Why I am Bullish about Microsoft’s future

The first time I visited Microsoft, they were in their new red brick offices in Bellevue, Washington and they had less than 50 people. You could walk down the halls and see Gates plugging away at his keyboard and Paul Allen in a small office coding. In fact, I was told I was one of the first analysts to ever visit them. At this time they were just gaining ground with their OS thanks to IBM’s decision to use it in their first PC.

I have been fortunate to watch Microsoft grow from the start and back then they became a high priority for me to study as an analyst since what they did greatly impacted the growth of the PC industry. Once Steve Ballmer arrived, I got to know him and found him to be very smart and very loyal to Gates’ and Microsoft’s goals. That was not a bad thing and, in fact, it eventually was the reason he took over for Gates once Bill stepped down. Often when Ballmer would come down to Silicon Valley, he invited me to lunch and we would talk shop and discuss Microsoft’s project of the moment. To say Ballmer was Microsoft’s biggest cheerleader would be an understatement.

Over the years, I was asked to work and advise on many different projects at Microsoft, from doing an internal review of their Office strategy to working on various mobile and tablet projects. (side fact — I asked Mike Maples to put word count in Word and that was added in the next rev.)

I did a lengthy review of their Pen Computing initiative and told them I thought it was dead in the water. I got a lot of flack for that. I also was skeptical of their early watch strategy and was very much against their pursuit of Windows CE as well as their original Windows mobile OS — it was weak in design and always at odds with the desktop Windows group. And when Melinda French (now Bill Gate’s wife) came down to show me BOB, their consumer friendly UI for PCs, I wrote that, while it was interesting, I thought it had no chance to succeed since graphical UIs would do a better job at making PCs easier to use. Not long after that, Microsoft introduced their first version of Windows.

By the late 1990s, I was very concerned about Microsoft’s Windows only focus as I started to see the market expand well beyond PCs and move to a stronger mobile future. Through most of the early 2000s, I felt Ballmer had become so Windows-centric he could not see the world of tech expanding and splitting in different directions. During that time, I became more critical of this direction and, as Apple gained important ground in music players, smartphones and then tablets, I felt Microsoft was way too Windows-only focused and it was missing the opportunity to expand the company well beyond the Windows franchise that, while still important, was keeping them from innovating in new areas and expanding Microsoft’s overall growth and reach.

Apparently Microsoft’s board had similar issues with Ballmer and he was relieved of his role as CEO and was succeeded by Satya Nadella. I have only met Mr. Nadella once at a Microsoft event and that was only briefly. But, since he has taken over, I have seen a new Microsoft emerge, one that is becoming much less inclusive and finally embracing the diversity that is driving the next wave of personal computing. Windows 10 is a great addition to the Windows OS and fixes the sins of Window 8. Although Windows mobile is a distant third moblie OS, it is a very good one and I hope developers support it. Microsoft is finally doing something I lobbied for in multiple meetings in the early days of Windows mobile. I did an internal piece for Microsoft that argued they needed to make the Windows UI consistent across any device they supported. If a person learned the OS on one device, they would know how to use it on any other Microsoft supported device. If you look at Microsoft’s current strategy today, it basically maps that vision and the Windows UI is becoming consistent on all of their devices.

When Ben and I visited Microsoft last fall, I found the company had a refreshingly new view of the tech world and was embracing the multi-platform world that is driving tech growth. In one meeting I had with a team leader in software, he told us his charter was to make his software work on all popular operating systems and showed me one of his apps on his own personal iPhone. I am now using Outlook on my iPhone and it has replaced Apple Mail as my main email client.

This would have never happened under Ballmer. Nadella is extremely realistic about making Microsoft relevant to all platforms and mining for dollars well beyond the Windows franchise. This is fantastic for Microsoft and I believe this new strategy is going to make them more relevant to the tech world. That is why I am bullish abut Microsoft again. To me, this is a new Microsoft and one that has broad potential if they keep following this strategic course that builds on Windows but expands well beyond that franchise.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

66 thoughts on “Why I am Bullish about Microsoft’s future”

  1. Your article mainly looks at Microsoft from a technical and product angle. I think it is equally important to look at them from a legal and business angle. In particular, the article does not mention Microsoft’s run in with competition authorities in the late 90s. While I would not blame this for all their woes, I think that knocked the wind out of a lot of their hard ball business strategies. Now that their market share in computing and internet devices has diminished considerably, I think this removes their legal shackles. This new freedom will allow to pursue strategies that were until recently off limits.
    Conversely, Google’s problems with competition authorities are still getting worse. And Apple is working hard to get the iBook ruling reversed, as it undoubtedly hinders them in negotiating good content deals for a future Apple TV.

