I know. Still weird. ~ MG Siegler (@parislemon)


The above ad came out yesterday. Notice anything missing? (Hint: It’s Windows 8.)

8) Run any browser you want

Geez, that’s some awfully weak sauce. Let’s tease out the reality.

First, most users don’t care about multiple browsers on their mobile devices.

Second, most browsers are optimized for their mobile devices. (Tip o’ the hat to @jseths)

Third, the browsers available on Window 8 are not touch enabled. Which kind of puts a serious crimp in the entire contention Windows 8 tablets come with multiple browsers.

Fourth, even the browser users are pulling out of Windows 8.

Fifth, if multiple non-touch optimized browsers are what you really want on your tablet then by all means the two of you should go out and buy a Windows tablet.

Regarding Firefox Metro, you can complain when devs don’t support Metro, but when they do and see no usage, hard to complain if they kill it. ~ Paul Thurrott (@thurrott)

9) Multi-tasking on the screen

    “Those who do two things at once on an iPad or most Android tablets are all too familiar with having to swap between the two app screens. Bouncing back and forth is OK, but it would be much better to have the two apps displayed side-by-side on the tablet screen. Windows tablets have you covered in this regard, as snap view lets you put two apps up at once.”

Well, on the one hand, many apps do not work with snap view. On the other hand, I really like snap view and if it’s a big plus for you, have at it on your Windows tablet. However, I strongly suspect that design-wise, mobile is made for full screen use. As the world-famous designer, Dieter Rams put it: “Less, but better.”

I’m comfortable letting the market act as the judge and jury on this one.

10) Long-term viability

    “Companies come, and companies go, and that’s especially true in the mobile space. Buying into a mobile platform with any device is making a leap of faith that the platform and the company behind it will be around for the long haul.That’s not a concern with a Windows tablet, as Microsoft is certain to be around for a long time.”

[pullquote]He’s a very competitive competitor, that’s the sort of competitor he is. ~ Dorian Williams, horse show commentator[/pullquote]

Whoa, whoa and whoa!

What a bizarre argument. First, saying Microsoft will be around in the long run is not the same thing as saying Windows 8 will be around in the long run.

Innovation is a process. Innovativeness as an attribute of a company is a measure of its processes not its assets. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco)

Second, saying Microsoft is committed to Windows 8 tablets is not the same as saying Windows 8 tablets will be around in the long run. I’m pretty sure IBM was committed to OS/2, Palm was committed to WebOS, and RIM was committed to Blackberry. The crucial question is not whether Microsoft is committed to Windows 8 but whether the developers are committed and the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”

Guardian: Firefox on Windows 8 Metro only had 1,000 daily users. ~ Charles Arthur (@charlesarthur)

(Perhaps it’s not so much developers are rats deserting a sinking ship as they are ships deserting a sinking rat.)

[pullquote]Microsoft is like the guy at the party who gives everybody cocaine and still nobody likes him. ((Inspired by Jim Samuels))[/pullquote]

Firefox says Windows 8 is a black hole, kills its Metro app ~ Sameer Singh (@sameer_singh17)

Mozilla pulls the plug on ‘Metro’ mode Firefox browser for Windows 8. Windows 8 isn’t a failure? You’re kidding right? ~ Bhaskar Bhat (@bhaskarsb)

Windows Tablets have long-term viability? Au contraire. Windows 8 has the life expectancy of a small boy about to look into a gas tank with a lighted match. ((Inspired by Fred Allen))


There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder. ~ Brian Aldiss

This article makes me wonder what the writer was thinking. Let me put it this way. If this author had been the Captain of the Titanic, he’d deny the ship had hit an iceberg and say they were only stopping to pick up some ice.

[pullquote]Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is that you’re stupid and make bad decisions. ~ Parody Bill Murray (@BiIIMurray)[/pullquote]

The fundamental problem with Windows 8 hasn’t changed: you’re still working in two operating systems at once. And it can’t be “fixed,” it can only be undone.

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This is the ultimate strategy tax. The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world. ((Malcolm Gladwell)). The last thing Microsoft wanted to do was to start anew. They wanted to leverage their existing desktop Windows monopoly. Instead, Windows 8 is an anchor so big it’s sinking not only Microsoft’s mobile hopes but their desktop franchise as well.

Which reminds me of one last joke:

      A magician is working on a cruise ship, but there is one problem. The captain’s parrot watches every show he does, and after figuring out the tricks, the parrot has started yelling out the secrets of how the tricks are done.
The bird says, “Look, it’s not the same hat!” or “Hey! He’s hiding the flowers under the table!”
The magician is enraged. But it’s the captain’s parrot, so he can’t do anything about it.

One day on a long cruise, there is an accident. The boat crashes and sinks. The magician and the parrot find them themselves clinging to the same plank of wood in the middle of the ocean. For days neither says anything. Finally, after a week, with no hope in sight, the parrot says, “Okay, I give up. Where’s the boat?”

[pullquote]Anyone can win, unless there happens to be a second entry. ~ George Ade[/pullquote]

There is no boat. And there is no salvaging of Windows 8 either. You can “parrot” Microsoft’s PR all you want, but it’s like they say:

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

Windows 8 In Hindsight

On September 13, 2011, Zach Epstein, explained to us us why Windows 8 was the dawning of a new age. And on February 9, 2014, Paul Thurrott explained to us why the sun was prematurely setting on that age.

[pullquote]Calling Windows 8 a “software design” is like calling bald a hair color.[/pullquote]

Between those two dates, a flood of virtual ink was spilled arguing both for and against the existence of Windows 8. But in the end it all comes down to this: Windows 8 was a failure of design.

Good Design Is Less Design

    Zach Epstein:

    PCs are not going away. They will continue to be the primary means of computing for business and consumers alike. Tablets are not going away, either. They will continue to provide a much more intuitive way to interact with a consumer electronics device. Microsoft’s vision, however, unifies these devices.

    One platform to rule them all. The technology exists to enable users to carry a single device that is as portable and usable as a tablet, but also as powerful and capable as a PC.

LESSON #1: Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Nerds tend to focus on what they CAN do and often forget what they SHOULD be doing. More is not always more. And in design, less is always more.

[A]s designers and engineers in general, we’re guilty of designing for ourselves too often. ~ Bill Moggridge

If nerds (and I am one) were in charge of the ballet, they wold note that all the ballerinas were always on their toes and they would “solve” that problem by hiring taller ballerinas.

If nerds were in charge of a Japanese Restaurant, they would offer the option of ordering Sushi medium and well-done.

You think I’m exaggerating , right? But Microsoft’s has both a trackpad and a touch screen. A nerd doesn’t see that as a problem. And that’s the problem.

I think a nerd is a person who uses the telephone to talk to other people about telephones. And a computer nerd therefore is somebody who uses a computer in order to use a computer. ~ Douglas Adams

Good Design Solves Problems

    Zach Epstein

    Apple paved the way but Microsoft will get there first with Windows 8. A tablet that can be as fluid and user friendly as the iPad but as capable as a Windows laptop. A tablet that can boot in under 10 seconds and fire up a full-scale version of Adobe Dreamweaver a few moments later. A tablet that can be slipped into a dock to instantly become a fully capable touch-enabled laptop computer. This is Microsoft’s vision with Windows 8, and this is what it will deliver.

LESSON #2: Windows 8 Is A Solution Looking For A Problem.

Mark Wilson of Fastcode is spot on in his criticism of Windows 8:

    Metro solves the problem of, “How do you map the same interface to disparate devices?” Okay. But is that a real problem for consumers? I don’t think so.

    [pullquote]A phone interface matching a laptop interface is about as important as socks matching underwear.[/pullquote]

    The consumer design problem is, “How do I make this device as intuitive as possible?” or “How can I streamline the process of getting someone the file he wants?” People care about speed, efficiency, clarity, and delight. But a phone interface matching a laptop interface is about as important as socks matching underwear.

Good Design Is Not Easy Or Intuitive

    Paul Thurrott:

    When critics described Windows 8.1 as a step backwards, I disagreed: Responding to customer complaints is never wrong, I argued….

LESSON #3: The Customer Is Not Qualified To Be The Designer.

Non-designers routinely argue that the customer is best-positioned to select the features which should be included in a product design. That’s ridiculous. The customer knows where he wants to go but asking him to design the vehicle that gets him there is as stupid as asking astronauts to design the space shuttle. They’re not qualified and it is not their job.

When I was growing up, a guy across the street had a Volkswagen Bug. He really wanted to make it into a Porsche. He spent all his spare money and time accessorizing this VW, making it look and sound loud. By the time he was done, he did not have a Porsche. He had a loud, ugly VW. ~ Steve Jobs

The product should not be defined by the customer, is should be defined by the designer from the point of view of the customer. That’s a subtle but oh-so-crucial distinction.

Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page. ~ Steve Jobs

Good Design Is True To Itself

    Paul Thurott:

    [pullquote]If you can find something everyone agrees on, it’s wrong. ~ Mo Udall[/pullquote]

    Microsoft has simply fallen into an all-too-familiar trap of trying to please everyone, and creating a product that is ultimately not ideal for anyone.

About one-fifth of the people are against everything all the time. ~ Robert F. Kennedy

LESSON #4: When You Try To Please Everyone, You Please No One.

Please all, and you will please none. ~ Aesop, “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey”

Design Means Making Hard Choices

    Paul Thurott:

    If you look back over the decades at the many high-level complaints that have been leveled at Windows, one in particular sticks out: Unlike Mac OS, in particular, Windows has always attempted to satisfy every possible customer need, and as such it often provides multiple ways to accomplish the same thing.

LESSON #5: Offering Multiple Options Is The Opposite Of Good Design.

[pullquote]When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice. ~ William James[/pullquote]

Nerds want options. Normals want solutions.

“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can oftentimes arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there.” ~ Steve Jobs

Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away…. ~ Antoine De Saint-exupery

When designing an interface, remember that the user of that interface has spent orders of magnitude less time thinking about it than you. ~ Steve Holt! (@steve_holt)

Design Matters

    Paul Thurrott:

    The reason this happened is that while Sinofsky had the maniacal power and force of will of a Steve Jobs, he lacked Jobs’ best gift: An innate understanding of good design. Windows 8 is not well-designed. It’s a mess.

It’s easy (and fun!) to lay the blame for Window 8 at Sinofky’s feet. Try this one on for size:

Sinofsky had the Midas touch. Everything he touched turned into a muffler.

Funny? Yes. Fair? Absolutely not.

Sinofsky — like everyone who worked at Microsoft — was handicapped because he had to start the design of Windows 8 with Windows in mind. That’s exactly the wrong way to do it.

Good design starts anew and that was never going to happen at Microsoft. Sinofsky and whoever was tasked with creating Windows 8 was going to start their design from the existing foundation of Windows and trying to integrate a mouse input operating system with a touch driven operating system was doomed from the start.

LESSON #6: Design Is Where You Start, Not Where You End.

The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world. ~ Malcolm Gladwell

Compare where Sinofsky was starting with this quote from Jonny Ive:

    When we’re designing a new product, we not only need to start with a blank slate, but we also need to start with the client’s perspective and work our way backwards. What does the client want. More importantly, what does the client need?

Design makes what is complex feel simpler, and makes what is simpler feel richer. ~ johnmaeda (@johnmaeda)


    Paul Thurrott:

    God knows, Microsoft tries. It’s a wonderful observer and follower.

Say what now?

LESSON #6: Windows 8 Was Both Late And Not Great.

With Windows 8, Microsoft was the very opposite of a wonderful observer and follower. They were late to the party and they came to a formal wearing a clown outfit, including bells and whistles.

Apple SHOWED Microsoft how modern phones were done. Apple SHOWED Microsoft how modern tablets were done. If you want to look at a fast follower, look at Google. If you want to look at a good copier, look at Samsung.

The wise learn many things from their enemies. ~ Aristophanes

If you want to look at someone who arrived late and still got it all wrong, look at Windows 8.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. ~ Douglas Adams

Unified OS Advocates Are Out Of “Touch” With Reality

Last week, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi and Bud Tribble were interviewed as part of the Mac’s 30th anniversary. They — in no uncertain terms — slammed the door shut on the idea that Apple was planning on merging iOS (the operating system for their phones and tablets) with OS X (the operating system for their notebooks and desktops).

“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be,” Schiller said.

“To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a nongoal,” Federighi said.

“And that”, I thought to myself, “finally puts an end to that discussion.”

Boy, was I wrong.

The Loyal Opposition

Brian S. Hall makes an impassioned case for operating system unification, right here at Tech.Pinions:

I want my various “computers”…to essentially operate as similarly as possible, preferably with a unified user interface and application set across all.

It’s troubling to me that the world’s biggest computer company (Apple) can’t seem to make this work. When I hear Apple execs mocking Microsoft’s UI strategy I think it’s an opportunity lost.

(I)t bothers me that it is Apple which seems so determined to accept multiple OSes across multiple form factors. Here’s a case, frankly, where I hope Microsoft wins.

Kyle Russell, of Business Insider, reviews the various operating system comments made by the Apple executives and comes to a similar conclusion, here:

As much as a well-executed touchscreen MacBook could make for an amazing device — maybe even “redefine laptop computing” — it seems that Apple doesn’t want people to get caught up on the idea, even if it is true.

(Emphasis added)

Do you fully grasp what both of these commentators are implying? It’s not, they contend, that Apple CANNOT create a unified operating system, it’s simply that Apple REFUSES to do so. If only Apple would not be so gol’ darn stubborn and get on the unified operating system bandwagon, Apple could not only make a device that would run on a unified operating system but they could make a unified device that would be totally AWESOME!

Bull hockey

[pullquote]A word to the wise is infuriating. ~ Unknown Source[/pullquote]

I VEHEMENTLY disagree. Operating system unification is not a “lost opportunity.” It’s not an “opportunity” at all. It’s a disaster because A TOUCH OPERATING SYSTEM IS WHOLLY INCOMPATIBLE WITH A DESKTOP OPERATING SYSTEM.

We have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product; we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that… ~ Steve Jobs

The Interview

Metaphors Matter

“An incredible amount of thought and creativity went into the original Mac metaphor,” Tribble said.

A Tool Should Work The Way We Think, Not Make Us Think About The Way It Works

(T)he underlying principles behind them—that the Mac should be easily approachable and learnable by just looking at it, that it should bend to the will of the person and not bend the person’s will to the technology—those underlying threads also apply to our other products.

One Size Does Not Fit All

And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it.

No Touch Screens on Notebooks or Desktops

“It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience?” Federighi said. “We believe, no.” ((Dr. Drang (@drdrang) has a thoughtful essay, here, on why touch screens WOULD work on notebooks and desktops. MY TAKE: This issue confused me for a while. It was clear to me that the input methods for notebooks and desktops were, and should remain, distinct from those of phones and tablets. On the other hand, it was also clear that phones and tablets were training us all to touch our computing screens. Ultimately, I concluded that metaphor mattered most. Using touch on a machine designed for a desktop metaphor only works SOME of the time and would ultimately cause confusion in the user’s mind. Better to make a clean break and have users to gestures on a touchpad, instead.))

