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!

Windows Phone 8 Annoucement

What a hell of a week it has been for Microsoft, they went from a sleeping giant to the most exciting company in the industry. They did not get it perfect though and there were some bad bits – a lot of which was due to the lack of details, and in a way rush announcements.

Why did they decide to do a WP8 announcement this week, just giving us a platform update, and a few features, but no tooling or SDK for us to start developing for the new platform, it does not make sense and again they left more questions that needed answering than there were before. When we will find out more? When will there be an SDK? When is the release date?

The Disappointment

Lets start with the disappointing – yet already known fact- that existing devices will not be able to upgrade to WP8.

This SUCKS, but is understandable for the following reasons:

  • WP8 requires UEFI booting which I doubt any existing device would support
  • Even if the above was not true, it would be an incredible struggle to get the OEM’s to rewrite all of their drivers and to publish the update

So yes it sucks, but it is understandable. I hope (wish) MS comes out with something closer to release to make it up to us early adopters – free credit to the market place, or subsidised upgrades.

The WP7.8 update is a bit of a reprieve though, but it will really depend how much is back-ported to it, to decide if it is acceptable.

The Awesome

MS unvield a whole host of new features, and promised that there would be more to come which they are not announcing yet.

Enterprise Features

Microsoft has really put the nail in the lid of RIM’s Coffin here, and will mean MS will lead enterprise adoption of smartphones.


MS has the most complete and broadest implementation of NFC that I have yet to see in any device. In android it seems to be limited to just payments, but MS have embedded it into everything it seems, so you can send and receive many types of data, and it will be a great companion to Windows 8.

I cannot wait to see the innovative ways developers use it.

Native Code

As a developer this feature does not really interest me, but it does mean there will be a much wider selection of games to play, as it will be easier for developers to port across platforms.


It seems MS has finally decided what its development environment is, after years of WPF, Silverlight, and other technologies. Now WP8 apps will be able to be developed in the same way as Windows 8 apps.

New Start Screen

A much needed improvement. Having smaller tiles will be great. I have a number of apps I use daily, but I just don’t need them taking up so much room on the screen.

VoIP Integration

This looks to be the deepest any platform has integrated such a feature, and will hopefully create a new bred of devices and carriers, where all you need is a data plan.


As MS is doing with Windows 8, what they with originally did with WP. They combine the best of both worlds. iOS is boring with its pain icon start screen. Androids start screen is a mess of uncontrolled resource eating widgets. WP gives flexibility, creativity, and a widget like experience, but in a controlled manor to protect resources and usability. And MS does this across the whole OS, and then adds more.

A great solid, set of updates to an already solid platform. I just hope the lack of an upgrade path, does not destroy the ecosystem, but this is make or break time for MS and the platform.

iOS/iPhone took off with its second major iteration.

Android took off with its second major iteration.

WP8 is the second major iteration, will it take off? (I sure hope so, its the best mobile OS out there)

The Microsoft Surface

Wow just wow, I was not expecting Microsoft to announce that last night, and I think (yes I know I am a bit of a fan-boy) this is the tablet which defines what a tablet should be.

The iPad while good, was simply good, it was not excellent, it was not brilliant, it was not a replacement for a laptop, it wasn’t a productivity device. It was a device that was hard to justify buying, and mainly there for consumption and entertainment. Basically it was exactly what you would expect from Apple.

Microsoft has given us what we expect from Microsoft. A device which is great for consumption, but also brilliant for productivity. I finally fill like I can sell my Laptop (MBP) and my iPad and just have one device. This has always been my issue with the iPad, that you cannot just have an iPad sooner or later you end up needing a laptop to do something. This has happened to me a number of times. There’s too many restrictions in the iPad, too many compromises.

What MS allows, mainly due to Windows 8 is to remove as many of those compromises as possible, the biggest one remaining is Legacy Software on ARM, but this is one which is acceptable to a degree (although there might be ways around it) for security and resource management reasons, to ensure the user gets the best possible experience. But this coupled with such a lovely bit of hardware like the surface, extenuates this. You have a tablet, like the iPad, with a similar cover, but in a few seconds, it turns into a lightweight laptop, but one which is just as useful as a laptop. I don’t have to worry, about if I need a laptop, I am already carrying one.

The Touch Cover is an amazing bit of engineering, and will seriously improve the typing experience. My fingers hurt after prolonged typing on the iPad, its simply not comfortable. The Touch Cover will improve typing speed, and comfort while increasing the usability of the device, without having to carry around a bit heavy keyboard.

Now for the downside

As MS mentioned in its keynote, the displays are “Retina” (using Apples definition of not begin able to distinguish pixels from a normal usage distance). They might not be as high on the ppi scale as the iPad, but using other clever technology they have achieved it, which enables lower power usage.

Yes, if your a purist you might say the screens let it down, but I think we will have to wait and see to pass judgement on if ClearType is an acceptable substitute.