    1. I think it’s worth noting that if Microsoft had not been so Windows centric and hadn’t tried to tie everything to their dominant platform, they might not had run into the antitrust issues in the first place.

      1. Microsoft is not the first company to find itself in this position. For the longest time they had a singular focus on acquiring and strengthening market power, which was rewarded by the stock market. Then ‘suddenly’ — as happened to IBM and AT&T before — they went from being dominant companies to being convicted monopolists. That really changed the way they were able to do business.

        1. Yes. You could argue that the metrics that are valued by many analysts and the stock market (market share, customer lock-in) are the very same ones that, if taken too far, get you into trouble with antitrust.

          For example, if you are like Apple and only focus on the high-end of the market, your total market share remains relatively low, and hence you are less likely to get into trouble. Since you are not technically dominant, you manage to get away with bundling.

          Of course antitrust law is complicated so it’s not clear-cut.

  2. To add another angle, what about the culture angle ? MS seems to be using a lethal evaluation system internally, that makes drones very beholden to evaluations. ie, if you spot an issue that isn’t in your job description and success criteria, and might displease the higher-ups.. shut up.
    As a consumer-user, I’ve run into umpteen cases of obvious failures that should never have made it to a shipping product: my then-current Windows Phone not synching with my then-current Windows desktop, Skype/Metro not ringing and getting contact status wrong, Win8 install randomly choking on admin rights (that one got Bill Gates too, IIRC), LiveTiles dying, undecipherable UIs… At some point, it’s no longer isolated bugs and design misses, it’s a pattern of going for management’s goals instead of user satisfaction. And no amount of realigning management goals can make up for the not my problem-itis such a command structure creates.

  3. “If a person learned the OS on one device, they would know how to use it on any other Microsoft supported device.”

    I used to think this was a great idea as well but if you think about the comparative ergonomics and use cases of a smartphone/tablet vs a laptop/desktop there isn’t really that much room for carryover beyond the design motif of the graphical interphase.

    Let me go through some of the significant differences:

    Large screen vs. Small screen
    Touch screen vs. Pointing Device.
    Screen lies flat vs. Screen is upright.

    So how much UI carryover can one really do? There is a danger in striving for this “one UI to rule them all” goal in that instead of the primary design objective being “make the smartphone UI work best for the smartphone user” it gets distorted into “make the smartphone UI as similar as possible to the laptop UI”. That way lies compromised UIs for both the smartphone and the laptop.

    Actually, Microsoft is aiming further than just UI commonality, they publicly stated that Win10 is one OS across all devices. I really don’t understand what great benefit this bestows other than the ability to say “Look what we did! We mashed it all up into one.” It sounds very much like “Look Ma, no hands!”

    Does a unified OS make coding the OS easier? Or does it actually make the OS code more complex? Will it really make developing across all Windows devices easier? Or is that more dependent on the SDK and not the OS?

    Or is this all driven mainly by marketing, to be able to tell the customer “No need to worry, it’s just one OS, no matter what device you have.” A single, simple pitch achieved through a single nomenclature across all devices. Which I think just leads to confusion in normal conversation, so the single name won’t stick as originally conceived. (Imagine if Ford named all their vehicle models, from econobox to pickup, “Fusion”). People will just refer to Windows 10 for PCs, Windows 10 for tablets, and Windows 10 for phones. Okay, minor point. Easily fixed by newly evolved speech habits.

    But what it indicates to me, is that Microsoft is still afflicted with the same old habit of a love of complexity. Or, more accurately, the love of the challenge of tackling complexity. (They’re engineers, after all.) Why build two separate OSes? It’s a lot more fun, challenging, and rewarding to mash two into one. Now that is a coding problem worthy of only the best engineers! (Surface arose from the same thinking. Building a device that fuses laptop and tablet is a great design exercise. I’m not sure it’s a great product.)