The Personal Computer Has Been Honed To Work With A Keyboard And Mice; The Tablet Has Been Honed To Work With Your Finger

“This device,” Federighi said, pointing at a MacBook Air screen, “has been honed over 30 years to be optimal” for keyboards and mice. Schiller and Federighi both made clear that Apple believes that competitors who try to attach a touchscreen to a PC or a clamshell keyboard onto a tablet are barking up the wrong tree.

“The reason OS X has a different interface than iOS isn’t because one came after the other or because this one’s old and this one’s new,” Federighi said. Instead, it’s because using a mouse and keyboard just isn’t the same as tapping with your finger.”

The Metaphysics

Aristotle drew a distinction between essential and accidental properties. The way he put it is that essential properties are those without which a thing wouldn’t be what it is, and accidental properties are those that determine how a thing is, but not what it is.

Touch is ACCIDENTAL to a Personal Computer. It may enhance its usefulness but it doesn’t change the essence of what it is. Touch is ESSENTIAL to a Tablet. It’s the essence of what it is.

Pixel specific input is ANATHEMA to a Tablet. It destroys its very essence. A Touch device can literally not work with pixel sized input targets. But pixel specific input is ESSENTIAL to a Personal Computer. A Personal Computer can literally not operate without it.

A touch input metaphor and a pixel input metaphor not only should be, but MUST be, wholly different and wholly incompatible with one another. It’s not just that they do not comfortably co-exist within one form factor, it’s also that they do not comfortably co-exist within our minds eye.

In plain words, it’s no accident that the operating systems for tablets and notebooks are distinctly different from one another. On the contrary, their differences — their incompatibilities — are the essence of what makes them what they are.

Motorcycle-Motorcar ((Why Motorcar instead of car or automobile? Because I like alliteration, that’s why.)) Metaphor

A car and a motorcycle are both motor vehicles but they employ two very different user interfaces.

On a car:
— You use your left hand to steer;
— You use your right hand to shift gears; ((At least, you did before automatic transmissions came into vogue.))
— You use your right foot to accelerate and brake; and
— You use your left foot to keep time with the radio.

On a motorcycle:
— You use your left hand to work the clutch;
— You use your left foot to shift the gears;
— You use your right hand to work the front wheel brake; and
— You use your right foot to work the back wheel brake.

[pullquote]The mythical unified operating system is an insoluble problem, masquerading as a great good.[/pullquote]

You could put a hand brake on a car or a steering wheel on a motorcycle or a foot clutch on a car or a stick shift on a motorcycle — but none of those additions would make much sense. All would be confusing and most would be dangerous as all get out.

Unifying the features of a motorcycle and a car or a tablet and a desktop is not the goal. User understanding and usability IS the goal.

The Theory In Practice

That’s the theory. So what’s the reality?

Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play. ~ Kant

The Tablet — Sans Desktop Interface — Is A Runaway Success

The iPad — and all the derivative tablets within the Android operating system — have only one operating system and only one input (touch) and they are fantastically successful.

By the end of 2014 the install base of tablets will be just over half that of PCs. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)

Take a deep breath and re-read that again. It only took FOUR YEARS for install base of tablets to reach half of that of Personal Computers!


If the tablet is only half-a loaf — if the unified operating system is the Holy Grail of computing — then why has the tablet been SO successful and why has Microsoft’s 2-in-1 effort been such an abject failure?

The failure of Apple critics is not that they don’t understand that Apple’s iPad/iPhone are selling. It is that they don’t understand why. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)


The Surface 2-In-1 Approach Is A Train Wreck

Design makes what is complex feel simpler, and makes what is simpler feel richer.

[pullquote]Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is as pure as the driven slush.[/pullquote]

Ask yourself this question: “Is Windows 8’s 2-in-1 user interface simpler?” Heck no, Why, Microsoft can’t even get their own flagship apps to work well on Windows 8.

I’m really not sure that there’s a worse app to use with Windows 8 tablets than Outlook. The idea that MS thinks this is acceptable is crazy. ~ Ian Betteridge (@ianbetteridge)

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, he asked “Is there room for a third category of device (between the phone and the notebook)?” Now Microsoft is trying to introduce yet another category between the tablet and the notebook. If it is to succeed, then it must pass the same litmus test that Steve Jobs proposed for the iPad:

The bar’s pretty high. In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks. Better than a laptop. Better than a smartphone. (Author’s note: And better than a tablet.)

[pullquote]You can’t sit on two horses with one behind. ~ Yiddish proverb[/pullquote]

Now let me ask you this: What tasks is the Surface FAR better at?

The Surface, which is the embodiment of combining two operating systems into one, has failed and failed miserably.


It turns out that Apple had long-ago asked — and long-ago definitively answered — the question of whether they would be combining a tablet with a notebook. And that answer was “Yes”:

QUESTION: “What would happen if a MacBook met an iPad?”

ANSWER: The MacBook Air. ((New MacBook Air announcement))

[pullquote]Microsofts strategy and products will appeal to millions while Google and Apple’s will appeal to billions. ~ Ben Bajarin (@BenBajarin)[/pullquote]

Tablet and notebook interfaces are not combining because it simply won’t work. Great products are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather, by the presence of clear strengths.

In 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, Steve Jobs famously said:

(A)re you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.

When it comes to phones, tablets and notebook/desktops, we can reverse that and paraphrase Steve Jobs by saying:

Are you getting it? This is not one device. These are three separate devices, and we’re calling them the smartphone, tablet and notebook/desktop.

Phil Schiller put it this way:

“It’s not an either/or,” Schiller said. “It’s a world where you’re going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don’t have to choose. And so what’s more important is how you seamlessly move between them all…. It’s not like this is a laptop person and that’s a tablet person. It doesn’t have to be that way.”


Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise. ~ Cato the Elder

[pullquote]It is hard to get to the summit, harder to stay on it, but hardest to come down. ~ Aleksander Fredro[/pullquote]

Apple showed Microsoft the way to do tablets right, but Microsoft refused to follow Apple’s example because they knew that it would mean the end of their existing Window’s monopoly.

Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Microsoft thinks they’re in the Windows business. They’ve forgotten their mission, their purpose. They’ve forgotten that they’re in the computing business.

ctrl-alt-delMicrosoft should Control-Alt-Delete their attempts at a unified operating system, but I don’t think there’s any chance that that will happen. Based on the statements coming out of Redmond, Microsoft is doubling-down on their current strategy which, in my opinion, is a tragic mistake. Besides, asking Microsoft to fix what’s wrong with Windows 8 is like making them the detective in a crime movie where they’re also the murderer.

Yogi Berra once famously said:

It’s not over until it’s over.

It’s over.

The Smartphone Wars Pivot And I Jump To Windows Phone

The smartphone wars are over. Apple won.

They are not the only winner, of course, just the biggest. I confess I do not fully appreciate the many moving parts of a Korean chaebol, nor understand Korean accounting practices. Such caveats notwithstanding, Samsung also emerged victorious.

Given that there now exists about a billion persons who use Google services everyday, several times a day, their most personal information monetized by the company’s anonymous servers in steady bursts, clearly Google also won, even if it has yet to show up in their earnings reports.

The losers include Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, BlackBerry, Palm, Dell, and far too many others to list here.

Except, our story doesn’t end there. The world keeps spinning. The market keeps growing, smartphones continue to invade new industries, apps are becoming more robust, software ever smaller, the power and scale of the cloud keeps expanding — and competition never stops.

One Shot One Opportunity Is False

HP — remember them — is set to release a low-end smartphone for emerging markets. Don’t scoff. The vast majority of the world still does not own the equivalent of the very device you refuse to give up for even a day. While Samsung continues to lead all smartphone makers, the company’s operating profit fell notably in the fourth quarter, likely due to reduced margins on its high-end smartphones. Apple, meanwhile, saw its global smartphone share drop to a shockingly low 12.1%. That’s not 12.1% of global mobile phone sales but of “smartphone” sales. I never expected it to be so meager.

Yet, new opportunities abound.

Apple’s iPhone is steadily invading corporate IT. With each job and every task smartphones strip away from traditional PCs, their inherent value increases.


Cars are another new battleground. That constant stream of real-time data, entertainment and connectivity we now demand fill every moment of our lives will not be halted simply because we get inside a car. This is a big deal. Around 80 million new cars and trucks are sold every year.

Last summer, Apple announced iOS in the Car, its effort to integrate iOS  apps and services with newer automobiles. I have exceedingly low expectations. Apple makes its money from hardware sales, iPhone hardware in particular. iOS in the Car still requires users to have an iPhone which they must then plug into the vehicle to gain the full benefits of Siri, Maps, iTunes and other content. This is much too limiting.

Google’s recently announced Open Automotive Alliance — still primarily vapor — has a far greater upside as it is free from such device constraints. The automotive market may force Apple to re-think its hardware-only focus very soon. After all, Apple hardware, at least while we are driving, is effectively irrelevant.

The situation is much different in wearables, where I contend Apple has a decided advantage. If we are ever going to wear computing devices en masse — be they wristbands, eyewear or clothing — they will have to be far more than merely functional. They must look good. They must synch effortlessly with our smartphones and other computers. They must be intuitive to operate. We will want to try them on without sales pressure. Advantage: Apple.

Sports and wellness, the Internet of Things, and the extrication of content from copyright, which will allow us to control, share and interact with content at all times and from any place, will similarly spin the smartphone market into numerous overlapping paths, merging with, tearing down and creating industry after industry.


Then there are the giant emerging markets. China, of course, but also India, which has long embraced Sony and Samsung. In my admittedly limited experience, Southeast Asia has long revealed a love of physical keyboards and robust messaging services — offering a potential return to life for BlackBerry.

As the many combatants prepare for these coming new wars, let us rejoice in the fact that we can now can go to practically any mall, any carrier’s store, any electronics retailer anywhere in the world, and purchase an extraordinarily powerful, highly functional and reasonably intuitive connected mobile computer for relatively little money. Which is exactly what I did recently. I was quite surprised by what happened.

I chose Windows Phone.

Though I have used smartphones built for nearly every single platform from all around the world, my go-to device for the past 5 years has been iPhone. No longer.

These are my reasons why — and they remind us that even where the smartphone wars are settled, they are never truly settled.

I Like Big Displays And I Cannot Lie

Nokia-Lumia-1520I now primarily use the Nokia Lumia 1520. It’s huge. I love it. Surfing the web, reading a book, racing cars (gaming), watching movies, scanning my photos; all are so much more delightful on the gorgeous and very big Lumia 1520 display than on the iPhone.

I dislike the iPhone 5(c/s) screen dimensions. I find it much too narrow. The dimensions of the iPhone 5 series, in my view, reveal the limits placed upon Apple by its highly successful app ecosystem. Yes, apps should be optimized for specific screen sizes and Apple is the clear leader in apps, both in terms of quantity and quality. Unfortunately, this results in a display with dimensions that I find to be both limiting and, frankly, unattractive.

I have found no device that is as beautiful as the colorful and unapologetically polycarbonite Lumia phones.

Build Quality

The Lumia looks great, yes, but it also feels great. In fact, Nokia devices have long been known for their build quality and durability. This is not to suggest that Apple’s newest iPhone is poorly constructed. Rather, they feel flimsy. iPhone 5s, in particular, feels much too light, like your grandmother’s jewelry.


The combination of Nokia Maps (Here Maps), which includes traffic data, search, and downloadable maps, plus Here Transit for public transportation data has proven more helpful to me than Apple’s alternative. Google Maps with Waze, not fully available on Windows Phone, may prove more useful to most. However, I simply don’t want to provide Google with still more of my personal data.


Most iPhone accessories are priced well above my pay grade. Not so with Windows Phone. I recently purchased a car charger for my Windows Phone at a gas station — for less than $10. The low price was due, of course, to Windows Phone’s use of the micro USB standard. Similarly, I lost my Jambox charger. Luckily, it also uses micro USB so I simply swap with my phone charger. Standards make life easier.

smart_hero_mba_11_2xiOS 7

I love what I think Apple is trying to do with iOS 7. The problem is, they haven’t done it yet. The emphasis on data presentation, plus improved integration across select apps and functions is a laudable achievement. It’s just that the damn thing freezes and crashes much too frequently.

Live Tiles

Live Tiles are often — but not always — preferable to static app icons. Tiles can display current weather, show me how many calories I have consumed for the day, display my favorite photos. Tiles that merely twinkle and flash and convey no useful information, however, are admittedly a time-sucking distraction.

The Fine Print

I am a Mac user. This means that with Windows Phone I no longer have apps that effortlessly synch across iPhone and Mac. This is just one of the sacrifices I’ve had to accept by choosing Windows Phone.

Because of copyright restrictions, I no longer have full, unfettered access to all the songs and videos I’ve purchased over the years through iTunes.

There are far fewer apps and most apps are of lesser quality on Windows Phone.

Maddeningly, the very latest Windows Phone keyboard remains determinedly stuck in 2011. The keyboard is cumbersome and stupid, rarely correcting my obvious typos.

As much as I dislike the iPhone 5 design, it adheres to what should be a cardinal rule for smartphones, despite everything I have said about big, beautiful displays: for every smartphone, it should be possible for every action to be performed with just one hand.

Games? There are great games on Windows Phone. Microsoft also appears intent on offering a gaming experience that truly integrates phone and Xbox console. Then there’s that bigger display. However, there are far more games for all types of gamers available on iPhone.

Mobile Safari and Mobile Explorer are equivalent. FaceTime and Skype are not, however, with Skype more a global and business telephony service and FaceTime the world’s most accessible video chat service.

Nokia offers highly granular camera controls that are sorely lacking on iPhone. My Lumia takes much better pictures at night. However, iPhone 5(c/s) takes great pictures and is faster to operate.

Email is simpler to use and to set-up on Windows Phone.

The Windows Phone equivalent of Siri is of absolutely no use. As I am at a loss to recall a single instance when I have found Siri useful, this probably doesn’t matter.

Winners & Winners

Clearly, whichever device and whichever platform you choose requires trade-offs. I expect this to become even more pronounced as the smartphone wars morph, move into entirely new arenas, enable new devices, like wearables, reinvigorate old device, like automobiles — and steadily connect more and more billions of people across the world.

For millions of people every month, and for nearly all of us at least once every year or two, an opportunity presents itself to embrace a new or different platform. This is a good thing as it keeps the combatants ever vigilant, always striving to improve.

The smartphone wars are not over. Rather, the first smartphone war has ended.

Microsoft Windows’ Biggest Problem

Paul Thurrott — a long-time Microsoft booster — has written a devastating analysis of Windows for WindowsITPro. After reviewing Windows’ recent history, he concludes:

Windows is in trouble because people simply don’t care about it anymore. It’s ambivalence.

[pullquote](T)he opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn. ~ Leo Buscaglia[/pullquote]

The definition of ambivalence is: “the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something.”

Actually, the word that came to my mind was “apathy.”

The definition of apathy is: “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.”

