View From Above

January 17, 2013  3:24 PM

Once Again, Facebook Ignores Mobile

Posted by: Ron Miller

Once again, this week a big Facebook announcement gave mobile short shrift.

There was big news on Tuesday from Facebook, but what Facebook didn’t announce may be more important than what they did. That’s because once again, Facebook paid mobile short shrift and it’s time to consider that maybe the company will never get it.

You may recall there were many rumors prior Tuesday’s announcement as the Technology press speculated what it might be. Many believed it might be the long-rumored Facebook phone (whatever that would entail), but I think a lot of people figured it must be something about their mobile strategy whether it was an ad platform or another thing entirely.

As we found out, it had nothing to do with mobile and in fact, from following along in various live blogs of the event, it was clear Facebook didn’t demonstrate Graph Search on a mobile device and they didn’t even mention mobile, except in the question and answer period after the presentation in which Zuckerberg suggested that a mobile version of Graph Search was down the road.

Perhaps ClickZ put it best when it asked Is Facebook Still a Web First,  Mobile Last Company? If you had any doubt, this announcement showed that Facebook still sees itself as a web-first company. As Matt Kapko writing on ClickZ pointed out, it’s a bit strange that Facebook would continue to dismiss mobile when a majority of its users are accessing the service from mobile devices.

Om Malik live blogging the event could barely contain his disgust over Facebook ignoring mobile in the announcement writing, “My big takeaway so far: Facebook will never be a mobile company. They launch this graph search and it is on desktop browser. How it will work on touch devices, where typing isn’t the key way to interact with the device and information,” he wondered.

It’s kind of funny because I think of Facebook as a young company, and I would think that they would get this, but Zuckerberg is already a vestige of a previous generation. Don’t forget, Zuckerberg launched the first version of Facebook while a student at Harvard way back in 2003.

That was 4 years before the first iPhone, so he cut his teeth when web services were delivered in a desktop browser. But unlike some of his peers who have made the transition to mobile, Zuckerberg and his company continue to cling to the desktop.

One of the great use cases for the iPhone for me is I take a picture and I share it on Facebook. It’s so simple, and would be even easier if you could share right from the camera app. If I had to take a picture then email it to myself, go to my laptop and download the photo, then share it on Facebook, it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

Social computing was made for mobile, but the folks at Facebook don’t seem to understand that, or if they do, they don’t seem to get it enough. The mobile app just got sharing recently and it’s still implemented in a funky way. You can share from the newsfeed, but not if you tap through to the status to comment, you can’t share directly from the status. And the mobile app is still often slow and unresponsive, even though it’s better than the prior versions.

Facebook really needs to put mobile first, but as this announcement shows, it seems stuck in the desktop browser, and you have to wonder how long it can live there, ignoring the very place its users are most comfortable.

Photo: (c) Can Stock Photo

January 9, 2013  3:18 PM

It’s Mobile’s World Now and PC Just Has to Get Over It

Posted by: Ron Miller
Apple, Cloud computing, Google, Microsoft, mobile

As mobile devices usage continues to rise, we see PC sales decline.

We’ve seen all the signs lately that the PCs days are numbered and mobile and cloud, well they’re the cat’s meow, the BMOC, the big dog.

Oh , you’ll still see PC skulking around, showing up at parties and being annoying, but in 2012, we seemed to make a clear transition from desktop to mobile. Even Microsoft has seen this coming. Hence the rush to the cloud, the emphasis on mobile and the even the release of a Microsoft branded tablet with more coming.

We’ve all heard that Windows 8 PC sales have been slow. NPD reported at the end of November that Windows 8 sales were sluggish as were PCs and laptops in general with notebooks down 24 percent and desktop sales down 9 percent.

Granted it was early days, but Preston Gralla writing on his Computerworld blog after the holidays found that Windows 8 sales were still in the doldrums, and Gralla referenced a variety of sources reporting essentially the same bad news with lagging sales — and some computer manufacturing executives were beginning to express frustration at the lack of Windows 8 PC and laptop sales.