    1. I agree. If all homes looked the same, the neighborhood would appear dull. What makes the area appealing is the variety. Microsoft does not understand the emotional side of humans. Everything is not for engineers and techies.

    2. Having used… Android… on a desktop, I can attest the ergonomics are not that different, and work well even for an OS that completely neglects the Desktop scenario. I think the concept feels more foreign to iOS users because iOS’s UIs with all their buttons do not translate well to desktops, but Android’s and Windows’, with menus instead, do. I also think one of the main issue is that Apple and Jobs in particular have come out strongly against dual-mode UIs, and devotees feel they have to stick to the party line, even though it might no longer be true (UI thinking and devices have evolved) nor useful (it *was* useful to enable a clean break from the past and MS’s laughable mobile UIs of yore, but that break has been made now).

      As for the “single OS” thing, Modern really is an extra layer on top of Archaic Windows. MS can, and do, prune that underlying Archaic Windows for tablets and phones. I even think one of their hopes is that almost all desktop apps will get Modern-ized, and they’ll be able to get rid of a slew of compatibility APIs and kludges in 10 years’ time. Also, having OSes with the same rights/users/groups management paradigms and APIs makes admin significantly easier.

  4. These are big .systems. Apple scored points because it controlled the whole pipeline from OS to hardware to POP. Microsoft OS had to accommodate the Baskin Robbins of flavors. I think they were so busy getting a PC on every desktop (Bill’s words) they had blinders about the untethered world. It always struck me as ironic that Jobs would become the counterculture hero when he was really the JD Rockefeller of PC — own the town, the trains. and the tracks. Android and Windows will always have to double down to accommodate the diversity of hardware they support.

    1. Nah, unlike Bill Gates or Larry & Sergei, Steve Jobs never set out to own the whole neighborhood, just the posh streets. MS & Google mission statements are declarations of intent at world domination — “in every home”, “all the world’s information”. Apple’s on the other hand is a striving for excellence — “build the best products”. Now who sounds like JD Rockefeller reincarnate, then?

        1. Yes and if Apple set out to be a social reformer or great democratizer then they should be horrified at what they have done. But they set out as a business enterprise so it is a perfectly understandable and acceptable if one’s reaction to what they have done is “Well played!”

          If there is a Standard Oil of our time, actually, I’d say it was Microsoft and the Windows/OS twin monopolies. But that’s for another post under a different article.

  5. “Although Windows mobile is a distant third moblie OS, it is a very good one and I hope developers support it.”

    Mr. Nadella has the responsibility for something more than the hope you express. So far, “hope” is the best reason why it can succeed.

    As others note, the idea of “learn it once, learn it anywhere” is problematic for the huge range of differences. Developers aren’t excited: see http://inessential.com/2015/02/05/uxkit_skepticism . Users who want to see every possible option for formatting their spreadsheet’s chart simply are NOT interested in doing that in-depth, precise work on a tiny screen. (Why would they prefer the least usable hardware for extended detail work?) And while I might use Yelp to check out a watering hole on my phone, I’m approximately 5% as likely to want to do the same on my desktop.

    I suppose the single interface notion wouldn’t be too much of a barrier if there were strong ecosystems of apps, media, etc., around Windows Phone. So far, we’ve not heard any convincing reasons why that’ll happen, and there’s no indication the situation is any better than it was two years ago.

    And finally, Redmond has royally screwed its mobile customers, many of whom will remember that they bought thousands of RT tablets for their pilots, but couldn’t get software ported before the OS was EOL’d; never mind the expectations for v1.1 to cover the user’s TCO lifecycle. Ditto both Win7 and Win8 phones that’ve been sold after they were de facto EOL’d, without any warning. A skeptical buyer is going to wait before buying into any promises, which in fact aren’t even there to be skeptical about.

    Hope, indeed. Microsoft has done amazing work — my own startup and the big business that bought me out couldn’t have succeeded without it — but hope is way short of a strategy for the next couple of decades.

    1. I’m with you on the screwing customers whenever there’s a strategic wind change. People do have a short memory though.