Whether it’s ambivalence or apathy, you can be certain that it has to be concerning to Microsoft:

And make no mistake, this is a serious issue. With businesses keeping Windows on life support and users spacing out their PC purchases for so long that there might never in fact be another PC purchase, Windows is in trouble. This ambivalence is worse for the platform than outright defeat. In its current state, Windows can limp along for years to come. And that’s just long enough for the platform to wither and effectively disappear.

Windows and its applications were comfortable, familiar, and popular

Windows represented the volume market for personal computing. The resulting applications would be purchased, downloaded, and used by real users((Author’s Note: What exactly is Paul trying to imply here by using the word “real users?)), and the programming standards that developed over time—toolbar and button types, property sheets, and other ways of doing things—permeated across popular applications, creating a standard look and feel.

Apathy background conceptAgreed.

Windows and its applications were comfortable, familiar, and popular. And then they weren’t.

Agreed and agreed.

Desktops have stagnated

Thurrott contends that Desktop apps have stagnated and that the primary cause was the long-delayed Longhorn operating system. I’ve included his argument in an extensive footnote, here ((It didn’t start with tablets, sorry. And it didn’t start with Mac OS X. It started with Longhorn, the project that outgoing Microsoft CEO has (correctly) pinpointed as the biggest mistake of his tenure. Longhorn was the point at which Microsoft’s ambitions exceeded its abilities. And it derailed Windows, and the company, for the better part of a decade.
Longhorn addressed the wrong problem for the era, and it did so with the backing of a set of all-new, .NET-based APIs that morphed throughout the years-long development of the platform. By the time Microsoft spat out Windows Vista, it was as top-heavy and unwieldy as the organization that created it. Worse, it fulfilled precious little of the original promise of the platform.
While this was happening, web apps, phones, and then tablets were becoming first viable and then truly powerful. While this was happening, developers stayed away from Microsoft’s new APIs in droves and created absolutely zero major new applications with that technology. While this was happening, desktop applications such as Office, Photoshop, and iTunes lumbered along, more out of inertia than anything else.)).

I would contend that it was the desktop computers themselves — not the desktop apps — that stagnated. The desktop computer over-served the vast majority of its users, making it difficult for software makers to introduce new, exciting software. As Thurrott, himself, points out:

(Of) the top 10 most frequently installed Windows desktop applications, two—iTunes and Chrome—are essentially rival platforms of their own that aim to steal away Windows users, while the rest are silly little utilities that fix problems with Windows 8.

Having 8 of one’s top 10 apps be utilities sounds like over-serving to me. In any case, even if Thurrott and I took different roads, we both reached the same destination — that Windows is suffering from ambivalence or apathy.

Windows is on the back burner

Ballot paper with the don’t care box ticked

I…spoke to a friend who works for a major technology company that has a big presence in the Windows world….After rising to fame and fortune on the back of…Windows applications…this firm has seen its user base splinter, with many on Macs and many more on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

(A)ccording to my friend, there is absolutely zero call for creating (Windows) apps. And their flagship Windows products are hard to maintain and update because of the lack of interest and excitement around Win32.

This song is being sung in companies around the world, where users are moving to Android and iOS mobile apps and to web apps. Apps tailored to these experiences are now at the forefront, and Windows, when it’s considered at all, is on the back burner.

The End Of The Windows Monopoly

At this point in his analysis, Thurrott neglects to mention that Windows is marooned on notebook and desktop machines, while smartphones and tablets have passed PCs by. Charles Arthur, of the Guardian, sums it up thus (emphasis added):

This moment, where tablets outsell PCs, also marks another watershed: the end of the Windows monopoly on computing. It used to be that if you wanted to get something done, you would end up using Windows to do it. But as smartphone sales have exploded (they passed those of PCs three years ago), followed by tablets, the need to press the “Start” button has stopped. Ask yourself – what was the last consumer app whose popularity depended on being available for Windows?


Thurrott is hardly the first analyst to reach the conclusion that Windows has become irrelevant.

The risk to MSFT from Chromebooks and tablets is not sales numbers, it’s that many will see how little they need Windows now. And Office. ~ James Kendrick (@jkendrick)

[pullquote]Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike. ~ J. K. Rowling[/pullquote]

In fact, he may be one of the very last analysts to have reached this conclusion. But it does not make that conclusion any less correct. For all their riches, Microsoft is in trouble. Their competitors know it, Microsoft knows if, and now, even their most die-hard supporters know it. But I don’t think that the general public has come around yet.

Ironically, Bill Gates, may have summed up Microsoft’s current dilemma best:

In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself.

Stop Believing Apple Invents Stuff! Where I Interview The Biggest Android Fanboy In The World.

He is known simply as Charbax. You can find him on Twitter, on Youtube, and very often in the comments section of any post that trashes Android. He is in my opinion the biggest Android fanboy — fan, fanatic, believer, evangelist — in the world. His numerous first-hand, homebrew videos showcase the incredible innovation occurring across the Android ecosystem, be it in China, in Europe, or America.

What fuels his passion? Apple makes gorgeous physical products, easy to love. Android, by contrast, is a string of ones and zeros, cold, unfeeling code. There are many more questions, of course. If Android is “winning” then how does he explain Apple’s massive profits? Or the pre-eminence of iPad? Why care about an OS whose primary reason for being is not to get more people online but to capture more personal data to sell to advertisers? And what of Google’s continued moves to tighten control around this once aggressively marketed “open” platform?

Charbax arrived in San Francisco last week and did not shy away from any of my questions — though his numbers are often suspect.

Disclosure: I have followed Charbax online for at least three years. As that rare pundit who has gone on record stating that Android is, well, not very good, and almost certainly to be eclipsed by a far more functional and cohesive platform, I have faced his wrath many times over. Watch his videos, however, and you must admit that no person, no company — not even Google itself — has so well documented the stunningly rapid spread of Android throughout the globe, and into all manner of computing devices, be they phones, tablets, toys, cameras or sensors. If Android does come to rule our world, as Charbax absolutely believes it will — maybe already has — then history will lean heavily upon his work.

Author note: I have edited responses for the sake of brevity and clarity.  

His real name is Nicolas Charbonnier. He is from Denmark. He tells me that he funds his work primarily through his well-trafficked pro-Android website and popular Youtube channel.

What explains the rapid global spread of Android?
Android is the first embedded Linux for smart devices platform that got enough investment to reach full usability.

What are some current examples of innovative development taking place with Android?
Android is reaching sub-$25 Phones this year and it’ll be in sub-$15 phones next year. Android has reached sub-$20 Desktop HDMI Sticks now and it’s going to reach sub-$10 desktop prices next year. Without Android, there would be nothing of interest going on in the tech world.

Android is enabling the next 5 Billion people access to smart technology. You can fly to China and buy an iPhone 5S copy on MediaTek MT6572 (dual-core ARM Cortex-A7, Android 4.2.2) for the same total price as buying a “real” iPhone 5S in America.

It seems as if only Samsung has profited from Android. What if they abandon the platform?
This is the dream of the same morons that sank Nokia and Blackberry. Samsung is hugely profitable only thanks to Android. Android subsidizes Samsung, Sony and LG’s HDTV business and other businesses. Companies make money on Android because it’s free, open source, and optimized for the most advanced consumer products.

Are you affiliated with Google?
Nope. If Google wants to give me a job, they are welcome to hire me.

Why are you an Android “evangelist”?
I’m basically an evangelist of technology.  I think technology is the solution to all world’s problems and all the (latest) technology is powered by Android. I video-blog at 20 consumer electronics shows per year and 99% of what is happening there revolves around Android. Without Android, I would have nothing to video-blog about.


How do you support your globe-spanning work documenting Android?
My Youtube channel passed 25 million views and I make money from ads. A few companies pay for my flights and hotels when they want me to video-blog at their conferences. I have some 300+ members paying me $20/year on my website. I also earn money by offering advice on sourcing devices out of China.

What do Apple users get wrong about Android?
The world is bigger than Cupertino. Most technological innovation is not happening in the USA and especially not in Cupertino!

Stop believing Apple invents stuff! Apple never invented anything! Even selling overpaid hardware pre-dates Apple by millenia. Apple is simply a cash machine. They invest money wisely in components at the right time for them and they make absurd amounts of profits selling those devices.

They convince consumers that it’s worth paying $2,500+ with a 2-year contract for a device that cost Apple less than $150 to manufacture by underpaid workers in China.

While you may stay in love with your Apple plastics if you want, there is much more happening out in the rest of the world. Android has 100 times more engineers and 100x more R&D being invested throughout the thousands of Android companies working on Android innovation right now.

Author note: I did not ask Charbax if he was referring to me with his “stay in love with your Apple plastics” remark or to Apple users in general.  

What is the future of Android?   
Android has about 90% market share today (where it matters, growth markets and non-US developped markets). It’ll be 98% in 2 years. It’ll power everything in the world.

But isn’t fragmentation a significant problem for Android?
With retail prices for Android devices ranging from $20 to $2000, you cannot expect everything to work on all those different types of devices. On the other hand, even without “official” support on perhaps 50% of the Android device output to date, most apps and most Android features work perfectly fine on 98% of the Android devices on the market.

Author note: Again, Charbax did not offer verifiable evidence for his assertions.

Android was very ingeniously designed since day 1 for both massive backwards compatibility and forwards compatibility. The Android apps SDK enables 99.9% of the 1 million Android apps to work perfectly fine on 99.9% of Android devices being used on the market right now. Even your 3-4 year old Android device will support above 99% of the 1 million Android apps today.

This is absolutely not true of Apple iOS. iPad apps don’t work right on iPhone. iPhone apps don’t work right on iPad. iPad (2) apps don’t work right on iPad Mini. iPad Mini apps don’t work right on iPad Mini Retina.

Android is built to accomodate for just about any screen size, pixel density and any optional hardware features. You do not need to design “tablet optimized” apps for Android for example as you must absolutely do so for iPad.

What else is better about Android than iOS or Windows Phone (or any other operating system)?
Android is 100% open source. This is the most important thing. Android is like the web. iOS and Windows are like proprietary competitors to the web. Android is 100% free.

What about claims that Android or Android makers infringe on other’s patents?
All those patent lawsuits against Android are complete bullshit. Anyone who believes Microsoft or Apple have the right to sue Linux open source on smart devices is just out of his mind. Nobody must touch Linux, it’s free and open source. End of story. Nobody can patent any touch UI, any device shape, any essential user interaction idea, or anything that somebody else would have come up with.

Google appears to be transitioning away from the very open source view you espouse.
Admittedly, Android needs to be even more open source and even more free. That means open source GPU drivers, open source WiFi, Bluetooth, and other source drivers. It means perhaps 100% free alternatives to HDMI, USB, H264, Mp3, Dolby, as well as alternatives to whatever else other people are claiming licence fees against Android device makers for. That practice is just wrong and needs to stop.

Connectors, codecs, graphics engines, all those things need to be free to use for any device maker. Google needs to ramp up their involvement in providing 100% free alternatives to the market for these things so that device makers can in fact produce 100% free and open source Android devices worldwide.

But is this something Google should do? What about controlling the Android brand name, the use of Google apps, and controlling development of future releases?
(I suspect) Sundar Pichai‘s role overseeing Android may be to prepare Android 5.0+ to be totally open. Google should (and soon may) allow any third party developer access to see in real time all the future features of Android that Google is working on. Google should release dailies and accept way more third party patches and feature requests. Any improvements to Android that any third parties want to submit should get integrated in real-time.

You think Google will do this?
I think Google knows they are so far ahead of anyone else now that it really doesn’t benefit either Google or Google’s hardware partners to offer exclusive access to future Android development anymore. Give everyone equal, real-time access.

I also think Google will un-licence and un-restrict the use of their Android apps so that anyone will be allowed to ship Android with Google Play, Google Maps, Gmail, and whatever other apps Google offers, as much as they want, with no more need to ask for Google certification first.

Google should also count all Android activations in the future, and not only count certified Android devices. The 1.5 million Android activations per day are only certified Android devices being activated. That does not include the 500,000 – 1 million non-certified Android devices that are sold worldwide and activated each day.

Why are you visiting San Francisco?
I want to interview HP, Intel and others in the region. I will also be attending a Samsung developer conference. Before this, I was  in Shenzhen, China and purchased some Android phones for $36, and Android-powered devices that copy both Windows Phone and iPhone.

Thank you.

Author note: below are some of my favorite Charbax videos: 

Archos Childpad

A $29 Android tablet

Shenzhen Tablet Factory tour

Windows Phone And Android Hate

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” 
― Maya Angelou

I want Windows Phone to succeed. More than that, I want Android to fail. I hate Android.

There, I said it. Yes, I am a market analyst, detached, and I have absolutely no stake in the success or failure, rise or fall, of either Microsoft or Google, $MSFT or $GOOG, or Apple, for that matter. I simply do not like Android. I refuse to hide this fact.

I think Android is a pale, poorly executed imitation of Apple’s iOS. I have real concerns about the ethics of Google’s ex-CEO as he simultaneously served on Apple’s board. Google’s scale and de facto search monopoly allow it to undercut competition and stifle innovation in local-mobile services. That’s no good. I can’t stand the way they use terms like “open” the way fast food chains label yesterday’s hamburgers as “fresh.”

Nor can I ignore their duplicitous stance on patents.

Most of all, I am suspicious of Google Android’s business model, which is built upon the capture, store, sift and sell of an ever-increasing amount of my increasingly personal information, all of which is then bundled and sold off to countless unknown people and businesses.

With Google search, Google Maps, Google Android, Google Wallet, Google Play, Google Chrome and Google+, Google knows where we are, what we are buying, who we are with, what led us to that purchase — and has documentary evidence of it.


I don’t want this.

As everything goes digital and as everything digital collapses inside the shimmering smartphone screen, I see no justification for anyone cheering on Android.

I am not fueled by animus, however. I want the new Microsoft – Nokia to succeed because the world benefits if Windows Phone becomes a viable third alternative to iPhone and Android.

A Great Disturbance In The Force 

Yes, I think Apple currently makes the best smartphone and operates the best smartphone platform. But, for sundry reasons Apple will not and cannot stop the global spread of Android. Should Apple release, as is widely expected, a low-cost global iPhone “C”, and if rumors of deals with DoCoMo and China Mobile are all true, it’s still likely that the very best Apple will achieve — ever — is well under 30% of the global smartphone market. Likely, 25% is their ceiling. I don’t want Google to own 75% of the smartphone market as I believe this would be harmful to innovation and a long-term threat to personal privacy norms.

Where Apple will not succeed, Microsoft now can. Pushing Ballmer aside and acquiring Nokia suggests an acceptance of the new world they must now compete in. No, it will not be easy to take on Android. It is unlikely they will succeed. Still, the company that once seemed like the Evil Empire is now more like an aging Annakin Skywalker — and our last, best hope to slay the Emperor.

There are many arrows in Microsoft’s quiver: Windows 8 + Nokia design + Skype + Bing + Office + Outlook + Nokia imaging + Windows Media — plus security and server tools for businesses of all sizes. Microsoft with Nokia also has the necessary global footprint.  Taking on Android is not a suicide mission.