I trust that it has nothing to do with the quality of Windows 8. Whether you love it or not doesn’t have much to do with the lack of sales. It’s because the sales have shifted to mobile devices. In Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report this year, one telling slide was # 25, which showed in the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphones and tablet shipments surpassed PC and notebook shipments for the first time — and are expected to skyrocket in the coming years, while PC and notebook shipments will remain flat. Go have a look, it’s pretty telling. I’ll wait.

What’s even more telling is the next slide which predicts that sometime this year, the installed base of mobile device users will surpass the installed base of PC and Netbook user for the first time. Those two slides tell the tale of the changing demographics in technology usage (in case you needed a picture of what’s become obvious to just about everyone).

That not enough for you? How about this little data point then? Apple reported recently that it surpassed 40 billion total downloads in the App Store  since inception with almost half of those coming in 2012 and 2 billion in December alone. The App Store now has an astonishing 775,000 apps now. There are simply a lot of idevices out there and people appear to love to download apps.

And it’s not just Apple. ReadWriteWeb reports that Google, the other mobile behemoth, and its Google Play Android store is growing even faster and could pass a million apps before Apple does.

All this data seems to agree that mobile is ascending and PC is waning. This doesn’t mean we’ll stop using PCs or that the PC will go the way of the dinosaur, at least for the near term, but it does mean the PC will have less and less use in our lives, and as that is going to have an impact on traditional PC software like Windows and Office for the desktop. It’s a mobile world and the traditional PC is just going to have to get used to it.

Photo Credit:

(c) Can Stock Photo

December 21, 2012  9:51 AM

Oracle’s Wallet Can’t Make it a Cloud Company

Posted by: Ron Miller

Oracle made a big splash yesterday when it bought marketing automation vendor, Eloqua for $871 million. It has lead to much speculation that Oracle is going after rival, but can an enterprise software company like Oracle really compete in the cloud? I think it’s going to be a tough sell for them.

Reuter’s reported that Oracle bought the company because it wanted to boost its cloud presence adding to another cloud purchase, RightNow Technologies, which it bought last year for $1.5 billion. But it’s not clear that Oracle can use its considerable purse strings to buy its way into social customer and marketing management in the cloud, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to try.

As Tony Byrne pointed out in the Real Story Group blog, what we have with this purchase is a hodge podge of solutions, lacking any semblance of coherence across the Oracle product line (although Byrne was no kinder to rivals IBM, Adobe or

Cathy McKnight of Digital Clarity Group, however, isn’t so sure. McKnight, writing on the Just | Clarity blog sees this as a key piece in Oracle’s marketing cloud strategy and a step in the right direction.

So is it a hodgepodge or a smart move? It’s probably a little of both, but I’m not convinced that Oracle can change so easily. Even more than Microsoft, which is has begun shifting to the cloud with more agility than I would have imagined, Oracle is the quintessential data center product.

They typically sell to IT, not to business units like marketing, and like many Enterprise software companies of its ilk, there is very likely going to be a long installation cycle and a long upgrade cycle. Oracle might have a few cloud pieces to go with its core enterprise offering, but it’s never going to be able to move as quickly or innovate as fast as cloud rival can simply by being a cloud company built from the ground up for that purpose.

In spite of a few swings at the cloud,  Oracle is first and foremost an enterprise, on-premise software company, but as McKnight pointed out to me Twitter, just because many companies are looking for the simplicity that the cloud brings, doesn’t mean there won’t still be a market for companies that need or want more complex solutions for whatever reason.

I have no doubt she’s right, but I also see a marked consumerization shift going on in the enterprise. For IT that means moving away from complex enterprise solutions that require lots of IT overhead to install, configure and maintain and toward much simpler solutions that provide the same level of usability you are likely to find in consumer solutions on the web and require much less IT intervention.