      I’m still convinced the unified interface is a positive, because there’s no reason it has to be worse than any other, and anyone with a desktop PC will have a degree of familiarity. On the contrary having to make the UI work for both cases will highlight issues that need fixing on all Mobile OSes, especially discoverability and consistency, giving MS a head start in fixing them. Also, I’m also fairly sure Metro’s Live Tiles are a good middle road between iOS’s icons and Android’s widgets. That does need a lot of care and attention to detail though, and MS has clearly dropped the ball for now.

      As for apps themselves being different… I’m not that sure anymore. I’d say more than half my apps (by time spent) are common (browser, mail, rss, IM, media players). And the “Office on my phone” use case is not so much that you *want* to do it, but that you *might have* to do it, ie looking up new docs or updates to docs while on the road, or quickly fixing a faulty slide while on the way to a client’s.

  6. “And when Melinda French (now Bill Gate’s wife) came down to show me BOB, their consumer friendly UI for PCs, I wrote that, while it was interesting, I thought it had no chance to succeed since graphical UIs would do a better job at making PCs easier to use. Not long after that, Microsoft introduced their first version of Windows.”

    Ummm, Win1.0 was in 1985, Microsoft Bob was in 1995. I think you meant the first ‘good’ version of Windows was released shortly after with Win95.

  7. I could get into the weeds but I don’t want to write a 10-page missive on where I disagree with Mr. Bajarin.

    If I had to apply a theme to Microsoft’s recent activity I’d label it reactive and forced. The Surface Pro, Windows Phone, Cortana, releasing Office for iOS and Android, buying Accompli; heck even the Microsoft Store is a direct reaction to Apple’s success in the retail space and yet Microsoft is nowhere near as successful or relevant.

    And I’m not the least bit sold on Windows 10. Many are praising it now but that’s largely because Microsoft is fixing a problem they themselves created. Imagine sleeping in a bed for 20 years then being relegated to sleeping on the floor because Microsoft told you it was better for your back. Everyone knows it’s uncomfortable but you grin and bear it. Finally you can take it anymore (e.g. HP selling laptops with Windows 7 with the moniker “BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND!!”) then a few years later they invite you back into bed with a new duvet cover and call it a new experience. Of course you’re happy, you’re back in your comfy place (i.e. the Start button).

    The most astonishing and confusing announcement was the upgrade of Windows 10 at no charge. They say it’s only for the first year but I’m not sure when that 12 months actually starts. Either way it’s millions if not billions of lost revenue of people upgrading as well as all the different packs — Home, Professional, Business, Ultimate — that pop up every 5 to 7 years. Obviously the OEMs will still have to pay but there’s still a lot of lost revenue for Microsoft to give away OS upgrades at no charge.

    I’d love to know what OEMs think of that. Part of the allure of a new computer is what the new OS can do but if you can get the same OS on current hardware there are fewer reasons to upgrade. Just ask Apple who’s seeing their iPad business shrivel.

    And while I’m excited for the future of HoloLens I’m still skeptical Microsoft can pull it off and make this into a mass market device. If it’s more than $1,500 it’ll be hard sell.

    1. By giving away Windows 10 free they are doing two things – convincing the hesitant companies to upgrade from Windows 7. Most fear upgrading beyond Windows 7. The windows 8 debacle has been more than convincing to the customers about trusting anything Microsoft does. The second reason is they are probing to find out the response. If offered free, would that change things in their favor? Or would people jump in, take it all and then wait for the next free occasion? Microsoft has no marketing skills. They are out and out techies and have no idea how people’s minds work. They sure seem to know how PCs work. They are living in their own virtual reality.

      1. I would say Microsoft created THAT problem for itself, too, but it’s a bit too glib. The real problem is that Windows XP already did most of the things many users wanted, and that subsequent versions added features of relatively low value (even, security features, which many large shops had already built customized firewall solutions for).

        And these new features, even if “nice to have,” came with a VERY LARGE price in machine resources, technicians’ time to install/check, and perhaps most relevant to the Win10-FTW argument, compatibility testing.

        In the large Enterprise I just retired from, IT was responsible for a couple hundred third-party apps. When I wanted an upgrade for new features in the portfolio optimizer, performance attribution or accounting interface, I had to help IT develop tests to prove (among other things) compatibility with the OS version that my team ran. All of my apps were specialized, some extremely so (best for quantitative-style mutual-fund managers). So these third parties were not interested in extensive testing for an OS that their customers didn’t use. (One app had a majority of its usage on linux servers, not Windows, another had weird compatibility concerns with different SQL versions.)