The Circle Is Now Complete

The greatest barrier to success, however, is that Microsoft remains of a world that no longer exists. Smartphones represent a transformative shift in computing – like mainframes to Minis and Minis to PCs. Companies optimized for PCs are, I believe, more likely as not to fail in this new age. Of course, Google is also optimized for PCs. That’s where nearly all its revenues come from, still.

Nokia, however, is optimized for mobile if not quite for this new age of smartphones. Moreover, they possess still another strength that Google does not: the user is also the customer.

This is critical — and little understood by most mobile industry pundits. Smartphones are with us all the time. They are in our hand when we awake and when we fall asleep.  They are our most personal objects, containing our most private data, and the thing we touch more even than our own children. Carriers and IT units may be major channels for smartphone sales but unlike with PCs, the user will be the ultimate arbiter. These devices are simply too personal to allow others to decide what we choose.

Nokia possesses yet another strength, and one not well understood in the United States. The company truly knows how to make quality devices at amazingly low prices.


The pre-Microsoft Nokia lent me various “Asha” phones to test: the dual-SIM Asha 310, and the cute, colorful and long-lasting Asha 501. I also tested the  Nokia 105 feature phone. I was legitimately struck by the functionality and usability of each of these phones, particularly on a per-dollar basis. I would not buy any of them — which means I cannot recommend them. That said, these phones can be had for $25 – $100, a truly amazing feat of engineering, design and manufacturing. In many parts of the world, most do not have the luxury of turning their back on a sub-$100 device like I can.

Analysts that confidently predict Android will forever dominate the smartphone wars on cost alone have likely never used a very-low-cost Nokia device. Similarly, those analysts that are convinced that Android will win because Google offers its services and applications for free badly under-estimate the value of functionality, reliability and security that is built into Microsoft’s software.

The Force Is Strong With This One

Microsoft and Nokia can deliver this to the world:

Low-cost, secure, functional smartphones that seamlessly integrate across multiple devices (e.g. smartphones, PCs and game console), that satisfy end users and businesses alike, that can incorporate Yammer, Skype, Xbox, Outlook and Office, and which provide a hedge against the overwhelming force that is Google Android. That is a powerful combination.

Admittedly, the numbers at present are not terribly good, as this recent Kantar market survey reveals.


Despite its current meager share, the Windows Phone platform is growing. Moreover, the smartphone market itself is only in its early days. Analysts who suggest otherwise are dead wrong. The vast majority of the world does not have a smartphone yet — though almost certainly will within the next few years. In addition, smartphones are becoming more used and more useful for all  users with every passing day — for work, school, play, home, life. “Free” and ad-driven business models like Android may ultimately fail to satisfy the requirements users demand for these truly critical devices. What is critical in your life that you don’t expect to pay for?

I Sense Something. A Presence I’ve Not Felt Since…

When Microsoft effectively acquired Nokia, the company made no secret of their intent:

To accelerate its share and profits in phones. To create a first-rate Microsoft phone experience for its users. To prevent Google and Apple from foreclosing app innovation, integration, distribution and economics.

I am hoping they succeed. It is within them to do so. Their fatal flaw, it seems to me, is do they have enough faith in themselves to do what is right, to achieve what I contend is possible, and build for the future, not the present? After all, the reason Ballmer was so successful and yet ultimately failed is that he chased the easy money, valued Windows profits above all else, and refused to acknowledge the potential for complete market disruption.

Nokia is likewise guilty of this. In a recent interview, Frank Nuovo — once the Jony Ive of Nokia — told the Australian Financial Review that Apple, not Nokia, re-invented the mobile market despite Nokia’s massive head start, because “all of our user testing pointed to the fact that no-one wanted touch phones.”

And yet now all of us have one.

The world can change, and quickly.

As can you. It’s time to let go of your anger. All has been burned clean. Begun the Smartphone War has. Microsoft is now on our side. May the force be with them.

The Microsoft Surface is (French) Toast

The Apology

Please allow me to begin by apologizing for the saucy language you are about to encounter. There is simply no way for me to tell the following joke without cursing. I really don’t like cursing (although, I do so love using it for effect), so I’m going to employ a substitute for the curse word. I trust that the savvy and discerning Techpinions reader will be able to pierce the veil and see through my little euphemism. Enjoy!

The Joke

On a Saturday morning, three boys come down to the kitchen and sit around the breakfast table.

Their mother asks the oldest boy what he’d like to eat.

“I’ll have some firetruckin’ French toast,” he says. The mother is outraged at his crude language. She hits him and sends him upstairs.

When she calms down, she asks the middle child what he wants. “Well, I guess that leaves more firetruckin’ French toast for me,” he says. The mom is livid. She smacks him and sends him away.

Finally, she looks at the youngest son and asks him what he wants for breakfast.

“I don’t know,” he says meekly, “but I definitely don’t want the firetruckin’ French toast!”

Excerpt from: “Jokes Every Man Should Know

The Analogy

• The mother in the Joke represents the computer buying public.

• The first two boys represent any one of the several PC hardware manufacturers who made tablets running the Windows 8 software but who have since been booted from the market.

• The youngest boy represents Microsoft.

Microsoft – like the youngest boy in the Joke – has gotten the reaction of the public (the mother) all mixed up. The boy thinks that the mother is upset about the French Toast, not the cursing. Microsoft thinks that the public is upset about Windows 8. So Microsoft has been quick to swear off (see what I did there?) Windows 8 and move on to the brand, spanking, new Windows 8.1. That’s going to fix EVERYTHING!

Or not.

‘Cause the real problem – the problem that Microsoft doesn’t see or get – is with Microsoft’s accursed tablet philosophy. Microsoft thinks that what people REALLY want in a tablet is a PC. And Microsoft thinks that what people REALLY want in a PC is Windows. Thus and therefore, Microsoft thinks that what people REALLY want in a tablet is a PC that runs Windows – a hybrid, that does it all and is all things to all people.

Until Microsoft’s outlook (oh my, yet another obscure reference) changes – and I think it’s unlikely to change anytime too soon – Microsoft, like the youngest boy in the Joke, is going to keep on getting slapped around without a clue as to why it’s happening.

Paul Thurrott’s Analysis

Paul Thurrott, in his article entitled, “Can Surface be Saved?“, is seemingly critical of Microsoft’s tablet efforts but, in the end, he erroneously sides with Microsoft’s take on why Windows 8 tablets are failing in the marketplace.

The Surface Is The New Zune

The parallels with (Surface and) Zune are interesting. In both cases, Microsoft established a new (well, recycled in the case of Surface) brand for a new family of hardware products. In both cases, Microsoft adopted a coopetition model in which it sought to have it both ways by both supporting partner devices and then competing with them head-on with their own.

The fear at the time of the reveal event was that Microsoft would alienate these partners by making its own hardware. ~ Paul Thurrott

Microsoft’s move to “co-opetition” is quite interesting. When Microsoft announced the Surface, the pundits seemed to fall into one of two groups. The theorists suggested that by making their own hardware, Microsoft would harm their relationship with their hardware partners. On the other hand, realists looked at the market and concluded: “Harm their relationship? Nonsense. Where are the hardware manufacturer’s going to go?”

In a way, the theorists and the realists were both right. If the Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet program is the sinking Titanic, Microsoft’s PC manufacturers are the lifeboats and those lifeboats aren’t so much paddling toward anything as they are simply madly paddling to get AWAY from the sinking ship that is the Surface. ((Paul Thurrott: First, of the few PC and hardware makers that voiced support for Windows RT last year and the subset of those that actually shipped devices, virtually all have completely and publicly backed away from the platform. Indeed, the most successful Windows RT device, by all measures, is Surface RT. And that device required a nearly $1 billion write-off because of poor sales.
Second, more and more PC makers are turning to free Google platforms. Not just Chrome OS, which is a super-cheap/low-risk bet, but also now Android.))

Redefining “Superior”

Killing off Surface would just deprive customers of some of the only truly superior PC hardware out there.

And these devices really are superior. We can debate specifics around battery life, the keyboard choices, the number of ports, the non-adjustable kickstand, or whatever. But these are beautiful and well made products. ~ Paul Thurrott

Okey dokey then. Let’s take a step back for a second and examine that bit of analysis. I have no argument at all with the hardware quality of the Surface. Beautiful and well-made? Yes. But nothing is truly “superior”unless it serves its intended purpose.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. ~ Peter Drucker

The “Pro” Tablet

I previously described (the Surface) as what a “Pro” line of iPads might look like if Apple were to make such a thing. ~ Paul Thurrott

This is where Paul’s analysis and Microsoft’s tablet philosophy go right off the rails. They both think that what the world wants – that what the world needs – is a “Pro” line of tablets.

…I still believe that this kind of hybrid device—one that combines work and play thematically and tablet and laptop physically—is the future of the PC. Not just the Ultrabook, but the PC. The ability to use and travel with just a single device that does it all is still a dream today. ~ Paul Thurrott

Yeah, not so very much.

I can see the appeal of Paul and Microsoft’s “dream”. But – as Microsoft has demonstrated – merging a tablet with a PC is not a “dream”, it’s a nightmare.

Not One Hybrid, But Multiple Screens

Ironically, Bill Gates predicted the future of computing back in 2007:

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 you’ll have the device that fits in your pocket…

…and then we’ll have the evolution of the portable machine. And the evolution of the phone will both be extremely high volume, complementary–that is, if you own one, you’re more likely to own the other.

[pullquote]The one, unifying computer is not the hybrid, it’s the Cloud.[/pullquote]

What’s actually happening is that we’re moving toward owning multiple windows (Ironic, eh?) to view and interact with our centralized data in the Cloud. One screen for our pocket (smart phone), one screen for the desk (PC), one screen for the wall (TV) and one screen for walking and lounging about (tablet). The one, unifying computer is not the hybrid, it’s the Cloud.

So if Bill Gates predicted this so very long ago, why doesn’t Microsoft get it? Well, as Upton Sinclair so rightly put it:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

A hybrid computer that runs Windows is not the consumer’s dream, it’s Microsoft’s dream. And the bulk of the computer buying public is having none of it.

Black or White Thinking

Am I saying the the Surface isn’t good for anyone? Absolutely not. There are literally millions upon millions of users who will need it, love it, absolutely adore it.

But that’s not enough.

In today’s marketplace, millions of computers is a niche. The goal is to sell in the BILLIONS. And I’m not being hyperbolic. Android is closing in on a billion activations fast. And iOS isn’t that far behind.

The pertinent question isn’t whether Windows 8 tablets are good or bad. Like all products, they’re good for some people and bad for others. The pertinent question is one of proportion. Will enough people want enough Windows 8 tablets to make them a majority or even a plurality? All the evidence to date says that they will not.

The Surface Is Firetrucked

So let’s tie this into one nice, neat package and put a ribbon on it.

In the Joke, the mom’s problem isn’t with the French Toast. It’s with the kids’ cursing.

In reality, the public’s problem isn’t with the quality of the Surface hardware or about tweaking the Windows 8 software. It’s with Microsoft’s cursed belief that tablets really want to be PCs.

As long as the kid in the Joke doesn’t understand the problem, he’s going to keep getting smacked around by his mother.

As long as Microsoft doesn’t understand the problem, they’re going to keep getting smacked around by the marketplace.

If Microsoft doesn’t start getting the joke, instead of being the joke, their tablet ambitions are going to end up as (French) toast. ((Urban Dictionary: Toast – Destroyed, terminated, ceased functioning, ended abruptly by external forces.))

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


1.1) 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. ((“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.”))

— It enables Microsoft to make money on hardware.

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

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. ((“Microsoft’s marketing budgets that are allocated so far for Q2 2013 include absolutely no support for Windows Phone partners.”))

— Microsoft’s strategy distances their interests from the interests of their hardware partners, such as Acer, ((Acer won’t do Windows Phone this year, wants Microsoft to pick up the pace.)) Samsung, ((Something Else Revealed At Samsung’s Launch Event: Disdain For Windows RT.)) Nokia, ((Nokia pulls plug on Windows RT tablet, signals end MSFT)) device makers based in Asia, ((Device makers based in Asia are not keen on Windows RT. That has become painfully clear.)) and trade shows such as Computex. ((One year after debut, Windows RT is a Computex no-show.))

— Microsoft’s policy encourages their hardware partners, such as AMD, ((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.)) to migrate to Android. ((Android has become a hedge against Microsoft and Windows.))

— Hardware is – no pun intended – hard. Probably a lot harder than Microsoft thought. ((Switching from software to hardware, however, is proving very hard. I’m sure quite a bit harder than (Microsoft’s) management thought.))

— 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. ((“Surface Pro is really a PC, and potential buyers will also be considering notebooks and ultrabooks.” noted Moorhead.)) What purpose does that serve?

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


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.


3.1) 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. ((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))

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.”


4.1) 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.


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


“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


Whose funeral is this, anyway?

Beating The Dead Horse That Is Microsoft Windows (Part 1)

Few people enjoy beating a dead horse more than I do, but man, beating up on Microsoft Windows is simply no fun anymore…because everybody’s doing it.

The defining company of the PC era — which for the purposes of this discussion we’ll consider the 25 years from 1981 to 2006 — has not articulated a unique and compelling vision for the future of computing since the iPhone rocked it to its core in 2007. ~ Tom Krazit, Gigaom

Yup, that about sums it up.

The first part of this two-part series will focus on what’s gone wrong with Microsoft Windows. Next week, I’ll conclude the series by focusing on why Microsoft is in this position and what, if anything, they can do to resuscitate the dead horse that is Windows.

Let Me Count The Ways

So, exactly how badly is Microsoft losing in the personal computing space? Let me count the ways:

1) PCs are in decline;
2) Mobile is ascendant;
3) Windows Phone 8 sales have been disappointing;
4) Windows RT sales have been disappointing;
5) Microsoft Surface sales have been disappointing;
6) Third-party Windows 8 tablet sales have been disappointing;
7) Ultrabook sales have been disappointing;
8) Windows 8 adoption has been disappointing;
9) Microsoft App Store growth has been disappointing;
10) Business and Enterprise is moving on without Microsoft’s products or services;
11) Microsoft has lost its monopoly and its monopoly powers; and
12) Microsoft is dependent upon legacy products – Windows and Office – for the bulk of its profits.

No reasonable person is arguing that Microsoft is going away. What rational people ARE contending is that Microsoft is becoming irrelevant in the front end – the consumer facing portion – of the personal computing space.

How did it come to this?

1) PCs Are In Decline

If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will. ~ Steve Jobs

Evidence of the PCs decline is indisputable and, frankly, no one is trying to dispute it.

screen shot 2013-07-17 at 6.13.59 am

Dropoff in PC Sales Is Accelerating and Tablets Are the Culprit, Says IDC


In mature markets, the PC is saturated. And that’s where tablets are secondary devices. Shim says in emerging markets tablets are going to be primary devices. If the tablet takes off there, that kills the traditional PC’s chances of ever growing again.


…for the 4th quarter PC sales declined by almost 5% according to Gartner research, and by almost 6.5% according to IDC. Both groups no longer expect a rebound in PC shipments, as they believe homes will no longer have more than 1 PC due to mobile device penetration, a market where Surface and Win8 phones have failed to make a significant impact or move beyond a tiny market share.

