Can Microsoft Succeed in the Mobile / Tablet markets?

Firstly lets define succeed, this doesn’t mean to become the biggest market share holder, but to take a significant chunk of the market – be a major player. This isn’t like Mac vs. PC or Betamax vs. VHS where there can only be one winner, its different this time, there is room for 3, and it’s very possible for there to be three or more major players and for the consumer it is essential that there are more than two major players to keep competition alive.

The big difference this time is that Microsoft cannot use its old tried and proven method of breaking in to market – sell it cheaper, let it run on anything and everything, and profit through volume. It worked for Microsoft with Windows, and IE, But Google has already taken this strategy and taken it to the extreme, Microsoft cannot undercut free. Microsoft has its back up against the wall.

So they need a new strategy, one similar to what they did with the Xbox which overtime, was very successful, even though it had initial problems, tough competition, and it was in a market, where the game was considered over.

A lot of people I have discussed this with, have said that its game over in these markets, and it’s too late for Microsoft to make an entrance (hopefully some of the above should distil that) but, these are new markets relatively, and the markets are far too young, and too fast changing to say that the game is over. Android is still making considerable progress against iOS in the smartphone market across the world, and the Tablet market is hardly developed and still has a lot of expansion and growth to go under. A market cannot be in a position where a winner can be declared, while there is such rapid growth and market share changes. There is all still to play for!

So what is Microsoft’s Strategy?

Firstly, they are going to try and match their competitors’ prices (maybe even slightly undercut it initially). This has to be done, to get consumers on-board.

Secondly strike at the enterprise. This will be easy for Microsoft, integration with their existing services and manageability tools means Microsoft can win this hands down, and this will expose the devices to a large number of consumers who are likely to then buy the devices at home (comfort, familiarity, etc.).

Finally and this is the key part of Microsoft’s strategy – is that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, offer something unique and different, to a market that is very polarised. At one end you have Apple’s completely closed ecosystem, limited or no choice in hardware, or services. At the other you have Android, where you have a multitude of devices from the very good to the absolutely terrible, where there are any number of services you can use, and a very open ecosystem.

What Microsoft is going to do is to provide a middle ground. A limited number of very good quality devices, across a number of price points. Along with a restricted set of services (this is needed to solve malware issues that android suffers from) which users can trust. They are going to try and provide the best of both worlds, choice and quality.

  • Everything so far is just Microsoft’s attempt to catch up and compete. Microsoft has also provided a number of new and innovative bits of functionality (not all of these apply to both markets).
  • A Unique User Interface. (Weirdly this also take a middle ground between Apples icons only – and Androids unlimited widgets, but providing something like widgets but within a consistent UI)
  • True Multitasking (on the tablet, it is possible to have two apps on the screen at once)
  • As mentioned previously – Cracking Enterprise Support
  • A common UI across multiple devices
  • A brilliant development environment, with lots of choices.
  • Xbox Integration
  • Office

I think all of the above means that Microsoft has a good chance of becoming a major player in these markets over time, as long as they don’t allow long periods without updates (they need to move to a yearly release cycle for Windows in my opinion), it’s far too early to rule them out!

Improvements to Windows 7

(just a quick note, i wrote this quickly, so there may be mistakes, and badly worded bits, so please tell me so i can update it)

I have been using Windows, and Windows 7 for a long time now, but like any operating system it has flaws and problems.

Problem 1 – Upgrading

The biggest problem that some of my friends have encountered is upgrading from a previous version to Windows 7. They need to make the upgrade system more flexible, removing issues such as upgrading from Business to Home Premium which currently requires a clean install. Upgrades also take a lot of time and can be unsuccessful.

Problem 2 – Installers

There are various installer systems for Windows, all of them different. As a user i would really like one underlying installer system that EVERYONE would use. I’m not saying they all need the same UI, but they should all use the same underlying technology, which should be Windows Installer.

They also need to add a auto updater protocol in this so that people can keep their software up to date via one interface. Something similar to Windows Update. This will keep people up to date, which means more stable software, more secure software, but also a way for companies to potentially advertise upgrades to newer versions, and the best bit of it all, the user gets a better experience.

This might also help improve Problem 1, as if everything uses the same installer system, then its easier to migrate programs across.

I know some projects like NSIS wouldn’t like this, but there are plenty of open source Windows Installer based systems for creating installers, e.g. WIX.

Those are the main two issues i see today, there are of course other issues, but they are minor.

Windows 7 has really improved on performance, but there is always more you can do.

Also i would like to be able to install a base version of Windows e.g. Professional, then buy licenses for the extras that appear in higher versions like BitLocker, without having to pay for all of the other extras that come in Ultimate. This would unleash new avenues of revenue for Microsoft, as well as helping to make Windows more modular.

If you have anything to add to this, or that you would like to suggest, then please comment, and i might make a follow up post.

Windows 8 my wish list

Windows 7 is finished, and its very good, and very polished, and it introduces a lot of new very good features but you can always add more, and can always improve so here’s my wish list for Windows 8.

  • User mode file system interface.
  • More emphasis on .Net and WPF. It should be used in all the utility applications in Windows, (Paint, Notepad, WordPad, Calculator).
  • Aero Snap to corners. So 4 windows on the screen, one in each corner.
  • Make MSI(Large Installations) and Click Once(Small Utility Installations with auto update) the default and only way to install Software. This helps provide a more consistent setup interface, and should also get rid of the problem of faulty installers.
  • Release a Free “Visual Studio” Edition for creating MSI and Click Once installers to make the above point easier for developers to achieve, (especially for those who are not already using Visual Studio for Development).
  • Built in PDF/PS reader.
  • SVG Support.
  • Update WMP Interface, take tips from Zune Player
  • Add Extensions to .Net to cover Windows Specific Elements like Jump lists and etc(This could happen with .Net 4.0). This make it easier than having to use Windows7Integration and Vista Bridge Interop Code.
    Chances are i will follow this post up but for now its all i can think off. It was really hard work to come up with this list… Windows 7 is just that good.