Yes the iPad will have more apps on its App Store, but it is just a matter of time for Windows 8 to catch up, and I am sure the quality will be just as good if not better. Developers should want to develop for Windows 8, because of the shear number of devices it will be on – not just tablets.

The other issues are mostly relating to the lack of details about the device, why are no firm specifications, prices, release date, set yet? Why announce this now, and not wait until they could announce and release at the same time, instead of making us wait months (not to mention they did not detail global availability, if it will be sold outside the US (hopefully they wont make this mistake again like they did with the Zune))

The only reason I can think of, why they announced it now, is because they are about to go into mass production with the device, and this would have lead to leaks (Most of Apples recent devices have been leaked, due to manufacturing leaks, parts lists. But that does not excuse the lack of details, which must surely be set in stone by now. I do not think we will ever know why MS announced when it did.

Finally why no 3G/4G support. This seems like such an obvious thing not to miss out, unless they just had not decided on it, as part of the final specification yet.

Which One

So I will definitely be buying one of these, but which one. That I have not decided yet. Part of me feels I should get the ARM one, lighter, thinner, cooler, longer battery life, but there is a little bit of me, that wants the Intel one, just so I can open Visual Studio, and do a bit of development, and perhaps put some of my favourite classic games on it from GTA to SimCity, but that is at the compromise of much lower battery life, hotter, thicker and heavier.

I think I will end up with the ARM one, for the reasons given above, but also because I want, hope believe, that these publishers will release metro apps which will give me, the functionality I want without needing to go to the desktop. There is no reason why there should not be Windows 8 Metro versions of GTA, or SimCity, just like there are on the iPad.

I also have some plans for applications which I will hopefully release when Windows 8 is released which should hopefully give me some of my development opportunities back on Windows 8 Metro.

The OEM View

Building its own PC Hardware is a big departure from the norm, for Microsoft, and will have a massive effect on how the OEM’s act and behave. But lets be honest here, a lot of OEM’s have failed MS and their users, and MS is simply saying to them, ‘This is the quality of the device we want you to make, no crap ware, original thinking, put the user first’. MS have set the bar and it is the OEM’s job to jump it.


I feel, the device is great, almost perfect for the future of computing, and I am very excited for it. Just cannot wait to get my hands on it now!!!

Libertarianism, Reasonableness and Protest

Now I am by no means a libertarian, a lot of my libertarian friends would hurt me for suggesting that I am. I am generally much more realistic and pragmatic rather then idealist. But this article will concentrate on a few tweets that I have seen over the last few weeks regarding the possible eviction of various occupy protests, and the rights to protest.

A lot of the tweets (from libertarians) seem to support the protestors taking up long-term camp and supporting their right to protest, regardless of other people’s rights.

Now as being slightly libertarian I believe people should be able to do what ever they want, as long as it doesn’t have an unreasonable negative effect on a 3rd party (note, a 3rd Party could be a person or business or any other organisation).  Third Parties will be used interchangeable with people.

So if we break that down, the keyword in the sentence is “unreasonable”, what exactly is unreasonable? And in that case what is reasonable?

People have to interact with many different 3rd Parties all the time. Most of these transactions are reasonable and negative effects are minimized. But there are times when some of these transactions are a cause for concern and have to be moderated.

One of the easiest transactions to use as an example here is that of planning permission & property building. So I buy a plot of land down a street, or an existing house and want to build a new property on it. There are two issues of concern here. How will the building process affect the neighbours, how can these negative effects be kept to a minimum to keep the neighbours happy.  The second issue is the effect of new building on the properties around it, how will it affect the neighbours in terms of physical effect and financial effect.

The first issue is a rather minor one, the negative effects from the building process is a temporary one, and are in most cases fairly reasonable, and in some cases where there are people with particular issues near by that restrictions on build are placed (restricting the hours of work to minimize noise at certain times).

The second issue is that of the effects of the building once built. Building designs have to be reasonable to not negatively effect neighbours. This means that if you want to build a 3 storey house down a street of bungalows your out of luck, your house cannot look out of place, and should not be overlooking neighbours. Building a 3-storey house down a street of bungalows would be unreasonable, building a bungalow wouldn’t be, and in some cases building a small house wouldn’t be unreasonable either.

So now I have explained reasonableness and unreasonableness lets apply it to the recent protests we have had, and the recent occupy protest.

Now while I think a lot of the recent protests are pointless and disagree with the aims, the ones which go for a stroll around London then go home, are fine and perfectly reasonable, because the negative effect while large, at the time is very temporary and a one off, so can be regarded as reasonable.

The occupy protests though are in my mind unreasonable, because they go on for a long time, affect many people constantly for the duration, and that this negative effect is unreasonable. So I regard it as a illegitimate form of protest.

This is where I am in contrast to a number of my libertarian friends, they regard the protests to be legitimate, and the negative effects a worthwhile effect because the right to protest trumps the rights of those who are negatively affected by the protest.

So while the right to protest is very important, the rights of the masses are as well and therefore protest should be moderated to ensure the negative effect from the protest are minimized and kept reasonable