In the model IDC used to forecast the 7.8% decline, the second quarter — which ended June 30 — was to be down 11.7%, a smaller drop than the first quarter’s historic 13.9% plunge. Shipments in the third and fourth quarters, meanwhile, would decline 4.7% and 1.6%, respectively, from the same periods in 2012.

2) Mobile is ascendant

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” ~ Alan Kay


Half of U.S. adults now own a tablet or smartphone, Pew study finds

…mobile devices — in particular iOS and Android — will continue to cannibalize PC sales throughout the year. Put simply, consumers and enterprise buyers prefer to spend their money on post-PC devices rather than on PCs.

Next year, tablet sales will beat notebook sales for the first time ever, says NPD’s DisplaySearch. It is projecting tablet shipments of 240 million units versus notebook shipments of 203 million units. That’s 64 percent growth for tablet versus a 5 percent decline for notebooks.

IDC: Tablets to outsell notebooks in 2013, all PCs in 2015

The latest prediction from NPD DisplaySearch shows just how quickly the market has changed. It was six months ago, in July 2012, that the same organization predicted that it would take until 2016 for tablets to surpass notebook shipments.

3) Windows Phone 8 sales have been disappointing

I wish developing great products was as easy as writing a check. If that was the case, Microsoft would have great products. ~ Steve Jobs

Source: Ben Evans

iOS and Android comprised 92.3% of Q1 2013 smartphone shipments

According to Murtazin, Microsoft’s royalty fees from licensing the Windows Phone OS to manufacturers like Nokia, HTC (2498) and Samsung (005930) are being given back to these companies in the form of marketing dollars. In Nokia’s case, an arrangement similar to the one Murtazin describes is a matter of public record, as per the company’s 2011 annual report

Windows Phone gets no traction despite the Nokia deal and RIM’s collapse

Manufacturers reportedly ignoring Windows Phone due to OS fees… and Nokia

Rumor: Microsoft paying $100,000 to some Windows Phone app makers?

You won’t help shoots grow by pulling them up higher. ~ Chinese proverb


4) Windows RT sales have been disappointing

It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true. ~ Oscar Wilde

…Gottheil dubbed the RT tablets a “meta-tweener,” a “tweener between a tweener (Windows 8 x86) and a pure tablet like iPad,” he said. … “I don’t think Windows 8 RT can be successful unless and until its price is much lower.”

Microsoft slashes Surface RT prices by $150 as it flounders against Apple’s iPad

Lenovo released one of the few PCs that ran Microsoft’s ARM-based Windows RT operating system last fall with the 11 inch Yoga 11 notebook-tablet hybrid. Now it looks like Lenovo is phasing out its lone Windows RT product, as it no longer sells the Yoga 11 on its own website.

5) Microsoft Surface sales have been disappointing

To change and to improve are two different things. – German proverb

Microsoft’s Surface Experiment Has Fallen Flat

“Perfection is the goal we’re going for, and that perfection comes with trade-offs,” said Panos Panay, general manager of Surface.

The above statement is “perfectly” ridiculous.

Someone at Microsoft needs to invest in a dictionary.

6) Third-party Windows 8 tablet sales have been disappointing

Bad engineering is solving a problem that you didn’t have in a way that you don’t understand.

…(A)t a time when buyers seems price-sensitive, Wu finds the $500 to $1200 price tags slapped on Windows 8 hardware to be “uncompetitive” when compared to Android with prices as low as $99, and the iPad mini which starts at $329.

Windows 8 tablet sales have been almost non-existent, with unit sales representing less than 1% of all Windows 8 device sales to date, NPD said, excluding sales of the Windows Surface tablet.

Windows 8 device sales have not met Redmond’s internal projections, and the company is blaming it on lackluster hardware from OEMs.

7) Ultrabook sales have been disappointing

Imitation is a good servant, but a bad master.

In October, IHS iSuppli downgraded its estimate of 2012’s ultrabook sales, cutting its projections by more than half from 22 million to 10.3 million, citing too-high prices. iSuppli argued that sales won’t take off until prices fall toward the $600 bar, perhaps in 2013. … The problem for Microsoft is that the outlook for ultrabooks, which the Surface Pro emulates, is dim. Windows ultrabook sales have been disappointing this year, and show little sign of improving sans dramatic price cuts.

NPD: Apple’s MacBook Air dominates with 56% of U.S. thin-and-light notebook market

8) Windows 8 adoption has been disappointing

I heard that if you play a Windows 8 CD backwards, you’ll get a satanic message. But the most frightening thing is that if you play it forward, it installs Windows 8.

The Windows 8 Sales Data Is In, And It’s Bad News For Microsoft

Windows 8 continues to fail

Windows 8 Is Failing to Beat Windows 7… And XP… And Even Vista!

Worse still, Windows 8’s month-over-month growth rate is lagging further and further behind Vista’s dreadful 2007 adoption numbers. When comparing the operating systems when they were first launched, Windows 8’s adoption rate in its first month trailed Vista by just over half-a-percent among PC buyers. Now, in their 8th month out, Vista’s market-share numbers now lead Windows 8 by 3.64 percent. Needless to say, both lag far behind XP and Windows 7’s numbers at similar points in their product life-cycle.

How bad are Windows 8 sales? In April 2013’s Net Applications numbers, Windows 8 barely crept up to 3.82-percent. That still leaves Windows 8 behind Microsoft’s last operating system flop, Vista, after seven months in the market. Windows on tablets fared even worse with touch-screen-based Windows 8 devices and Windows RT devices coming in at 0.02-percent and 0.00-percent each. The last was not a typo. The Surface RT is now in the running for worst Microsoft launch ever.

StatCounter’s findings follow a similarly worrying report from NPD this week, which found that Windows 8 had captured just 58% of all Windows device sales since its launch, while Windows 7 captured 83% during the same period.

9) Microsoft App Store growth has been disappointing

“There comes a time in the affairs of man when he’s got to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” – W.C. Fields


In a classic chicken-and-the-egg conundrum, the Windows Store needs more Windows 8 customers and Windows 8 customers need more worthwhile apps from the store. Microsoft has failed miserably at attracting compelling content, a painful fact for any developer — or software company — thinking about committing the resources to bring a Metro app to market. How bad is it? … In short, it’s a wasteland.

Microsoft expected 100,000 Windows 8 apps in 90 days. It took 248

Sources: Microsoft Is Paying Developers Up To $100,000 To Write Windows Phone 8 Apps



Windows 8 users are turning to apps, on average, 1.52 times a day. Breaking this down by type indicates that tablet users are the heaviest app users, launching them 2.71 times per day, while touch-screen notebook users launch 47 percent more apps than those on a standard notebook. … Desktop users make the least use of Modern apps. … Soluto crunched the data further, and took a closer look at those who launch fewer than one Modern app a day. Here, the company noticed that a staggering 60 percent of users launch an app less than once a day. Even when it comes to tablet users, the heaviest users of Windows 8 apps according to Soluto, 44 percent of those sometimes go a day without launching an app.

10) Business and Enterprise are moving on without Microsoft’s products or services

If you’re in a card game and you don’t know who the sucker is, you’re it. ~ Anonymous

Gartner: By 2014, Apple will be as accepted by enterprise IT as Microsoft is today


Thanks To BYOD, Apple Invades The Enterprise

More Data Showing iOS, Especially The iPhone, Still Killing It In The Enterprise

Why companies are still deploying iOS apps first

Fortune 500 Companies Moving to iPad Hits 94%

Apple’s iOS still dominated the enterprise mobile circuit with 75 percent of total device activations last quarter.

11) Microsoft has lost its monopoly and its monopoly powers

That which has been believed by everyone, always and everywhere, has every chance of being false. ~ Paul Valery

Forrester Report: Microsoft’s Windows Dominance Is Over

…and Windows is no longer the dominant end-user operating system when PCs, smartphones and tablets are considered.

In the greater end-user market, as Mary Meeker, the well-regarded analyst and venture capitalist, pointed out in her May 2013 Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ 2013 Internet Trends report, Windows is on the decline no matter how you measure it. Apple iOS and Android now have the lion’s share of computing devices, including PCs, smartphones and tablets, with 65-percent share over Windows’ 35-percent.



Microsoft’s mobile operating system share is actually worse than it appears. None of its most recent smartphone/tablet operating systems, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 or RT. even breaks the 0.01-percent mark on NetMarketShare’s mobile/tablet operating system market share chart. How bad it is that? Android 1.6, with 0.01-percent, does make the chart.


While Microsoft apologists focus on Windows continuing to be the dominant desktop operating system, they keep missing the two elephants in the room: Windows 8 continues to fall behind Microsoft’s previous top operating system failure, Vista, and Windows is no longer the dominant end-user operating system when PCs, smartphones and tablets are considered.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened. ~ Sir Winston Churchill

“We had a little bit different expectations for Windows 8 than previous OS launches,” Jeff Barney, VP and general manager of Toshiba America’s PC and TV business, said. “In the past Windows was the only game in town, when it was Windows 7 or Vista it was the big event of the year. These days it’s a different environment.”

The erstwhile truism You Won’t Get Fired For Buying From Microsoft has lost its luster.

In the consumer market, we expect to Apple to gain share as the younger generation has grown up on Apples at school. … Pretty soon it could be that the ‘rebels’ will be the Windows users rather than the Mac users.

12) Microsoft is dependent upon legacy products – Windows and Office – for the bulk of its profits

There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else. ~ Sam Walton

Microsoft makes more than 75% of its profits from Windows and Office. Less than 25% comes from its vaunted servers and tools. And Microsoft makes nothing from its xBox/Kinect entertainment division, while losing vast sums in its on-line division (negative $350M-$750M/quarter).

Microsoft uses a licensing model. A licensing model only takes a portion of the total profits from a sale. In a licensing model, volume matters.

If Microsoft can’t move its Windows and Office products and services onto mobile phones and tablets, well…

Next Week

The first part of this two-part series focused on what’s gone wrong with Microsoft Windows. Next week, I’ll conclude the series by focusing on why Microsoft is in this position and what, if anything, they can do to resuscitate the dead horse that is Windows.

To Touch or Not to Touch, That is the Question

This is an excerpt from an analysis on the strategic errors of Windows 8 and the philosophy behind the product that was written for our Tech.pinions Insiders Members. To learn more about Tech.pinions Insiders click here or to see all Insider topics and articles click here.

Adopting a New Posture

While I was at Microsoft’s build conference last week, I decided to make a point to keenly observe those attendees who have embraced touch on notebooks and watch how they use them. The plus to being at a Microsoft conference was that I saw more touch notebooks, and Surfaces for that matter, in one location than I have ever seen out in one place.

What I observed was interesting. Those who had adopted touch on their notebook would type with the device at arms length, but then move their body and face closer to the screen as they sought to use touch input. In essence to use touch they actually leaned in, performed the action and either stayed or leaned in to scroll a web site for example, and then leaned back to start typing again.

Interestingly, Surface owners had adopted an entire experience built around leaning in. I can only speculate that this is because the screen is so small that staying leaned in closer to the screen makes it easier to read the text, etc. Surface owners would even type with arms bent significantly more because of how close they were to the screen.


My key takeaways from these observations were that to use a Windows 8 notebook, or an aspiring hybrid like Surface, adopting touch as a paradigm is one necessary component, but so is adopting new body language to operate it in a useful and efficient way.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is this: Is this better? Does touch bring so much to the notebook and desktop form factor that we should consider this new, somewhat un-natural required body posture worth the effort?

Let’s look at it this way. Is adding touch as a UI mechanism to something like a desktop or notebook a more efficient input mechanism? In notebook and some desktop form factors, I would argue that it is not.

I absolutely condone touch on smartphones and tablets. In these devices touch is natural, and the best and most efficient input mechanism for the use cases they are best at. This is because they are truly mobile and you use natural motions to touch the screen to navigate. But notebooks and desktop are different beasts that succeed at very different use cases for very different reasons.


What I’ve tried to bring out, both in public and in private, is this: does using touch as an input mechanism on a notebook or desktop make me more efficient in my workflow? I’m yet to find that it does.

When you sit behind a notebook or a desktop you are prepared to get work done. In this context speed, efficiency, and ease of use are keys to make these devices the best tools for the job. So for touch to be compelling, it must be better at the above experiences than a solid trackpad or external mouse. Does it do this? The answer is no.

Take the trackpad for example. My hands have less distance to travel for me to reach the trackpad on all installations. To use a trackpad I bring my hands closer to me a very short distance (maybe 2-3 inches). Contrast that with using touch as an input mechanism and rather than bring my hands in a short distance I must reach for the screen (approximately 5-6 inches). This requires more effort and more time than using the trackpad and is more tiring to the arm, by keeping it fully extended to operate. Unless you hunch over or lean in, which is also uncomfortable for any length of time. I concede that for some the amount of time and effort may not be considered much difference by some, but it is still a key point.

When I discuss this with those who advocate touch screens on notebooks, they propose that touching the device for input is a preferred mechanism to the trackpad. My counter point is that this is because most trackpads put on Windows PCs are downright terrible. Sometimes I wonder if Microsoft pushed OEMs to do this on purpose to make touching the screen seem like a better experience, simply because the trackpad is so bad, that it makes touching the device appear to feel like a better alternative.

I’d like to quantify this sometime by having a race with a Windows user and challenge them to a similar task, like creating a few slides and graphs in Power Point. Them on their touch notebook and me on my MacBook Air. We will see who can finish the task the quickest.

Apple Could Challenge Microsoft for Desktop Dominance. But It Won’t

Apple’s opportunity to dominate desktop computing probably disappeared the day in 1981 that IBM shipped the Personal Computer. Apple’s first attempt at a “business” computer, the Apple ///, was a technical and commercial flop. The anti-corporate “computer for the rest of us” marketing pitch that accompanied the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 went over badly with business at a time when businesses were buying most of the computers.

The argument, occasionally still heard, that the better system lost is arguable at best. The Mac was a huge usability breakthrough, but in the early years, the graphical user interface demanded more than the hardware could deliver. Microsoft made a major leap with Windows 3.0 in 1990 and by the mid-1990s, when consumer sales became really important, Windows 95 and Windows NT were moving ahead of the aging Mac OS. Mac continued to slip as Windows forged ahead and it wasn’t until Apple’s big switch to Intel processors in 2005, along with increasingly powerful and stable versions of OS X, that Apple had a real claim to equality, let alone superiority.

But the divergent directions indicated by Windows 8 and OS X Mavericks change everything. Although it was Steve Jobs who began talk of the post-PC world when he introduced the iPad in 2010, it seems like it is Microsoft that has bought into the idea. The attempt with Windows 8 to design an operating system that spans traditional PCs, hybrids, and tablets has resulted in a sub-optimal experience on both. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft seems on its way to fixing some of the worst problems of Windows 8 (and its ill-begotten sibling, Windows RT) on tablets by eliminating some, perhaps most, of the need to drop back into Desktop mode to accomplish key tasks. But only relatively minor changes are planned for Windows 8 on a traditional PC, an experience that leaves many users longing for Windows 7.

