Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Oct 2013 22:46 UTC

Early this year, I decided to take a risk.

As a geek, I like to reward those in the industry that try to be bold. That try to be different. That try to leave the beaten path. That look at the norm in the market, and decide to ignore it. Despite all its flaws, Microsoft did just that with its Metro user interface, incarnations of which are used on both Windows Phone and Windows 8.

I was a Windows Phone user since day one. I bought an HTC HD7 somewhere around release day, and imported it into The Netherlands, a year before the platform became available in The Netherlands. I wanted to reward Microsoft's mobile team for trying to be different, for being original, for not copying iOS and Android and instead coming up with something fresh and unique. Despite all the limitations and early adopter issues, I loved it.

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Why was it so bad?
by Tony Swash on Thu 24th Oct 2013 10:06 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:

Why was is Surface and Windows 8 so bad. And I don't mean that in a technical sense.

It’s interesting to think about why Microsoft got it so wrong with Surface and with Windows 8. Blaming some sort of internal departmental/managerial cock up would be easy but mistaken because the problems at Microsoft are strategic and they are deep.

The rise of mobile touch based computing devices is the biggest change in the world of computing since the PC and one that will generate far more users and commercial activity than the PC, and Microsoft’s strategic response to that rise of mobile devices has been very deeply flawed.

Microsoft’s strategy for close to three decades has been to build and extend the Window’s empire. There have been some large non-Windows initiatives such as XBox but those did not relate to the area of generalised computing devices and so were not viewed by Microsoft as impinging on it’s core Windows strategy. Microsoft’s instant gut reaction to anything that might move personal computing to anything other than a variant of Windows has always been to see such developments as a threat. The one thing built deep into Microsoft, it’s culture and it’s business strategy is to to do nothing that could disrupt it’s Windows product.

Now that we are several years into the touch and mobile revolution it is absolutely clear that the old PC GUI interface of windows, mouse/trackpad and an exposed and complex user land of files, folders and directories is just not suitable for use in a touch based device. Entirely new user interface systems are needed by touch devices and in Windows Phone, iOS and Android that’s what you have. None of those operating systems depend in any way on the old desktop GUI interface, they are a break with that past and they are solving the problems of how to design a truly functional and easy to use touch based UI through new ways of doing things. Those new ways are continuing to evolve.

The problem for Microsoft was that doing something new on touch based devices, particularly tablets, was seen and experienced as a threat to it’s Windows product. So it’s first response was to just do nothing (and in the case of it’s Courier project kill any inhouse attempt to rethink a non-Windows based touch interface), then it dithered for far too long about moving beyond Windows Mobile, paralysed by it’s instinctive response of not disrupting Windows, so that Windows Phone came far too late and now looks like it will never catch up with iOS and Android. But when it came to too tablets, clearly a product category in direct competition to traditional laptops and PCs, Microsoft, even after a 100 million iPads had been sold, could not bring itself to do anything that might disrupt Windows. So what it ended up with is the bizarre dysfunctional hybrid that is Windows 8, an OS that simultaneously degrades the user experience on the PC/desktop, whilst delivery a sub-standard experience on a touch device.

Microsoft could not contemplate disrupting it’s own business and is now paying the price. Interestingly by comparison the one PC era company that has managed to not just transition to a mobile device company but to thrive, Apple, did decide to disrupt it’’s own PC business by breaking with MacOSX and selling products that directly cannibalised Mac sales. As Tim Cook said ‘If you don’t disrupt your own business then someone else will’.

There are other problems that Microsoft faces other than Windows being disrupted. It is now becoming clearer that the value of software in the era of the mobile device is becoming almost zero and for a business built as a giant software company that it is very deeply challenging to say the least. Partly as a response to that trend towards zero value software the one lesson that Microsoft seemed to draw from the mobile device revolution, and Apple’s successful transition, was that it’s old licensed OEM model was inadequate and so it decided to go into competition with it’s own OEMs and build it’s own hardware. But it turns out doing great hardware is harder than it looks and selling hardware outside of it's old OEM network is a whole new ball game.

It will be very interesting to watch how Microsoft’s new CEO deals with all this.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Why was it so bad?
by cdude on Thu 24th Oct 2013 16:07 in reply to "Why was it so bad?"
cdude Member since:

If ypu disrupt your own business it means you trade sales of product A for sales of product B. If somebody else does you still have your product A. But what Microsoft did was to tansform product A into B and now they have neither of both.

Reply Parent Score: 0

RE[2]: Why was it so bad?
by Nelson on Thu 24th Oct 2013 21:51 in reply to "RE: Why was it so bad?"
Nelson Member since:

You say this on the same day Microsoft reports a record quarter. LOL.

Reply Parent Score: 3