Microsoft’s Windows OS generates interest like no other product, the only other technology product that commands the same attention is Apple’s iPhone–the reach of these products is staggering. Windows & iPhone are used by anyone and everyone; the two products are ubiquitous in daily lives. The people who cover technology have known what’s coming in Windows 8 for a while but that hasn’t reduced the excitement around the launch. For Microsoft, Windows 8 does indeed mark a turn. Metaphorically, the ship is turning in a direction that defines the company’s future. iPhone and iPad’s success have forced Microsoft to respond, and the company’s past has helped them make the move faster than most expected. As Peter Bright wrote in his piece, to understand Windows 8, we have to look at the company’s past. Steve Ballmer has time and again emphasized the importance of Windows to Microsoft. It’s the one product that’s synonymous with the company’s name.
Google and Apple have forced Microsoft into adapting to the new dynamics of life. Consumerization of IT is not just a enterprise phrase, it explains how the technology resources between ones work and personal life are merging, and this is defining the evolution of computing. Smart and capable phones like the iPhone and mobile devices like the iPad powered by Internet are changing how people use technology. Microsoft realized this a long time ago but simply failed to get things together on their operating system. Microsoft’s partners–their partners–failed miserably to bridge the gap between personal and work devices. The status quo was disrupted by Apple and as people started buying their devices, Microsoft’s partners had more to lose than Microsoft. The loudest tech press ignores Microsoft’s presence in the enterprise. As Christopher Budd in his guest column on Geek Wire says, Microsoft isn’t going to disappear even if Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 fail.
Bill Gates’s decision to license Microsoft to hardware manufacturers was the single best decision for Microsoft and even with the Surface, nothing has changed. A huge deal has been made out of Surface and Microsoft’s decision to get into designing computer hardware but the timing couldn’t have been better. To remain relevant in the consumer market that is now dictating technology decisions made in the enterprise, as a company, Microsoft had to take radical steps. You either adapt and change or you fail and perish–it’s the one rule that separates corporations that survived the test of time and that withered faster than the leaves of Fall. Surface was needed to drum up noise, show OEM partners what can be done and to rally the charge against the iPad. For Microsoft to continue its dominance, they need their OEM partners to succeed. And despite the Surface, Microsoft hasn’t forgotten its ecosystem strength.
The New York City launch was about conveying four messages:
- Windows 8 is here
- It works great on tablets, and here’s our Surface showing you how
- We’ve got our own stores for you to see the products
- Our OEM partners have great products for you too
At New York City, Microsoft’s pop-up store was selling the Surface. And the company had setup several stations showing what their partners have to offer. It was clear that Microsoft knows their success depends on the success of their OEM partners. Devices from all major OEMs were in the middle of Times Square for pedestrians to touch, hold and experience Windows 8.
As much as the loudest tech press in America might want to shout through their blogs, humans have different preferences. It’s why Apple came out with a White iPhone, it’s why Apple was compelled to do an iPad mini. For every person who likes the iPad, there will be someone who doesn’t. For every person who likes iOS, there will be someone who doesn’t–Android’s growth is proof of that. The PC ecosystem has for years thrived on choice, Windows has been the same across all OEMs but we have seen manufacturers rise and fall. Apple has made a huge deal out of a statistic that x% of Fortune 50 are considering deploying iPads but that statistic doesn’t say PCs are being replaced.