        Upgrading to Windows 10 will require my former employer many man-years of work, and if it only provides a return of the Start menu to Windows 8 that was already ignored, it won’t be installed, either. The ability to write apps that run on everything from servers down to phones will be irrelevant in oh-so-many ways:
        • first, there are about 3 Windows phones in the shop, and with Microsoft being unable to push upgrades for their flagship devices thru Verizon, they’ve probably been stuck in a drawer.
        • second, so many of our desktop apps need intimate connection to their databases. My favorite app wouldn’t work over our pretty-decent VPN because it pulled data row-by-row and the latency killed it. Mobile versions of desktop-class apps is an non-starter for performance reasons.
        • third, most of those apps require huge screens of data to be compared and evaluated. I had 4 screens on my desktop; 2 was commonplace for us information workers. Even a tablet-sized screen would be painful.
        • fourth, the company is rightly paranoid about the security of letting full-blown data access out of the confines of the shop.

        There is nothing wrong with the idea of “Write Once, Run Everywhere”; it’s just that there are so few Enterprise jobs that need that range of capability, and the attempt to deal with different formats for menus, options, etc takes a LOT of work. Of course, the fact that it hasn’t actually worked terribly well on java is not a huge encouragement for Microsoft, either.

        But the real spoiler, in my mind, is that BECAUSE Microsoft has so utterly dominated the desktop — no complaint by me about that success that made life easier for me as a user and developer — it becomes almost impossible to upgrade the OS. Everything has to be synchronized at once — field techs’ apps, accounting systems, ordinary desktop workers’ customized macros, …

        Someplace I saw an old Steve Jobs quote about supporting multiple OS’s, how deadly it was. He would know. And yet, I think Apple has prospered dramatically because Apple has a relatively stable OS X—and recent complaints are that it is too unstable—plus it has iOS, in which all sorts of new features are implemented, sometimes with serious bugs, that take a couple of versions to get right. Microsoft will not have that option; they will need to ensure the identical stability for decades-old legacy programs and cutting-edge features to entice new applications and users. All while making it easier, not harder for IT shops, its primary customer base.

        Any decent strategic planner at Microsoft would’ve seen these issues over 5 years ago, when it became obvious that Windows Phone was going to get stuck in catch-up mode against a monster competitor that was taking all the profits in mobile, and re-investing them at a furious pace. The notion of leveraging Windows — that has to be a Ballmerism — everywhere should have been known as something to rally the faithful, but not anything that’d actually get mobile going for them, not even after a huge acquisition.

        How much it charges for Win10 is the least of Microsoft’s concerns. It has been for years, and is increasingly obviously so, that it has brought out a series of inadequate efforts in mobile, EOLing them before their customer base can quite figure them out, and then leaving gaping holes in its roadmap.

        1. I feel Apple lucked out by not getting into the enterprise during its early years. Enterprise systems are a very different ball game. Since Apple focused on students, artists and grandmothers, it has managed to keep things simple. Microsoft has done a good job despite all its weaknesses. It is not easy to please every customer and OEM.

          With Intel’s processors becoming more and more powerful, Microsoft had no choice but to keep up pace with the changes. I have heard about the disagreements and arguments between Intel and Microsoft engineers about how things should go.

          Microsoft management must realize where their strengths are and simply focus on that. Enterprise is their world and they must focus fine tuning their OS incrementally using customer feedback. They panicked Apple’s sudden ascendancy and miscalculated the market response. They are also used to coming from behind, using their muscle and clout to overthrow every competitor. It did not work and it must have caused panic. So they decided to one size fits all approach to their OS, trying to change it all fundamentally and burnt all the bridges in the bargain.

          More than the success of the next rev of the OS they must focus more on winning customers’ trust. Loyalty is long ways off.

          Windows 7 was a very good OS and they must have stuck with it, making incremental changes so as not to hurt the already existing customers. They ended up shocking everyone and themselves in the process.

          They could have worked on a separate OS for mobile platforms and succeeded in it by now if they had kept their cool.

