Why Microsoft May Still Have Game

At the Mobile Portland meeting Monday evening, Jeremy Foster came down to show off the developer aspects of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. I walked in skeptical and walked out very impressed. At least from a developer perspective, the developer tools and language integration is very well thought through. Jeremy was demonstrating things like calling native C code from within Javascript without having to do anything special at all, a huge advantage for companies like mine that have a huge native code base we need to use. I always did give Microsoft huge credit for its developer programs and tools [1].

Here’s the reality: Microsoft still has plenty of volume on its side. I heard a report that, if you factor in tablets and smartphones, Windows still has 30% market share. The report indicates that Microsoft will sell about 250 million copies of Windows this year, second only to Android. There is still a large contingent of users who are very happy with Windows and will continue to use it, and there is another group that will continue to use it because corporations said so.

Here’s the weakness Microsoft can exploit: we are now four years into the iOS App Store and about three years into the Android app store. The bulk of developers aren’t making a living on either platform. If Microsoft can demonstrate that typical developers can make a living on Windows 8, they may just find converts.

As much as the press seems to hate Microsoft, there are still some things going for the company. Cross-device support where the core infrastructure is the same and the API [2] calls are the same is a huge advantage for developers. I’ll be watching OS sales closely.

[1] I give the company less credit for its marketing. In the middle of the meeting I decided the company really needs a Senior VP of Simplicity whose sole job is to veto any products that can’t be easily explained to consumers. The confusion around the different flavors of Windows is particularly bad.

[2] APIs are the calls we make into the operating system to do the things we expect the OS to do. These calls can be anything from working with text to making images dance across the screen to showing a table of data.

3 thoughts on “Why Microsoft May Still Have Game

  1. Hi Elia,

    As you say, Microsoft has always had a good story. But not this time. Surface breaks compatibility with every single piece of non-RT software. That means there are no more than a few thousand, if that, bits of software.

    You should recognize this state from many years in the mobile world. Chicken and Egg. Software developers do not want to write unless there is an obvious market. Possible purchasers do not want to create that market unless there is software. The early adopters will rush in. Major IT departments will test it. And MS will get some traction because of their overly aggressive corporate licensing regarding access to Outlook.

    But basically, there is no there there. MS is coming into a crowded market as the underdog. iOS and Android are already embedded, already have the software solutions customers need, already have the price point. That might change when the professional version of the device that can run legacy software comes out. But not now.

    Why do you think Microsoft paid the development costs of pretty much every third party App that launched with Surface? Because they had to. Because Netflix was not willing to put their own money on such a risk.

    And having said all that. It could take off. You could be the first mover on the next platform. But I would rate that as a very high risk.


Comments are closed.