How ‘Metro’ is Microsoft?

I think everyone agree that Microsoft had a lot of fail recently in the consumer space. They continue to release peripherals – that very few people use, published an OS way before its time, and entered the tablet market far too late. Oh right, and what is this, I hear there is a new Microsoft phone coming out—they did not learn the first time?

But putting Tablets, Bing and the Zune player aside, Microsoft has recently had quite a bit of technological success. Here are some facts:

  • Microsoft Office continues to be the leading publishing and spreadsheet platform out there. Nothing, not even the new Works! from the Mac touches that user base.
  • Microsoft IE continues to be the leading corporate web browser–at least for now.
  • Microsoft Windows 7 is a very successful OS, and quite stable.
  • Microsoft SharePoint is now the leading and most innovative ECM platform (as per Gartner 2013, and probably 2014).
  • Microsoft Windows 8 is actually quite an improvement from Windows 8. Its about 10-15% faster, has a really good UI, and is very very stable.

The common thread here being that Microsoft is still a very strong contender in the Corporate / Enterprise space. Now, its a whole different story when it comes to the consumer market. Microsoft is still lacking the foresight, and now they have a lot of competition

  • Windows 8 (and now 8.1) had made monumental changes to the user interface. The corporate community cares a lot about productivity, and vanishing the Start button was a really bad idea. Don’t fret, their decision created a whole new market. Check out Start8 if you need a start button in Windows 8 (and 8.1 — as that start button is a cop-out as well).  Just as an aside, I cannot believe they made this mistake. GNOME /GDE 3 did this exact same thing a year before Windows 8 shipped and the backlash was epic. Doesn’t anyone on the Windows dev team read Slashdot???
  • The Surface (and Surface II) Tablet is a solution that is still awaiting a problem.  Its too big, too bulky, and its missing all the cool apps. Corporate community is not ready to switch to a tablet quite yet. When they will be, it will need to come with a giant dock that lets you attach the tablet, and use a regular keyboard and a dual monitor screen.  The first company to make a tablet that docks will be quite successful.
  • The Microsoft app store is again, too late to the game. I mean, its slowly gaining traction, (mostly because its a publishing/marketing avenue for companies), but outside of that, there is very little value to the customer. Not to mention, think about it, for years we all think Google+Download when we want to install an app in windows. I bet most of you don’t even know how to get to the Microsoft App store! This is bad!
  • The last point for today is the Microsoft Mobile Phone strategy. I guess the last thing on their mind is innovation and new products. After a friendly settlement, Microsoft probably makes more money off of Android than it does off its own Mobile phone strategy. Have a look at the following Bloomberg article.

So what about the consumer space? Well, no matter how you cut it, Microsoft did embrace the flat design style and they did a wonderful job doing it. Their products look better than ever, are way more usable, and are increasingly more responsive.

As for Windows 8 — You can try and create a single OS that runs on multiple devices (i.e. PC, Tablet, Phone), but you will need to custom-build the GUI around the type of the device. A phone device is different than a tablet, which is still different than a PC, so the OSes must be custom-built around the form-factors and different input styles. This is the biggest issue with Windows 8. But I do believe that Microsoft will rectify the problem, and eventually remove the botched “Tablet” feel from the PC version of Windows (oh, and add a normal start button back). This is when the corporate community will commission an update, and the world will be happy again!