Beyond simplifying and ease of use, there needs to be a smooth connection using the cloud as a conduit for users to access apps and content across devices and platforms wherever they are, providing a bridge between mobile and the cloud that we so often talk about on this blog.

When you think of consumerization, Oracle is probably the last company you think of, and while Oracle understands that the world is changing around it, I don’t think buying a couple of marketing companies based in the cloud does it a cloud company make. It’s going to take a whole lot more than that, and right now I put my money on its more agile competitors. Oracle isn’t going anywhere, but neither do I expect it to take this market segment by storm.

Ultimately, I see it as just another clumsy attempt by a big company to use its wallet to shift gears in a changing marketplace.

Photo Credit | (c) Can Stock Photo

December 17, 2012  8:20 AM

Buh-bye RIM and Other Mobile Predictions for 2013

Posted by: Ron Miller

It’s prediction time for the mobile industry.

It’s that special time of year when the technology news cycle slows down and all tech journalists turn toward those old chestnuts: year-end wrap-ups or predictions for the coming year. In the spirit of looking ahead I’ve decided to look into my mobile technology crystal ball and make some prognostications for the coming year. Maybe in December 2013, we can look back and see how accurate I was (or not).

Here we go:

Buh-Bye RIM; We hardly knew ya

The first one is pretty easy. RIM goes down once and for all. After losing market share for years, and having lost consumers along with it, the handset business will be cut off and drowned in Lake Ontario. No body will be found. I’m sure somebody will buy the other pieces like their patents and perhaps their server business, but Blackberries will go back to being fruit and the handsets will be a footnote in mobile history.

Microsoft Mobile barely makes a dent

Microsoft realizes once and for all, that for better or worse it’s a desktop software company. Maybe its cloud play begins to gain some traction in 2013, but Microsoft phones and tablets? Not so much. Let’s face it, even if Microsoft took 10 percent market share in tablets and phones, it would be a raging success, but I’m going say they get half that. By the end of 2013 if they haven’t reached 5 percent, I think we can confidently call the mobile strategy a failure.

Android gains, but Google rues the day it bought Motorola Mobility

Android will continue to make gains across the tablet and smartphone space, although the latter will begin to flatten even while the former one grows. Google realizes too late, however, that it threw good money after bad when it bought Motorola Mobility. It’s not a hardware company and trying to buy its way into the hardware space with a company that makes inferior products doesn’t help. They don’t make much money and piss off their OEMs. Seems like a perfect lose-lose situation. The only question left is what they do about it.

iPad loses market share, but makes gobs of money

Competition begins to catch up with Apple as Android tablet makers begin making better and better devices for increasingly attractive price points. That doesn’t mean we have to cry for Apple because of their smart supply chain management, app store revenue and high margins, they will continue to make gobs of money. Apple may not dominate as it once did, but it will be fine.

Nokia hangs on, but barely

Nokia won’t go the way of RIM next year, and in fact, will probably see some gains in Europe and Asia, but competition from Apple on one end and low-priced Androids on the other will make it tough sledding for the Finnish company in 2013. We may hear rumblings of a sale by the end of the year as Nokia’s options continue to shrink.

December 5, 2012  1:03 PM

RIM Prepares for Blackberry’s Last Stand

Posted by: Ron Miller

RIM is pinning its hopes on Blackberry 10. (Photo credit: arrayexception)

RIM has announced it will be releasing Blackberry 10 on January 30th and it is hoping that this is finally the missing link that makes the company relevant again. I hate to be the one to tell them, but it doesn’t have much of a shot. Consumers seem to have rejected their brand and there is no reason to believe that an update to the operating system is going alter that.

I know that sounds cruel, but it’s just a fact. RIM may have more market share than Microsoft, but it keeps dropping steadily month after month and year after year. In its most recent market share statistics, comScore reported that Blackberry continued its long and steady decline to just 7.8 percent of US market share losing a 1.7 percent from the previous report in July.