Mavericks, by contrast, marks Apple’s renewed commitment to the traditional PC, a commitment that had been at least a little in doubt with the surge of iOS features into Lion and Mountain Lion. Except for improved notifications, an idea that borrows from and builds on iOS, the big changes in Mavericks are Serious PC Stuff: A new tabbed interface for the Finder, tagging for better file location and classification, major under-the-hood changes to cut power consumption, and greatly improved support for multi-display setups. Along with a badly overdue, but radical and exciting overhaul of the Mac Pro, Apple is telling Mac users, “We’ve got your back.” [pullquote]Mavericks, by contrast, marks Apple’s renewed commitment to the traditional PC, a commitment that had been at least a little in doubt with the surge of iOS features into Lion and Mountain Lion.[/pullquote]

Apple is now in a position to claim clear superiority in traditional PCs. The new MacBook Airs (pictured) are the first computers to ship with Intel’s next-generation Haswell processors and through a combination of close work with Intel and a lot of software fine tuning, Apple is able to beat the industry by a wide margin on battery life–something made possible by complete control of hardware and software. I expect Apple will do equally well with its MacBook Pros and iMacs this fall when Intel ships the rest of its Haswell line.

Macs could rule the world. Apple’s market share has been rising as Windows PC sales have fallen sharply while Mac sales have been mostly flat. I expect this trend to continue and for Apple’s share to rise. But–in partial answer to the question raised by John Kirk earlier this week–I don’t expect Apple to go after the mass market still dominated by Windows.

The reason is simple. According to NPD, the average selling price of a windows PC at the end of last year was $420. ((NPD data probably understate the average somewhat because the firm measures retail sales, missing the often more expensive units sold directly to enterprise buyers.)) The cheapest Mac is a $599 mini, and the cheapest laptop is a $999. Apple will cheerfully sell you an iPad for as little as $329 and provide a first-rate tablet experience, but there is no way it can provide what it regards as a satisfactory Mac experience at the price most windows machines sell for. ((I don’t mean to perpetuate the myth of an Apple premium. On an equal feature basis, Macs are no more expensive than Windows systems. It’s just that Apple only sells top-of-the-line products.))

The great bulk of buyers is unable or unwilling to spend what Apple commands, and Apple is unwilling to cheapen its products, slash its margins, or both, to meet the market. As a result, Apple will settle for modest gains in share .

This does not mean, however, that Microsoft is home free to at least hold on to its share of a shrinking market. The real threat could come from the bottom, from Google’s Chromebook. Chrome OS, whose only application is the Chrome browser and which depends on web apps (key ones modified to work offline) to do anything, performs well on hardware far more modest than required for Windows or Mac OS. For users with relatively modest needs and good internet connectivity, a Chromebook is a low-cost viable alternative to both a tablet and a Windows laptop. And it will only get better as Google converges Chrome OS and Android, potentially bringing a richer store of apps to Chrome.

These days, the fact that Apple is not coming after them as hard as it might is cold comfort to Microsoft.



My Windows 8 Wishlist

In a couple of weeks, Microsoft is expected to release a preview version of Windows 8.1. Preliminary indications are that ti will be a relatively modest overhaul of the radically new Windows 8 user interface. My suspicion is that it will prove tings, but not enough to solve the serious usability issues of the UI–or the be both more precise and put my finger on the problem–Windows 8’s two disparate UIs. Here’s what I hope Microsoft will do with the final version of 8.1. (As usual, I will refer to the two UIs as Metro and Desktop.)

Fix Metro control panels. The original version of Windows 8 requires going to Desktop for all but the most rudimentary system functions. What Microsoft has shown of 8.1 suggests considerable improvement in the number of settings you can modify without leaving Metro, but still not nearly enough. I would like to see a Metro version of any control panel required for normal user operation of a PC (I’d exempt a few of the more advanced and arcane ones, such as the Services panel.) If you are working in touch, you should be able to do everything important in touch, and Desktop control panels don’t allow that.

Persistent charms. If you can make the taskbar persistent in Desktop, why not the charms bar in both Metro and Desktop. The charms don’t take very much real estate. Why not give users the option of access without that awkward swipe-from-the-side gesture?

Universal app search in Desktop. If start typing on the Metro Start page, you automatically begin a search for apps. Typing in any empty area of the Desktop should have the same effect. This, by itself, should eliminate most of the pining for the legacy Start button. (Contrary to many reports, the current version of 8.1 does not bring back the Start button. It just provides easy access to the Metro Start page.)

Unify Internet Explorer. Windows 8 includes two browsers. They are both called IE 10, but are in fact completely separate, with independent bookmarks, histories, and preferences. It is necessary to have two different browser front ends to match the two UIs, but they should share their data. At the same time, your choice of a default browser in Desktop should not affect the behavior of the Metro browser.

Let Desktop be Desktop Default file associations cause some very odd behavior in Desktop. Double click on a photo in Desktop, for example, and it opens in the Metro Photos app. This leads to the jumping-between-UIs behavior in Windows 8 that drives many users, myself included, nuts. There’s a common thread to most of these suggestions. From a user interface point of view, Windows 8 is two operating systems bolted together. That is baked into the architecture of the system and is not going to change. But it should be possible to pick one or the other, for the current session or forever, and stay in it.

Desktop is a fine, time-tested UI for large displays, keyboards, and mice. Metro is a good touch interface for smaller displays. But with Windows 8 today, and with what appears to be only modest improvement in 8.1, it is impossible for users to live in one or the other. And I believe that, no such relatively minor quibbles as the loss of the Start button lie at the heart of the cool user response to the OS.



Windows 8: Hardware Innovation Is Outpacing the Software

Aspire R7 photo (Acer)


Windows 8 hasn’t spurred a boom in PC sales, but it certainly is inspiring some unusual hardware designs. The problem, though, is that no one seems able to quite master Windows’ touch and keyboard-plus-mouse dual personality.

Acer is the latest to try with the Aspire R7, a striking departure from a company not particularly know for adventurous design. Aimed at what the company calls the “duality of touch and typing,” the R7 is a convertible 15.6″ notebook with a unique “Ezel” hinge that allows the screen to move from a conventional laptop position to horizontal to reversed (for presentations.) It also can lie flat in a slate configuration, but at 5.3 lb. (2.4 kg) it’s unlikely to see a lot of tablet use.

I can see uses for both the horizontal and the reversed positions. It’s the more conventional arrangement that is, in fact, the oddest. The most strikingly unconventional thing about the R7 is the layout of the keyboard deck. The keyboard itself is placed at the very front of the deck, with a large touchpad above it. Yes, you read that correctly. The touchpad is above to top row of keys.

Photo of Aspire R7 (Acer) The display can be set up in two positions. In one (photo top), the bottom end of the screen sits just above the  top of the keyboard, covering the touchpad and looking a bit like a gigantic version of an iPad sitting in a keyboard case. In the other (photo left), the screen opens like a conventional clamshell. I spent a little time using the R7 in both configurations. The screen-forward setup is more convenient for touchscreen use since the display is closer to your hand position on the keys. But in my experience with Windows 8 so far, the limited availability and frequently poor quality of “Modern” (or Metro) apps means I spend most of my time using legacy desktop applications, And since these are not built for touch, they generally don’t work very well without a mouse or touchpad.

In alternative setup, the strange location of the touchpad is a real problem. When I am working in a typing application, I typically use my thumbs for most simple touchpad maneuvers, which lets me control the mouse without moving my hands from the keyboard. There’s no similar simple stretch available to reach the R7 touchpad. Furthermore, most of us now have 15 years practice with below-the-keyboard pointing devices and will spend a lot of time on the R7 poking at empty space. I hope to spend some more time with the R7 soon; perhaps the discomfort of using that oddly placed touchpad will go away quickly.

Microsoft could make this problem mostly go away by fully touch enabling Windows and key Windows applications. Maybe the Windows Blue update due in the fall will help, but there are depressing reports that a fully touch-ready Office won’t arrive until the fall of 2014.

Aspire P3 (Acer)The Acer Aspire P3 takes a different approach to the duality problem. Though billed as a convertible Ultrabook, its design is much more like a Microsoft Surface Pro, a Core i5-powered tablet with a detachable Bluetooth keyboard. But in a sad concession to reality, it offers one thing the Surface doesn’t: A built-in stylus holder on the tablet.

The Late Microsoft Windows 8

10x091098b5efaIn 2008, Microsoft’s Windows OS ran on 95% of all computing devices. By the end of 2012, Forrester estimated that Microsoft’s market share had declined to 30%.

In 2012 there were more Android devices sold than Windows devices. By the end of 2013, it is probable that there will be more iOS devices sold than Windows devices too. If so, by the end of this year, Windows will be only third in terms of OS sales.

Microsoft’s Profits

By the fiscal year ending June 2009, Microsoft had made $14.5 billion in profit. By 2012, that number had grown to $21.76 billion.

That sounds pretty good until it’s compared to Apple. Apple’s net income for the fiscal year ending September 2009 was 8.2 billion. By the end of fiscal 2012, its income had risen to $41 billion. Not only had Apple made up the difference between the two companies, in 2012 it lapped Microsoft, making almost exactly twice as much in profits as Microsoft had. The iPhone, alone, makes more profit than all of Microsoft and by the end of 2013 it is expected that the iPad, alone, will make more revenue than all of Microsoft too.

Microsoft’s PC-centric Problem


The purple portion of the graphic, above, represents income from Microsoft Office. The green portion represents income from Microsoft Windows. Microsoft’s problem is that both of those cash cows are located, almost exclusively, on desktop and notebook PCs and PCs are in decline both in actual and in relative terms.

In 2012, PC shipments fell 3.7%. And IDC just slashed its 2013 PC shipment forecast from growth of 2.8% to a decline of 1.3%.

Windows 8 was supposed to reverse the downward trend in PC sales but, if anything, it has made things worse.

The new operating system launched on Oct. 26, along with heavy advertising by Microsoft and its PC hardware partners, including Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Lenovo. But the response to Windows 8 has been “underwhelming” and worldwide PC shipments tumbled 8.3% in Q4, the most substantial decline recorded for a holiday quarter, IDC said.

The Plan

The plan was to create a single user interface for all Windows phones, tablets and PCs. By migrating Windows’ substantial user base in desktops and notebooks to Windows 8, it was hoped that users would become familiar with the unified user interface and then naturally migrate down from Windows desktops and notebooks to Windows tablets and phones.

The Reality

The reality has been quite different.

First, Windows phone sales have been a disaster. Despite the introduction of Windows 8 phone and the Nokia Lumia, Windows phones actually LOST market share in the recent holiday quarter.

Second, support for Windows RT is rapidly drying up. Acer delayed their RT offering, HP an Toshiba opted out altogether, Samsung refused to produce an RT product for the U.S. and now Samsung is withdrawing its RT product from the European markets.

Third, despite a massive advertising campaign, there is absolutely no indication that Windows 8 tablets are capturing the imagination of consumers. In fact, all of the evidence points to the exact opposite conclusion.


Source: The Yankee Group

The Yankee Group recently surveyed consumers, asking them which brand of tablet they intended to buy. The iPad dominated the discussion but if you examine the chart carefully, you’ll see that Microsoft and its hardware partners barely registered at all.


Source: Chitika

Further, in terms of Tablet Usage Share, Microsoft tablets are barely a blip on the radar. The Microsoft Surface, for example, shows up at Zero Point Four percent, behind even the discredited Blackberry Playbook.

Fourth, it appears that the growth in Windows 8 apps is rapidly declining.

When windows 8 was first released, there were 500 apps being added to the Windows 8 market each and every day. By December 27, that number had dropped to 415. By January 28, the number had dropped much further to 156.

Fifth, in a sign of how poor sales have been, Microsoft has started to discount Windows 8 licenses in order to spur the growth in Windows 8 touchscreen notebooks and tablets.


Microsoft is not in any danger. But their personal computing empire is.

Microsoft is making more and more of their money from their server and tools division, which is a good thing. But their income from Windows and Office is still huge and it seems that both are tied to the declining PC sector. And as Microsoft loses its monopoly position, its dominance over even the declining PC sector is waning too.

Microsoft will continue to make money on the sales of Windows 8 licenses but the goal of Windows 8 was to transfer Microsoft’s user base from desktops and notebooks to tablets and phones. That bid has, so far, failed.

Is it too early to say that Windows 8 has failed? Or is it already too late for the late Microsoft Windows 8?

The Mobile Train Has Left The Windows 8 Platform Behind

images-42Yesterday, Canaccord Genuity, came out with a report on the profits taken in by the mobile phone sector and Canalys came out with a report on the market share in the tabet, notebook and desktop sectors – and all anyone could talk about was whether Apple and Samsung could take in more than 100% of a sectors’ profits or whether the tablet was truly a PC or not.

Please. These are accounting and verbal semantics that are as meaningless as asking how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. Let’s focus on the implications of these reports and ignore the bickering over irrelevant rhetorical flourishes.

Handset Profits

According to Canaccord Genuity, Apple took in 69% of the handset (all mobile phones, not just smartphones) profits in 2012. Samsung took in 34%, HTC accounted for 1%, BlackBerry and LG broke even, Motorola and Sony Ericsson both acounted for minus 1 percent and Nokia brought up the rear with a negative 2 percent of the industry profits.

No one not named Apple or Samsung is making any meaningful profits from the handset sector. Considering that both Microsoft and Google’s Android are based on a licensing model, this is more than a little shocking. Licensing is supposed to encourage variety among hardware manufacturers. Clearly, that is not happening.

Many industry observers have the handset market all wrong. They opinie that Andoid is destroying iOS. What is actually happening is:

1) With 69% of the profits, iOS is doing just fine. More than fine, actually.
2) Android destroyed every phone manufacturer not named Apple (BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm, etc.).
3) Samsung destroyed every Android phone manufacturer not named Samsung (HTC, Motorola, Sony Erricson, etc.).

Pundits like to predict the imminent demise of iOS, but those profit numbers say just the opposite. And even as Android’s market share has increased, iOS’s profit share has increased too. Market share is no guarantor of profits. This should be self-evident. But apparently, it’s not.

The big losers here are Palm, Nokia, BlackBerry and Microsoft. Palm is gone and Nokia and Blackberry’s market shares and profits have fallen off a cliff. And Microsoft? After three years of flailing, Microsoft’s Windows 7 is dead and Windows 8 phone manufacturers are all in the red.

Tablet, Notebook and Desktop Market Share

Worldwide PC shipments increased 12% year-on-year in Q4 2012 to reach 134.0 million units, with pads accounting for over a third. ~ Canalys

There are two things that we can take from this statement. First, personal computing sales are growing at a respectable rate, however all of that growth is coming from tablets, not from notebooks and desktops.

Second, tablets now make up one-third of the mix of tablets, notebooks and desktops. In fact, several groups are now predicting that tablets will outsell notebooks and desktops by the end of 2013. This is a monumental shift in form factors and not everyone is making the changes necessary to stay abreast.

