A year back, if you’d told me that Microsoft would beat Apple in unifying all your devices I would’ve laughed at your face. Plus, knowing Microsoft of the past, one would’ve expected them to botch it up, even if that were true. When legendary Allard, godfather of Xbox, quit the company, everyone, including me, started screaming that MS’s future is on the brink of destruction.
But this new Microsoft under Ballmer had other plans in mind. It was evident when they launched WP7. It was not just another wrapper on their old broken mobile engine. Rather it was a completely thought through, totally revamped product, focused on improving your experience. It turned out to be one of the best mobile platforms and the user experience is particularly phenomenal.
Still, even for Microsoft, Windows 8 is a greater leap, and far from their comfort zone. Many people are still looking out for the Start button, while others are busy calling names. Amidst all this hoopla, Windows 8 was launched recently and Microsoft has been under incredible pressure. It’s facing a never seen before competition from Apple and Google, threatening to erode it completely. Today we’re going to take a look at the challenges faced by Microsoft.
Surface is a ground-breaking invention in many respects for Microsoft. All Apple purists out there, hear me out completely before you start hailing tomatoes this way. This is Microsoft’s first whole-hearted attempt at entering the hardware game, after Xbox. It makes perfect business sense.
After all one of the defining factors of Apple’s awesomeness is the level of control they have over the ecosystem. They own every bit of the device from scratch to the finish. On the other hand Microsoft, on one too many occasions, has been brought to their knees by third party vendors with sub-par devices. The first signs appeared when they started laying out tighter specifications for WP7 devices, but unfortunately many manufacturers stayed out of it. With too much at stake now Microsoft couldn’t afford to allow themselves to be at the mercy of third-party manufacturers anymore.
Redmond is walking on thin ice with this new strategy. They cannot afford to walkout of their partners at this stage. They would still need the support of their long term allies like Dell, Asus, and Samsung if they hope to pip off Google in this war. This was evident on Surface’s unveiling, when they carefully showcased Samsung’s version first before revealing their own. But I’ve no doubt where their money would be when it comes down to the market. Surface’s success would again depend on how the makers decide to play their card. If they see Microsoft’s attempt as a threat to their product lines, they might run behind Google, and that ain’t gonna look pretty for MS.
And again there is the price point to consider. Being dubbed as the consumer platform, Surface is priced at a premium. At a time when other players, including Apple, have started launching devices at a lower price point, MS’s strategy looks dubious at best.
Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone is refreshing. It took us out of the boring, old, clunky interfaces and introduced us to a new world of awesomeness. They’ve even signed an exclusive deal with Nokia in hopes of winning a lion’s share. Unfortunately Nokia kept delaying the launch, and when it did finally come out it was too late. Don’t get me wrong. Lumia is an awesome product, but it wasn’t enough to check Google’s dominance.
Two things went terribly wrong with WP7: Redmond was over dependent on Nokia while Nokia was more focused marketing it as their own product rather than a Windows flagship phone. Microsoft understands this clearly and they’ve signed up with HTC to create a wonderful lineup, something on the heals of their Android counterpart, without trying to irritate Nokia.
Windows phone 8 also enjoys the benefit of Microsoft’s aggressive push and has received a lot of attention ahead of the big launch. We’ll have to wait and watch Whether Ballmer and co. will be able to capitalise on that.
“Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet. What you have seen and heard should leave no doubt that Windows 8 shatters the perception of what a PC really is… It works perfect for work and play and it is alive with your world,” said Ballmer on his keynote speech, and rightly so.
There has never been a bigger event in the history of Windows since Windows 95. Windows 8, true to its word has changed the landscape of PC’s. But as with any change, this comes up with its own set of detractors, in this case a huge bunch.
Windows is the business powerhouse, but Windows 8 is a consumer platform. Most companies are bound to stay out of this and even worse a bunch of them might even move to Ubuntu. This would be the immediate challenge MS will face.
Next, most people are uncomfortable with Metro (or whatever that is called now). Metro is awesome for touch and most displays aren’t yet ready to go into that yet. Another is there is too much confusion between the behaviour of a normal Win32 app and a Metro-esque application. It’d be interesting to see how MS is going to break this barrier and convince the users to buy win 8.
Tighter Xbox Integration
One of the high points of the new ecosystem is the Xbox integration. Microsoft would be pinning high hopes on this and hoping to win people from other systems. Xbox has evolved from a simple console to a full packed entertainment powerhouse. But this time around it faces tough competition from Sony and Nintendo and they’d have to pull something amazing. If SmartGlass can be taken as a preview for what lies ahead, then we’re in for a delight!
Lack of Developer Support
A lot of discussion is going on about Windows apps, or the lack thereof. Some critics are quick to predict that this would be Microsoft’s undoing. Lets face it: there aren’t passable apps in the Windows Store. But the platform is still in its infancy and many developers are staying away avoid cost overhead for a new platform. However once the platform goes mainstream after the official launch, they will no longer be able to write this off.
We live in exiting times, especially at this Windows side of the world, and it cannot get any better for us. Folks at Redmond have done a great job and have dared to re-imagine every bit of computing. As a law of nature, any big change is vehemently opposed in this society, and Windows 8 isn’t any exception. Now the rest depends on how Microsoft takes it up to its users. It’s no easy job, and a turbulent year lies ahead for Microsoft. As a Windows fanboy, I seriously hope it works out well for them.
How’s your experience with Windows 8? Is your next mobile or tablet from Microsoft Store? We’d love to hear from you. Do join us in our discussion below, and thanks for reading.