You could argue I suppose that Blackberry 10 represents a new opportunity for RIM, but there is little reason to believe that Blackberry is going to experience a turnaround. Blackberry was born in a different time before smartphones when IT ruled the roost and every good corporation handed out new employees their very own Blackberry.

That was before the iPhone and the Android came along and IT decided it was easier to let users bring their own devices, and as they did fewer and fewer chose the Blackberry. Now in the age of Bring Your Own Device, it doesn’t seem likely that they are going to find a way to convince consumers to buy their phones.

It’s not easy to win over consumers. Just ask Microsoft. Even though it has created competitive devices and developers seem to have created apps for it, at this point, Microsoft still can’t catch a break in US market share. Those same comScore statistics for October found that Microsoft dropped .4 percentage points down to 3.2 percent.

This is after blitzing the airwaves with ads, subsidizing phones and paying developers to make apps for it. None of it has had an appreciable effect. What both these companies face is a very different marketplace than what they dealt with in the 90s and early 2000s. They are no longer selling to IT and they can’t seem to adjust to that — either that, or when given a choice, consumers simply don’t want their devices.

The market seems to have hardened around Android and iOS devices with those two mobile operating systems controlling close to 90 percent of the market and the others, primarily Microsoft and RIM, fighting over the remains.

If Microsoft with all its resources hasn’t been able to make a dent in the market and actually continues to lose ground, it’s hard to imagine that RIM can make any serious headway, no matter how good Blackberry 10 may be. It’s worth noting that RIM has announced 70,000 apps will be available at launch, but I’m not sure that is going to matter to a public that seems to have rejected the brand outright.

I’ve suggested in the past, that perhaps the two companies would be better off combining their efforts and at least gaining some respectable market share numbers that way, perhaps building a solid number 3. As of now, RIM keeps spiraling down and there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to believe that anything is going to change on January 30th.

November 30, 2012  10:13 AM

Microsoft Surface pricing dooms it to failure

Posted by: Ron Miller
Microsoft, tablets
Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface Pro pricing defies any kind of market savvy on Microsoft’s part

When I heard Microsoft’s pricing for the upcoming Surface Pro on Thursday, my jaw literally dropped. Ed Bott reported on ZDNet that the pricing would be as follows:

The new Surface will debut in two editions in the United States and Canada: one with 64 GB of storage, priced at $899, a second with 128 GB for $999. Each model comes with a Surface pen but does not include Touch Cover or Type Cover add-ons ($120 and $130, respectively).

Excuse but as one friend put it when he heard the news, “Steve Ballmer must be huffing kerosene.” Even folks who were lusting for the Pro tablet have to pause when the cheapest option with cover and keyboard — and let’s face it they are selling the keyboard as a key feature — is $1149. Add on sales tax and you’re getting close to $1200. That’s not tablet pricing — that’s a pretty nice laptop and if you’re going to buy a laptop, buy a laptop. Why buy a hybrid device for that kind of money?

As though that’s not bad enough, Mary Jo Foley reports that the Surface Pro is going to have half the battery life of the Surface RT. That means 4-5 hours maximum so the Surface Pro is going to have the battery life a typical Ultrabook, which what I suspect people will buy if they want to spend this kind of money.

Microsoft has been blitzing the airwaves with Surface RT ads and word is they still aren’t selling. Last week even Ballmer himself admitted sales were off to what he called a “modest start.” That’s CEO code for we’re tanking. But the implication has always been that we really need to wait for Surface Pro to see where this is going to go.

Analyst Gene Munster claimed based on his onsite Black Friday research at Mall of America that Apple was moving 11 iPads an hour at the Apple store, while Microsoft was selling a big fat zero Surface RTs at the Microsoft Store. When I was at the SharePoint Conference earlier this month, I saw a couple of Surface RTs, but not as many as you would expect at a Microsoft-centric event. I think it’s fair to say that they aren’t selling very well.