Companies like HP, Lenovo and Dell missed the shift to smartphones and now they’re missing out on tablets too. But of all the companies being hurt by the rise of smartphones and tablets, I think that Microsoft has been hurt the most:

…only 3% of pads shipped in Q4 2012 used a Microsoft operating system. The software giant’s entry into the PC hardware market was something of a non-event. High pricing, poor channel strategy and a lack of clarity regarding its RT operating system led to shipments of just over 720,000 units. ‘The outlook for Windows RT appears bleak. ~ Canalys

Who Is Selling All Of The Tablets?

According to Canalys, Apple – despite being supply constrained – sold 22.9 million tablets for 49% share, Samsung shipped 7.6 million tablets, Amazon shipped 4.6 million tablets for 18% share, and Google’s Nexus 7 and 10, combined, shipped 2.6 million tablets.

Again, companies like HP, Lenovo and Dell are almost non-existant in the 10 inch tablet space and Windows 8 tablets aren’t even competing in the rapidly growing 7 inch tablet space.

As an aside, Canalys seemed impressed with the Google Nexus numbers but I’m not. If you’re selling your hardware at cost and making it up in content and advertising sales, then your sales numbers should be much, much higher. And it has to be an embarrassment to Google that the Amazon tablets – which have the same business model as Google – are far outselling Google’s tablets.

Who Will Be Selling The Tablets Of Tomorrow?

‘Those who control ecosystems, such as Amazon and Google, can obtain revenue from content sales, but pure hardware OEMs must accept decreasing margins or exit.’

Samsung made impressive growth in tablets this year, but their tablet future seems uncertain. With Amazon, Google and Apple all able to supplement their tablet incomes with App and content sales, Samsung is left out in the cold.

It’s still early days for Windows 8 tablets, but it’s not looking good. I expected there to be an explosion of Windows 8 tablet sales last quarter due to pent up demand and holiday buying. The question in my mind was whether Microsoft would be able to sustain its large initial sales momentum.

That initial sales explosion didn’t happen. Windows 8 tablet sales were more than disappointing. An ill omen if ever there was one. And as I’ve stated before, regardless of how well the Surface Pro sells, it is a notebook, not a tablet, competitor. In a world where tablets are clearly the next big thing, Microsoft is still insisting that what people really want are hybrids, not pure tablets.


Smartphones and tablets are growing and notebooks and desktops are stagnant or declining. Only Samsung and Apple are competing in phones. Only Amazon, Google, Samsung and Apple are effectively competing in tablets. The mobile “train” has left the station and companies like HP, Lenovo, Dell and Microsoft are standing on the Windows 8 platform, watching it pull away.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch: Windows 8 Is Tough Even on a Great Windows 8 Laptop

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch photoI have been using Windows 8 through its several beta and preview versions on equipment designed for earlier editions, and I have been wondering for many months whether my unhappiness with it resulted from shortcomings of the hardware. I’ve now had a chance to spend some time with a first-rate Windows 8-optimized touchscreen laptop and while it works much better than older hardware, the new operating system remains an uncomfortable two-headed beast.

If you want a conventional clamshell laptop with a touchscreen, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch (from $1,349) strikes me as an ideal workhorse. It features a 14″ 1600×900  display, an Intel i5 or i7 processor, and SSD storage to 256 GB. It weighs 3.4 lb., is .74 in. thick–just a hair thicker than the non-touch version–and provides a solid 5 hours of battery life. The keyboard is outstanding, as you would expect from a ThinkPad, and both the multitouch display and the big trackpad work very well with the full repertoire of Windows 8 gestures (there is also the traditional ThinkPad TrackPoint stick, which remains great for pixel-precise pointing.)

Windows 8 is certainly happier on the X1 Carbon Touch  experience than any older laptop I have tried. Most important is that the swipe-from-the-side gestures so important to effective use of Windows 8 now work flawlessly on both the screen and the trackpad. But that’s not nearly enough to overcome the essential clumsiness.

Windows 8 still feels like two operating systems loosely bolted together. In fact, what the experience of working both in the traditional Windoiws Desktop and what, for lack of a better name, I still call Metro, most felt like was switching between virtual machines under a system such as Parallels or VMware. The two user interfaces share storage and a clipboard—and not much else.

This separation manifests itself in many annoying ways. For example, if you start typing while in the Metro start screen, you initiate a search for applications, including Desktop apps. Indeed, with the disappearance of the Start button, this is the standard way to launch Desktop applications not on your task bar or desktop. You would expect that if you put the cursor outside any desktop window and began typing, you’d get the same search. Instead, nothing at all happens.

Then there is the failure of of Metro and Desktop apps to communicate. The Metro Calendar and People apps and Outlook don’t seem to know anything about each other. So adding an appointment or contact in one has no effect on the other unless you sync through an external service.

The usefulness of the touch display is badly damaged by the wildly inconsistent behavior of applications. For example, pinch and stretch works just as you would expect in the Desktop version of Internet Explorer. But in the Google Chrome browser, the gesture works on the trackpad, but not on the screen.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 would seem to be an application that could benefit greatly from touch, but it just plain doesn’t work. You can use touch to select items from menus or palettes. But when you touch the screen inside a picture, whatever tool you are using simply disappears and moving your finger has no effect at all. The tool cursor reappears as soon as you touch either the TrackPoint or trackpad.

Obviously, this situation will improve if and when third-party software vendors add proper Windows 8 touch support to their products. But it’s not as though Windows 8 sneaked up on them, and their failure to work properly with touch is depressing.

Outlook 2013 context menu screenshotMicrosoft hasn’t done that great a job itself with making its most important applications touch-ready. Office 2013 works better with touch than earlier versions, but that’s not saying much and the effort has a half-hearted feel to it. For example, the “ribbon,” Office’s do-everything menu bar offers a choice between “touch” and “mouse” modes. In the latter, the menu items and icons are bigger and further apart and therefore much easier to hit accurately with your finger. But the same courtesy does not extend to other interface elements. In particular, context (right-click) menus are much too small for comfortable touch use. (In general, context menus are evil with a touch interface.)

Office applications also have a strange proclivity to pop open an onscreen keyboard, for example, in Outlook whenever a search box is selected. This makes sense on a pure tablet or a convertible or hybrid when the physical keyboard is not available. But it makes no sense at all on a laptop where the keyboard is permanently attached, and Windows ought to know better.

I think the conventional touch laptop ought to be a truly useful tool. The undoubtedly will become more common since Intel has decreed that touchscreens will required for the next generation of lightweight notebooks to carry the Ultrabook label. I’ve spent enough time working with a tablet and a keyboard that the idea of reaching to touch the screen no longer feels odd. But the deficiencies of the software keep the hardware far short of its potential. This will change in time, though there is no excuse for Microsoft launching either Windows 8 or Office 2013 half-ready for touch. For now, the fact that you pay a $200 premium for the touch version of the X1 Carbon–other touch models carry a similar premium–is a bet on the come.

Where’s The Windows 8 “Buzz”?

With all the news coming out of CES this week, I couldn’t help but be struck by the lack of “buzz” surrounding Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablets. Microsoft and its partners just introduced a slew of new hardware and software products, but the response at CES has been muted, at best. In fact, it seems to me that the start of 2013 has been very negative for the technology giant from Redmond.

— Apple’s falling stock prices have been getting all the attention, but while Apple’s stock ended the year up 30%, Microsoft only had a year long gain of 2%.

— Sales of Windows 8 tablets have been tepid, at best.

According to NPD, overall Windows sales dropped 11% during the holidays.

— And next year isn’t looking any better with Sterne Agee analyst, Shaw Wu, projecting a 2% growth rate for the PC side of the industry.

— Windows 8 tablets have been criticized as being “confusing” both by analysts and some of Microsoft’s manufacturing partners.

— Windows Phone – which was already struggling — has an industry low 37% repurchase rate. (EDIT: This low number may be a reflection of discontinued Windows Phone 7 devices.)

— Microsoft even had to suffer the indignity of having thieves break into one of their offices and only steal Apple products — ‘No Microsoft products were reported stolen

“Redmond, We Have A Problem”

Here’s Microsoft’s real problem: They shot their bolt with Windows 8 and they badly missed the mark. They looked at the wildly successful Apple iPad and decided that it was a flawed product. Instead of creating a tablet, Microsoft created a hybrid with the basic assumption that what the market really wanted was a tablet that could act as a notebook PC. It’s still early, but so far the marketplace is telling Microsoft that they got it wrong.

“Microsoft doesn’t have a credible response” to expensive tablets like the iPad, or cheap tablets like the Kindle Fire, Google Nexus, or iPad Mini, and that’s what’s hurting Windows consumer sales.” ~ Shaw Wu

While Microsoft Fiddles, Their Monopoly Burns

Nero was famed for fiddling while Rome burned. And like Nero, while Microsoft fiddles with hybrids, their business monopoly is burning. Businesses aren’t waiting around for Microsoft to get their mobile act together. They’re moving on and they’re moving away from Windows.

Trip Chowdhry, a managing director at Global Equities Research, has put out a research note estimating that Apple sold between 3 million and 4 million iPhones to businesses over the past quarter.

— In a recent analyst survey, the percentage of CIOs who said they’d conduct “broad” tablet rollouts jumped to 15 percent for this year from just 4 percent last year.

— Companies have also found they can save money by letting staffers use their own personal smartphones and tablets at work. Combine that with the corporate trend of avoiding new PC purchases and it paints a very bleak picture for Microsoft’s personal computing efforts.


“Apple’s iPad…now has a starting price of $329 with the entry-level iPad mini. … Windows 8 hardware priced between $500 and $1,200 is ‘uncompetitive’ compared to lower-priced options from Apple and even Google’s Android. ~ Sterne Agee analyst, Shaw Wu

In the fall of 2012, Microsoft planted the seeds for their future in personal computing. If the early signs are any indication, they may not be pleased with what they reap.

A Deep Dive Into The Morgan Stanley Holiday Quarter Survey

On December 16, 2012, Morgan Stanley issued the results of a consumer survey.

We surveyed 1,010 US adults between November 26 and December 3 2012. The sample is representative of US individuals (18+) by gender, age, income and geographic regions. Conclusions based on total sample have a maximum margin of error of +/- 2.5% at 90% confidence level.

(NOTE: All quotations are sourced from the Morgan Stanley report.)


The first and most obvious result of the survey was that tablets, as a whole, were going to be clear winners of the 2012 holiday quarter.

One-third of respondents own tablets today, compared to only 8% a year ago.

While this can come as no a surprise to anyone following the tech industry, it is important to note that, in terms of gift giving for this holiday quarter, the growth of the tablet has come at the expense of notebooks, desktops and especially e-readers.


Among consumer electronic gifts, tablets are the most popular, followed by smartphones, while e-readers experienced the largest decline.

— Tablets (50% in 2012 vs. 31% in 2011)
— Smartphones (26% in 2012 vs. 17%)
— E-readers (9% in 2012 vs. 31%)”

Tablets are the number one gift idea in consumer electronics this year, while it was a tie between tablets and e-readers last year.

iSuppli seems to concur with this sentiment, indicating that general purpose tablets are harming e-reader sales.

It appears that they e-readers may well be relegated to niche status as general purpose tablets – which also serve as e-readers – become lighter, smaller and lower-priced.


While the Kindle Fire is not strictly an e-reader, it too seems to be suffering this holiday season.

Kindle Fire appeal seems to be waning as 16% of potential tablet buyers would pick the device vs. 21% in last year’s survey

Lower end tablets may be suffering from the effects of increased competition. While the Amazon Kindle Fire was the a hot holiday gift in the fourth quarter of 2011, it now has to compete with the Nexus 7, Windows 8 tablets and the iPad Mini. As a result, Kindle retention numbers dropped from an already low 40% to and even lower 36%.

If these numbers bear out, this has to be terribly dissapointing for Amazon. Last year, there was a burst of enthusiasm for the Kindle Fire line during the holiday quarter but that enthusiasm seemed to all but evaporate as soon as the quarter ended. This year, Amazon introduced several new lines of tablets and vastly improved the quality of their hardware offerings. Surely they anticipated increased, rather than decreased, enthusiasm for their products.

It is too early to tell for sure, but it is possible that we’re seeing a trend away from single purpose tablets and a trend towards higher quality, general purpose tablets instead.


Samsung phones made an impressive leap in rate of retention from 37% to 63%. (Note, however, that this still does not match the iPhone’s stellar 83% rate of retention.)

While Apple’s retention rate is by far the highest, iPhone users who plan to buy a Samsung device increased slightly from 3% to 8%, though this share came entirely from other Android vendors who saw less interest from current Apple users compared to a year ago. This reflects Samsung’s dominating position in the Android ecosystem and success in marketing itself as an iPhone alternative.

You simply have to be amazed at what Samsung has accomplished and in such a short time. But ironically, Samsung’s growth is not only coming at the expense of competitor’s like RIM and Nokia, but it is also coming at the expense of other Android manufacturer’s as well.

One of the strengths of a licensed operating system like Android is supposed to be diversity of hardware manufacturers. That simply hasn’t happened. While Microsoft distributed its software licences to thousands of hardware manufacturers, Samsung has become the one and only hardware manufacturer that matters to Android. We’ll have to save the discussion of the consequences of this unexpected development for another day.


The survey contains two interesting points regarding Microsoft’s recent tablet efforts.

First, Microsoft Surface is preferred by 12% of those planning to buy a tablet.

Second, while 81% of iPad users plan to stay with Apple, 8% plan to purchase Microsoft’s surface.

Additionally, a different survey indicates that Windows 8 is a very distant third, to iOS and Android, when it comes to developer’s platform preferences.

I think these results have to be terribly dissapointing to Microsoft. Some pundits were expecting a flood of defections from the iPad once Microsoft debuted its tablet offerings. That clearly is not happening.

Further, I had anticipated an initial burst of enthusiasm for Windows 8 tablets. The real question, in my mind, was whether Microsoft would maintain that initial enthusiasm. Instead, sales of Windows 8 tablets has been tepid, at best. Having 12% of consumers intending to buy your products is far better than having 0% able to buy your products, but I believe that it is far, far less than Microsoft was hoping for or expecting.


It seems as though the bad press for Apple has been endless of late, but that negative view is not supported by the Morgan Stanley survey. They point to at least four reasons why Apple can be optimistic about sales this holiday quarter.

First, more survey respondents want to buy the iPhone 5 today than the iPhone 4S a year ago.

34% of consumers plan to buy an iPhone in the next 6 months, compared to 30% in last year’s survey

If I recollect, the iPhone 4S was pretty popular last year. And one would assume that even more enthusiasm for the iPhone 5 should lead to even more sales this holiday quarter.

Second, analysts keep opining that Apple needs to sell a cheaper phone but customers keep disagreeing.

More respondents plan to buy the newest iPhone model today than a year ago (86% vs, 82%), likely due to key hardware improvements in the iPhone 5: LTE, brighter screen, and lighter and thinner phone.

Third, the iPad Mini does not appear to be cannibalizing the larger iPad but it does appear to be bringing new customers into the Apple ecosystem.

We believe iPad Mini’s cannibalization risk to iPad 9.7” is manageable. 47% of iPad mini purchasers are new to Apple, according to our survey. This is only slightly lower than 56% for the larger iPad 9.7”, suggesting the smaller iPad is attracting new users to the platform in addition to some incremental or replacement purchases from the existing 9.7” iPads.