          They have cash to burn and they seem to be doing a good job of it.

          1. This was an intentional move by Jobs at least since the 1984 ad, which spit in the eye of every bit IT shop. “Lucky,” sure, but intentional, too. And VERY harmful to short-term prospects.

          2. A year after the “1984” ad was the infamous “Lemmings” ad, trying to sell Macs to business.

            Apple never really gave up on the business market; they just never succeeded.

  8. It’s very interesting how so many comments are focusing on Windows, while in fact, Tim Bajarin’s article is about how Microsoft is going beyond Windows.

    Are we really getting it?

        1. As a sampling of reality…
          We discuss Windows, because it can’t be ignored, and impacts (for better or worse) 85% of the dektop and 99% of PC vendors.

          1. I’m sure PC customers (including IT departments) just want a desktop version of Windows that isn’t confusing.

            Whether or not the same OS runs on smartphones that they don’t own is completely irrelevant for them.

          2. If I were still programming, I would be delighted that the desktop applications could be readily ported to my mobile devices.

          3. Well then, if I’m IT, and I have a business case for it, would I purchase Windows Phones, Surfaces, and PC’s running Windows for this very reason?

          4. It’s certainly a decent ‘island’ to build from, but didn’t Microsoft recently acknowledge their share of computing devices was actually 14 percent? The reality you describe is in the past. More and more consumers can and do ignore Windows.

          5. You’re right. I change my statement to be “85% of General Purpose Computers, etc.” There, fixed!
            This also spares the Mac from being 15% of 15% = 2.25% of all computers.

          6. Your PC bias only leads to a failure of analysis. You must realize that iOS and Android devices *are* general purpose computers for many, many people, and that is only growing, in both the number of users and the capabilities of the devices. Honestly, you sound as silly as the people who originally argued against the PC being a useful computer.

          7. When you can code them directly, in native code, and run whatever you want, without asking anybody, then they will be general purpose computers. A bus is a general purpose vehicle, a trolley is not.

          8. I wrote my first program in 1966 (mainframe, of course).

            I used a card punch machine (an 029?) for my that, as time-shared terminals were still over the horizon. Later, I hand-assembled with paper and pencil for early micros and subsequently had the pleasure of using a mini to help customize our company version of a Microsoft PC product. Wrote Pascal on my 16-bit home WD “microEngine” that ran on an original, 8/16-bit IBM PC at work.

            Today I’m coding on a Mac laptop and the routines will run equally as well on my iPhone…maybe better, as my laptop, despite being a near-top-of-the-line i7, is a 2010 model.

            Point being: a person who wants to code for a machine by definition will have a way to do so; most of the list above were cutting edge enough that you personally moved the foundations into place rather than having some big for-profit do it for you, with all their pre-defined solutions. Back when, diehard mainframes snorted about how PCs were kiddies’ toys, but they went on to dominate for a couple of decades.

            There’s zero technical limitation to porting Xcode to an iPad or iPhone, just that the business case for doing so is also zero—people who deride iPhones’ ability because they can’t plug in a keyboard & screen aren’t really interested in doing anything of the sort. They’re just grumbling about the world passing them by.

          9. “There’s zero technical limitation to porting Xcode to an iPad or iPhone, just that the business case for doing so is also zero”.

            Exactly! It’s not that they are not technically capable. It’s not implemented as a general purpose computer, by design. I’m definitely preaching to the clergy. A general purpose computer does not, as a requirement, have another computer programming it. No matter how much the war cry at MS was…”DOS isn’t done, ’till Lotus won’t run.”, they could not succeed at that. Why? Because PC’s were General Purpose.

            Then there’s the whole “most people” aspect of mobile, when it comes to Apps. “Most People” is the antithesis of “personal” in many ways. Further, once I can’t run something I wish to run, due to artificial rules (not technical limitations), it’s also not personal.

          10. I’m pretty sure that that iPhone application software—including compilers—is actually installable, as exactly EVERY developer does so for his/her test bed iPhones. I could write such an app on my Mac—I’ve written a couple of interpreters and assembler-like programs—and presto! This not-a general-purpose computer would become one. Either you have a very cramped understanding of how computers actually work, or you are creating artificial distinctions that serve only the purpose of proving some irrelevant point…badly.