And with these prices, it seems highly unlikely to me that Microsoft is going to move many of the Surface Pros. I can’t imagine someone paying $1200 for a tablet with 4 or 5 hours of battery life. I mean this kind of pricing makes iPads look positively affordable.

I’ve heard the arguments that this is a laptop replacement, and it’s a new kind of device, but I’m really not buying it. Let’s be honest here, the Surface is first and foremost a tablet. Microsoft created it to be a player in the tablet market and to compete with the iPad. Their strategy to is to have an operating system that has the same look and feel from desktop and laptop to tablet to phone. And the Surface family is the tablet part of the equation.

So let’s compare Surface Pro and iPad pricing. I’m going to put the iPad 2 and iPad mini aside here for comparing purposes and just use the 64 GB iPad WiFi with Retina Display. Apple doesn’t sell a 128 GB version of the iPad and the Surface Pro doesn’t support mobile broadband. Apple charges $699 for the latest iPad compared with $899 for the Surface Pro. That’s a pretty significant gap.

If you want a bluetooth keyboard and case you can get one like this iHome keyboard and case unit at Radio Shack for around $50 (and there are tons of  other options at a range of prices). That’s $749 plus tax.

Microsoft would have been far smarter to cut the prices and lose money to be cheaper or at least equal to the iPad than making the Surface Pro significantly more expensive. And I haven’t even mentioned the cheaper Android tablets at the other end of the market because this device clearly isn’t competing with those. But I’m still left wondering what Microsoft could possibly have been thinking with these prices.

I’m predicting right now that the Surface Pro will be the biggest dud since the RIM Playbook or the HP TouchPad and I’m fully expecting a similar level of success — which is to say none at all. Look for these to go on clearance by the end of Q1.

Photo by on Flickr.


November 26, 2012  9:16 AM

Follow the money to iOS

Posted by: Ron Miller
Android, Apple, iPad, mobile

iPads numbers may be dropping, but iOS users are much more likely to shop online than Android ones.

Mirror on the wall, which mobile platform is the most lucrative of them all? If you believe IBM it is iOS. As for Android? It’s not even close.

IBM published an infographic via Kara Swisher from All Things Digital on Sunday with all kinds of interesting Black Friday data. Overall online sales were up 20.7 percent over last year. Mobile shopping data accounted for 16.3 percent of all online shopping with 58.6 percent of that coming from the mobile phone and 41.4 percent coming from tablets.

When it comes to shopping online, iOS shoppers are much more likely to use their devices to shop than their Android counterparts. iOS accounted for 18.7 percent of mobile device traffic, while the entire Android platform accounted for just 5.5 percent. iOS was particularly dominant on the tablet where it accounted for 88.3 percent of overall traffic.

Surprisingly, the Kindle platform which has been designed specifically to be a front end for shopping on  Amazon accounted for just 2.4 percent of overall mobile retail traffic coming in behind the Nook which had 3.3 percent.

While Amazon’s tablet strategy might not have been working as drawn up, it had to be happy with the overall traffic reports as Experian reported it was the number one online shopping destination on Black Friday with over 25 million visitors and comScore reported that Black Friday shopping online hit a billion dollars for the first time.

What makes this data even more surprising is how much Android dominates in the mobile phone market. According to comScore’s September mobile marketshare numbers, Android was in control with 52.5 percent of the overall mobile phone market. Apple was in second place with 34.3 percent.

And while the iPad continues to dominate the tablet market, IDC reports its overall numbers have dropped dramatically this year falling to 50.4 percent in the third quarter, down from 59.7 percent last year.

In spite of these numbers, however, iOS users seem to be more likely for whatever reason to use their devices to shop. The big shock in all of this is not that Apple is dominating in this area, but that Android and particularly Amazon (which is running a form of Android) is so far behind.