Fourth, Apple actually INCREASED its already industry leading retention rate.

Apple’s iPhone retention rate improved 10 points over the last year, and 83% of iPhone users today plan to buy another iPhone.

I find it hard to believe that Apple’s sales are going to suffer this quarter when both purchasing enthusiasm and retention rates are going up.


There is definitely going to be a shake-out in the mobile sector. There are just too many entrants with too little differentiation.

In phones, not only are Samsung and Apple rapidly increasing their sales numbers but their RETENTION numbers are also rapidly rising. This bodes ill for the likes of RIM and Windows 8 contenders like Nokia and HTC.

In tablets, Apple seems to be maintaining its grip on half the market while Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Samsung battle it out for the other half. Again, in the long run, retention numbers may be what matters most but it is too soon to measure retention for newly minted products like the Google Nexus 7 and the Microsoft Surface.

We’ll know far more in January when (some of) the numbers come out. But until then, the Morgan Stanley survey may give us a peek at what we should expect.

How To Make Windows 8 Great

Del XPS Duo 12 Convertible
There has been a lot of discussion here lately, both in posts such as Why IT buyers are Excited About Convertibles and Hybrids and Microsoft Surface: How Relevant Are Legacy Apps and Hardware? about the failings and the potential of Windows 8. So inspired by these posts, and even more so by readers’ comments on them, here is a radical if only partially baked idea: How about a hybrid operating system for hybrid devices?

In Metro (I’m going to go on calling it that until Microsoft comes up with a real alternative), Microsoft has designed a very good user interface for tablets and touch-based apps. The legacy Windows Desktop is still an excellent UI for a traditional mouse-and-keyboard PC. But in bolting the two together in Windows 8 and, to a lesser extent, Windows RT, Microsoft has created a very ugly two-headed calf. The tendency of Metro to pop up while you are working in Desktop, and for Desktop to be necessary for some tasks even while in touch mode, renders both interfaces far from optimal.

Microsoft should do three things. The easiest is to get Metro out of Desktop by allowing booting into Desktop and restoring traditional UI elements, such as a start menu, that were removed from Windows 8.  Fixing Metro is harder. Basically, Microsoft has to finish the job by creating features, utilities, and apps that allow the user to do everything in the touch interface. The toughest challenge is Metrofying Office. It would be extremely difficult to recreate all the functionality of Word, Excel, and the rest in a tablet app and almost certainly unwise to try. Instead, Microsoft has to pick a core feature set that can work in a touch interface on relatively small screens and build the applications around these. (If reports are to be believed, Microsoft is doing this for iOS and Android anyway; why not Windows?)

But the really cool thing would be hybrid Windows for hybrids, a shape-shifting operating system designed for a new generation of devices that can convert from traditional PCs to tablets (the forthcoming Surface Pro probably belongs in this class.) Why not an OS that presents the traditional Desktop UI when the device is being used with a keyboard and touchpad or mouse, then converts instantly and automatically to a touch-first Metro-type UI when the device transforms?

The key to making this work is the use of solid state storage, which allows for very fast saving and restoration of state. I envision a system where you could be editing a Word file in Desktop, then switch to tablet mode, where you make some changes to the file in the touch version of Word. When you switch back to Desktop, Word would still be open with your file, but it would include the edits made in tablet. I suspect that the Desktop and Metro versions of programs would still have to be different applications and this would require closing and reopening of files when switching modes. But SSDs can make this happen so quickly that the user will barely notice.

I’m not suggesting this is at all a trivial job or that in can be done very quickly. The Office project alone is a very large undertaking, one that I can only presume is already underway, although Microsoft has been totally silent about it. There is a great deal of work beyond that, and third-party software vendors would have to get on board with mode-switchable versions of their applications.  But the result would be new and exciting computing experience.

Why Windows 8 Drives Me Nuts

Windows 8 screen shotI had a hard drive fail in a couple-year-old ThinkPad this week, so I decided to use the opportunity to install Windows 8 on a completely clean system. The installation was painless except for a bit of difficulty in getting Wi-Fi working. But there was one problem. The system was annoyingly going to sleep after too short an interval.

I’ve changed this setting dozens of times on previous versions of Windows. In Windows 7, you select Control Panel on the start menu, choose Power Options, and click on “Change when the computer sleeps.” This works, albeit in a clunky way, in Windows 8. You open Desktop, bring up the Charms bar, select the Settings charm, and click  Control Panel. It takes a few extra clicks and is not at all intuitive, but it’s not too bad once you have figured it out.

But it seems to me that if Metro–or whatever Microsoft wants us to call it–is the user interface of the future, there ought to be some way to perform a basic function like this without falling back on the desktop. This is especially true on a Windows 8 tablet, where the touch-unfriendliness of the Desktop becomes a real issue.

The best I could do to stay in Metro was: From the Start screen, bring up the Charms bar and select the Search charm. Pick Settings as the search domain and start typing “sleep.”  “Change when the computer sleeps” pops up; click it and the control panel opens. Of course, at this point, you are back in Desktop. Again, this method to perform a simple task seems totally unintuitive, especially since if you type “screen” or “display” in the search box you are not offered the sleep option.

This is just one more example of how Windows 8 often feels like two operating systems roughly bolted together. If you could work consistent in one of the UIs, say Desktop on a conventional laptop and Metro on a tablet, Windows 8 wouldn’t be bad. But if there’s a way to avoid jumping back and forth (without resorting to third-party UI modifications), I haven’t found it. And it makes Windows 8 a trying experience.


Why The Wheels Are Falling Off Microsoft

This week, highly respected web and technolgy analyst, Mary Meeker, released her end of the year 2012 report on internet trends. The slide deck is 88 slides long and is highly recommended. You can view it here.

As I reviewed Ms. Meeker’s slides, some thoughts on Microsoft’s current prediciment and future prospects jumped out at me. I thought I would use the slides to help illustrate and examine those thoughts.

1. iPods, iPhones, iPads

Take a long hard look at the graph, above. That little green sliver you see represents the growth of the iPod. The very same iPod that powered Apple from near-bankruptcy to a genuine tech contender in less than five years.

Now take a good hard look at the much larger red portion of the graph. That represents the iPhone. The iPhone was the device that rocketed Apple from just one of many to the largest tech company, then the largest company, by market cap, in the free world. For context, that red portion of the graph, alone, is now worth more than all of Microsoft put together.

Now look at the much, much larger blue portion of the graph. Take a long, hard look. Now look at it again. That blue ramp represents the growth of the iPad. It’s growing at three times the rate of the iPhone. Three Times. If you are not awe-struck by the iPad’s rate of adoption, well, you should be.

If you want to know why Appe is rapidly expanding its influence in computing – and why Microsoft is scrambling to catch up – look no further. The above graph says it all.

2. Android And iPhone Adoption

Most people look at the above graph and conclude that the iPhone is in trouble. But you’ll notice that the iPhone is still growing in real terms.

Do you know who’s really in trouble? Anyone not named Samsung and Apple, that’s who. Apple is doing just fine, taking in most of the industry’s profits. Samsung is doing just fine. Google? Not so much. All that market share and little to no profit to show for it has to be worrisome. But this article isn’t about Google. This article is about Microsoft. And no matter how closely you scour the above graph you won’t find a Microsoft product on it anywhere.

(Chart via AllThingsD)

3. Microsoft’s Minuscule Phone Market Share

According to some reports, Microsoft’s phone market share may actually be falling. In the past six years, Microsoft has managed to take its 12% share of the mobile phone market, combine it with Nokia’s 30% share, and convertert it into Windows Phone’s current 2% market share. That’s reverse alchemy – like turning gold into lead.

Steve Ballmer recently claimed that Windows Phone was selling four times faster than it was a year ago. But four times very little is still very little. Microsoft sold 2.8 million Windows phones a year ago. In the same quarter, Apple sold 35 million phones and there were roughly 123 million Android phones sold. So yeah, Microsoft is selling more phones. But so is everyone else that matters.

4. Operating Systems

People think that Microsoft’s Windows is still a powerhouse because it runs 90% of the world’s personal computers. That’s nonsense. Take a look at the chart, above. When you combine phones and tablets and notebooks and desktops, Windows’s only runs on 35% of the world’s personal computers. Android already runs on more personal computers than Windows does and iOS is expected to pass Windows by the end of 2012.

Just as importantly, look at the direction in which Windows is trending. Windows runs almost exclusively on notebooks and desktops, which are a rapidly declining portion of the market. If Windows doesn’t escape its notebook and desktop base and spread to phones and tablets, it is rapidly headed for niche status.

5. Smartphones + Tablets > Notebooks + Desktops

I know that the above graph has a legend, but let me spell this out so that there’s no mistaking the significance of what you’re seeing. The orange portion of the graph represents desktop PCs. The blue portion of the graph represents notebook PCs. Look at how those two portions, combined, are shrinking while the green – representing smartphones – and the yellow – representing tablets – are rapidly growing.

If you look at the above chart, you can clearly see Microsoft’s dilemma. Even if Windows were to power each and every notebook (blue) and desktop (orange) computer made going forward – which they won’t – their share of the market would soon dwindle to near nothingness. Microsoft NEEDS to get their operating system onto phones and tablets and they NEED to do it now.

6. Microsoft Isn’t Even Trying

Here’s the thing. Microsoft isn’t even trying to break into the pure tablet (yellow) portion of the market. Instead, they’re trying to create a hybid device, a new category, a new color, if you will, on the chart above.

In July, I wrote an article entitled: “The PC is the Titanic and the Tablet is the Iceberg. Any Questions?” The purpose of that article was to demonstrate the multitude of tasks that could be done well by a tablet but poorly or not at all by a traditional notebook computer. Windows 8 tablets – with their 16:9 aspect ratio, their desktop mode and their reliance upon keyboards – fall far closer to the notebook than they do to the tablet. One can’t help but feel that, even now, Microsoft still doesn’t totally believe in the stand-alone tablet form factor. Windows 8 tablets are notebooks first – and tablets only in emergencies.

After failing to field a competitor to the iPad for two and a half years, Microsoft is now ceding the tablet market (yellow) to Apple and the rest of the industry – yet again.

7. Conclusion

Microsoft faces a host of problems in the the years to come. Their competitors are far ahead of them in phones and tablets. Their bastion of strength – the notebook and the desktop – is an ever shrinking island. And their strategy to compete in the tablet market is, in my opinion, fatally flawed because it doesn’t even attempt to create a true tablet competitor.

Take a look at that last graph again. The green and the yellow portions are the future of computing. And in that future, Microsoft is nowhere to be found.

Evernote and Sugarsync: Headed in Reverse Windows 8 Gear

Two of the apps that changed the way I work are Evernote and Sugarsync.  Evernote allowed me to go paperless and Sugarsync allowed me to have access to all my data accessible by any device.  Both of the apps have very robust Windows 7, OSX, Android and iOS capability.  Robustness stops, though, at Windows 8, where Evernote and Sugarsync are the biggest disappointment I have yet to encounter with the new OS.  It has been 15 months since Microsoft’s BUILD event, more than enough time to architect, design, develop and test any application, particularly one with robust Windows 7 functionality.

Evernote for Windows 8 Metro

For the last few years I have infrequently used a pen or pencil to take a note in a meeting or at home.  I take all notes with Evernote.  Even if someone hands me a piece of paper, I will take a picture and import into Evernote.  Business card?  Import into Evernote and throw it away.  Whiteboard?  Take a picture and import into Evernote.  The great thing is that every image imported into Evernote is searchable, too.  This experience gracefully (relatively) scales across my PC, Mac, iPhone, Motorola RAZR I, Nexus 7, and iPad.  But falls miserably apart on Windows RT and 8.

Evernote for iOS

Evernote for Windows 8 looks kind of similar, but falls down immeasurably.

Evernote for Windows 8 Metro

For the first few weeks, Evernote would not sync.  It pulled in one note from each month, then stopped.  Windows RT-based systems would just crash.  About a week ago, the sync feature started working on Windows 8 but still to this day, will not sync and just crashes after a few minutes of sync.

Here is the delta list of what I can do on Windows, OSX, Android and iOS that I cannot do on Windows 8:

  • Sync on opening app
  • Edit a note with any rich text.  Will only append.
  • Adding attachment
  • Edit text font, size, color, bold, italics, strike-through, alignment, bullet, number
  • Adding check-boxes and grids
  • Voice notes
  • View attachments (ie pdf, doc, ppt, xls).  You can see the file and it looks like you can touch it and open, but you cannot.
  • Sync in background (cannot on iOS either)
  • Save searches
  • View by pictures
  • Auto-subject by calendar
  • Paper image clean up
  • View by place (geo-positioned)

As you can see, the list of unsupported features is immense and keeps it from doing anything other than viewing or making very basic notes.  The continued crashed with the Windows RT app is inexcusable.  Judging by the mass of one and two start ratings in the app store, I’d say I’m not alone.  Stay away from Evernote and Windows 8 Metro; they don’t mix well.  Use the desktop app with Windows 8 desktop.

Now, onto Sugarsync.

Sugarsync for Windows 8 Metro

Sugarsync for Windows 7, OSX, Android and iOS enable you to keep your files in sync across devices.  On PC, Mac, and Android, files can be automatically synced in the background, too.  Therefore, every file you have on every device can automatically in sync to view and edit.  This all breaks down on Windows 8.

Sugarsync for iPad
Sugarsync for Windows 8

The Sugarsync experience is equally weak as Evernote.  Again, Sugarsync is multi-platform just like Evernote, but for some reason, they have decided to support a narrower subset than even iOS or Android.  Here is the Windows 8 delta list:

  • Search (no, you cannot search your files, online or offline)
  • Offline access to synced files (you must be connected to have access to documents)
  • Background sync
  • Select all devices synced to Sugarsync
  • Look for recent documents
  • Sort files by date

Finding what you are looking for is nearly impossible as there is not search, sort by date, or recent documents.  I cannot recommend any alternatives because none are better.  Literally, with Windows 8, you are landlocked.

Where to Next?

Evernote and Sugarsync need significant improvement or users will simply not use these apps.   Ironically on Evernote, this type of behavior reminds me how they treated Blackberry OS, which they do not support anymore.  While I don’t believe Evernote will discontinue Windows 8 support, they need to improve quickly and substantially to keep it from becoming naturally extinct.  With Sugarsync, the story is a bit different.  Even Microsoft hasn’t enabled Windows 8 offline storage with SkyDrive and at least with some of their messaging, they are trying to help the user learn how to do some sort of offline updating.  Sugarsync prompts the user to, “If you make changes to this file, please open Sugarsync again to automatically save your updated file to Sugarsync.  This way your updated file will be available across all your other decives [their misspelling] with Sugarsync”.  Very kludgy but at least it’s a way to keep files fresh.

Both companies have had over a year to plan, code and test for Windows 8 and there’s really no explanation other than lack of belief and priority in Windows 8 that explains this.  For the sake of users, I hope the situation is remedied quickly.  At a minimum, can you at least call them “preview”, alpha” or “beta”?