          11. For someone so knowledgeable, to be so wrong, on so many levels, I question your motives. (brand enthusiasm perhaps?)

            a) How exactly does a compiler get installed on an iPhone device, if not by a PC (including a Mac)?
            b) Yes, it would become a general purpose computer if you did that. Tantamount to jailbreaking. Doesn’t count. Which leads me to…
            c) Where can I buy one with it pre-installed?
            d) Can I sell the work to my fellow iOS users and they can install it directly?
            e) How can I choose to do this without involving Apple?
            f) Does the PC (including Mac) require a revocable developers license to program it?

            I also kept things generic, and brand neutral. It was you that inserted Apple. Yes, my Android devices are NOT general purpose computers. At least they allow sideloading.

          12. You really should take a moment and read what you wrote there, slowly and out loud. Maybe it will dawn on you how silly, and *old* you sound. Darn kids and their new fangled gizmos, why in my day we programmed everything ourselves, uphill both ways! Where’s my buggy whip?

          13. Yeah, liberty is an idea from antiquity, not an innovation, and it never grows old.

            Edit: In my day, if we didn’t program everything ourselves, we bought them, or we hired people to do it for us. Same principles applied. We didn’t need permission.

    1. Also, is Microsoft?

      On another forum, a ‘Softie declared that we would first see Nadella’s success with the release of Win10. But Win10 will tell us almost nothing about the strategy that Redmond needs to grow past its dominance in last century’s greatness.

      Likewise, for all Mr Bajarin’s enthusiasm for Microsoft’s ability to work magic, we don’t see what their 2014–2023 outline is. Still to be proven, I’d say, and at risk of distraction from “neat” tech such as HoloLens, the Vaporware without a killer app.

      1. Steve Jobs didn’t give us a 10 year outlook when he came back. People may have expected a phone to come eventually, but nobody foresaw the huge impact the iPhone had.

        Most likely, Steve Jobs himself had no idea.

        Is that something to complain about?

        And I don’t think that the Microsoft employee they you talked with meant that Windows 10 would blast them past their historic dominance. What he/she probably meant was that it would sell well, which is easier now because it’s free.

        1. This is true. But Apple did not introduce multiple, incompatible product lines along the way, whereas Microsoft has birthed and abandoned WinPhone 7 & 8, Win RT and Plays for Sure followed by Zune.

          It’s hard to know where tech will lead you, but it’s fair to ask how Microsoft can build a platform with such jerky-jerk strategies du jour that throw away their customers’ and third party developers’ investments…not to mention their own developers’ work.

    2. Interesting, sure. But will you help me: what evidence / ideas are shown that will allow smart bets on the success of these (in MY mind, anyway) un identified strategies and the reasons for success vs failure?

      Is this asking too much?

      1. I think it depends on your definition of a smart bet. I can’t really speak for Tim of course, but I sense that Microsoft is going back to its roots. The success of Windows misguided Microsoft into platform strategues, and I at least feel good that it’s going back. Nothing concrete, no insider info, but I always feel confident when companies rediscover their identities, just like Apple realized that it had to simply create the very best products.

        And I think at this early stage, you can’t realistically ask for more.

          1. If you were one of the few people who owned a Windows phone, yes. They don’t even sell them in Japan.

    3. I’m not convinced that MS is moving beyond Windows. During the latest Windows 10 keynote, Nadella emphasized how they have big ambitions for Windows and they want people to “love Windows.” That doesn’t sound like a MS that’s moved beyond Windows. MS is not expanding its retail efforts just for show. They have every intention of want to sell you their devices.

      All these apps that they’re releasing for iOS and Android are there to get people hooked using their apps. Once they do that, then it’s much easier for them to convince users to move to Windows Phone / Surface device because a) it lessens the dependence on whatever device you use and more on the app / service, and b) they can say to users that their apps / services work better on Windows.

      1. I felt Microsoft was way too Windows-only focused and it was missing the opportunity to expand the company well beyond the Windows franchise that, while still important, was keeping them from innovating in new areas and expanding Microsoft’s overall growth and reach.

        Read the article carefully. Tim Bajarin does not say Microsoft should reduce effort on Windows. What he says is that the “Windows-only focus” is holding them back.

