I imagine this is what it must have looked like in the early 1950s, when companies raced to meet the needs and desires of new homeowners with disposable income. Washing machines. Refrigerators. Television sets. Vacuum cleaners. With each rollout, companies would add on additional features to win market share. Companies like General Electric, Hotpoint, Sunbeam, Maytag and more jockeyed for the lion’s share of the appliance market.
Today, in the computing market, it’s smartphones, tablets, the cloud and, always, the software. And within the span of 10 days, Microsoft has made a bold play in each of those areas.
At the recently concluded TechEd, it was the Windows 8 operating system with Metro styling and multi-touch capability. It was the announcement of the company’s vision of an operating system in and for the cloud. Afterward, it was Steve Ballmer “Surface-ing” Microsoft’s entry into the tablet space, and later that week, a Windows Phone 8 event that debuted what folks are calling amazing voice support (like Siri, only better!) and better hardware.
It’s almost as if Microsoft has the great track star Carl Lewis running the last leg of the race, and making up a tremendous amount of ground before going on to win.
The Twitterverse was blowing up with mostly pro-Microsoft comments, though more than a couple noted that Microsoft’s Surface tablet announcement mimicked the way Apple would do a rollout of that type. Oh, and it crashed, too.
From where I sit, the most impressive aspect of this media and product blitz is that Microsoft is firing at all markets at once. And that’s the power of Microsoft (more specifically, the power of Microsoft’s money). Most companies can only focus on a phone, a tablet or both, if the OS is the same. Microsoft is taking dead-aim at those markets, but also talking about winning enterprise computing in the cloud.
At TechEd, I was impressed with Windows 8 running on a Samsung tablet. The touch motions were fluid, and the tiling made desktop organization sensible by dedicating more space to things that are more important to me.
Will it be enough for Microsoft to overtake Apple and Google in the smartphone and tablet markets? There’s one ace in the hole I haven’t yet discussed. Microsoft’s phone and tablet are built to tie in to the company’s whole ecosystem of servers, databases and cloud infrastructure, and this is what will win the day.
Right now, iPhones and iPads are popular because they deliver the Web and all the apps consumers want: newspapers, magazines, sports, games, weather, travel reviews, restaurant reservations and so much more. Windows phones and tablets will have all of these too, in short order. Apple users also can access Office 365 productivity apps via the cloud, but with Microsoft using Windows 8 (or some variation) across all its platforms, the experience between working on a Web app, a document, or a data app from the back end will be seamless. For developers, it means having the ability to work in tools and languages you know to reach each platform.
And that’s something that Apple can’t even begin to compete with. Companies will still tolerate their workers having iPhones, but they will insist they have Windows devices.