        Regardless of whether there is a long-term plot to entice users of Outlook on iOS for example to move to Windows Phone or not, the short-term goal is clearly to develop a great OS for both desktop and mobile devices, and to develop great applications for any major platform out there.

        A simple way of saying it is, in my opinion, instead of the Balmer-ish “Windows Everywhere” (which is no longer realistic, at least in the short-term), Satya is aiming for “Microsoft Everywhere”.

        1. “Satya is aiming for “Microsoft Everywhere.”

          For the short term, I agree. For the long term, I look at it as more smoke and mirrors.

  9. Tim, are you being paid by Microsoft? I don’t think this would invalidate your opinions, but readers deserve to know either way.

    1. nope. Also kind of a silly question when you know the role of an industry analyst. Also read his extremely critical posts on Microsoft found throughout our site.

      1. The role of an industry analyst is to sell his or her opinions about the industry, to the industry. We both know “industry analysts” whose opinions are given to them by their clients and then regurgitated in blogs. Tim hasn’t been one of these, but some of the content in this article, such as the multiple references to insider access to Ballmer and others at Microsoft over the years, made me wonder if Microsoft was or is a client. I’m glad to hear it isn’t. No offense intended; I hope you agree the question is legitimate given the absence of a formal disclosure here.

        1. Unfortunately you have the wrong opinion of how our industry works. We sell research, data, insight to those who are interested and of course in a 30 year history Microsoft has been a client at times. Whether Microsoft or anyone else pays us for the research we do is never translated to saying nice things. Microsoft and nearly every tech company brings us in from time to time to share or present data and answer tough questions so they can use that insight to better their company. When you have been doing this as long as Tim you get to know these guys and develop a level of trust I hope you can appreciate.

          I’ll make this point clear so it doesn’t come up again. We offer our data and insight to the industry as a whole. That never means we have to say nice things about those who buy it. You can be guaranteed that whether a company buys our data/insights or not we will never let that color what we say in any capacity. As you can see if you read any volume of what we write. I hold it in the highest regard that my /our role is not to tell companies what they want to hear but what they need to hear.

        2. I, for one, am curious as to which “industry analyst” is actually an arm of some PR Dept, enough so that he is explicitly paid to push the company line.

          My skepticism comes in part from the fact that his/her value would be demolished with any hard evidence, so at best you could cite former

          1. I haven’t insulted anyone. I asked a question, I got an answer. Nevertheless I could name four industry analysts off the top of my head who I know for a certain fact have taken money in return for publishing specific opinions about their clients. All of them still working as analysts, with names you would recognize if you follow this business. Tim was never one of them, but this piece seemed a bit too rosy. As Ben said, Tim has been critical of Microsoft in the past; this piece seemed to go the other way. I will not apologize for asking reasonable questions, especially in the absence of a disclosure statement, but as I said to Ben, I accept his assurances and thank him for responding directly.

    2. It might be OK for you to ask that question depending on the cultural background that you were raised in, but please don’t count me in as one of what you refer to as “readers”.

    3. I give perspective about Microsoft elsewhere on this page, too. It is approximately the opposite viewpoint as his. It is unpaid but sincere.

      I’m glad that Ben is not insulted by your question, but if you want to insinuate that his opinions aren’t meant for YOUR edification, you should point out a conflict between his ideas or data and what you know to be the situation. Not (absent a shred of evidence) his motivation—ad hom challenges are the least useful and insightful, and they tend to dry up discussion rather than encourage sharing of different viewpoints.

      Which, is presumably why you & I are given the privilege of commenting here. Why not make better use of it?

  10. There are legitimate concerns over Outlook for iOS and Android.

    Microsoft is storing your credentials (in the case of Gmail I believe OAuth is used instead). How are they stored? This has not been communicated at this stage. However, I trust Microsoft to securely store my data including my credentials, and so do thousands of organizations around the world (take DirSync with Password Sync as an example).

    Corporate policies are being violated. Providing your user credentials to a third party is a breach of many IT usage policies, and the app doesn’t make clear to end users that this is occurring. In fact the typical end user would have no idea that this is happening.

    Data is stored in the USA. For organizations with data sovereignty or regulatory issues with off-shore data storage this will be a problem.


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