Interestingly, the New York Times reports that brick and mortar retailers are trying to lure shoppers back to the store using smartphone apps to help shoppers plan their shopping experience before they arrive at the store, and even help find an open parking space — but if you want to avoid the madness that is Black Friday altogether, nothing beats the comfort of your living room.

Conventional thinking would suggest that once Amazon produced a low priced tablet, it would fly off the shelves and would give Amazon an additional advantage in online shopping, and when you combine this with Android’s overall marketshare numbers, it would suggest that Android would at least hold its own. Yet IBM’s numbers how a paltry 5.5 percent across the entire platform.

I’m not sure what this says about operating system choices, but perhaps it speaks to overall usability and how likely people are to use a device on iOS versus Android.

November 20, 2012  12:35 PM

Not Down with Windows 8 Tiles

Posted by: Ron Miller
Windows 8

The Nokia Lumia 920 is great phone, but I’m not in love with Windows 8 tiles.

I spent last week at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas. I saw a number of devices from tablets to smart phones running Windows 8 and after playing with a few, I have to say in all honesty, I have issues with the tile interface.

First some good news. I tried the Nokia Lumia 920 and as a phone separate from the operating system, really liked it. It has a fantastic screen and it was fast and reacted quickly. Unfortunately, I would have liked it more if it weren’t running Windows Phone 8.

I know that sounds harsh, and it probably is, but I just don’t like the tiles. There are a couple of main issues for me. First of all they are all different sizes. I’m guessing there must be a reason for that, maybe related to the amount you use an app or some other random thing, but it offends my personal design sensibilities.

Further, the live tiles remind of animated gifs on 90s web pages. They are fluttering and flipping and updating. Some see this as an advantage, but I don’t. I find it disorienting actually and I don’t want my operating system in perpetual motion. I grant you this could be a generational thing. I know from the commercial that Will Arnett’s 20-something assistant loves the Windows phone.

But it’s not just the phone OS. I got my hands on a Samsung 7 “tablet” that Microsoft has lent me to get familiar with SharePoin 2013 and Windows 8. I will probably go into more depth about the device at some other point, but it has given me some understanding of Windows 8. While I like the left to right scrolling a lot, and found I missed it when I played with SharePoint on an iPad, I frankly found the Windows 8 OS a bit confusing.

There are swipes to reveal a menu on the right and another to reveal a one on the top. If someone hadn’t shown me this, I probably never would have found it — except by accident. Even when you know it’s there, you need to be close enough to the right margin to reveal it or all you do is scroll right instead of revealing the menu (which is by design, but still confusing).

I grant you these are minor annoyances, but I think about my non-technical friends and family and I wonder could they pick up this device and use it right away? They probably could to the extent that the apps are exposed on the front end, but finding configuration menus could prove challenging and confusing. I can tell you I’ve watched a wide variety of folks pick up an iPad and just start using  it. Windows 8 is a bit more complicated than that.

Then there’s the matter of the differences across devices and versions. One thing that Apple has always done well is keep it simple in terms of the number of devices and configurations available and the operating system is consistent across the mobile family. The whole Windows 8 for RT business that runs on the Surface just confuses me and I’m a little baffled as to why there are separate versions and what’s different about them. Then I’ve been told, the Windows 8 Phone OS isn’t quite the same as the other Windows 8s. Why not?

I’m sure I could figure it out, but my point is I shouldn’t need a Windows 8 education. It shouldn’t be that complicated. But even in a perfect world where Microsoft absolutely nailed the interface, I would still have issues with the whole tile view.

Before you start accusing me of an being anti-Microsoft. I’m not. In fact, I would love to see Microsoft make an impact, especially in mobile which desperately needs a viable third party candidate to shake things up. But if I walk into a store today, just looking at phones — all other devices aside for simplicity’s sake — and I’m being honest with myself, I would be looking at iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 in that order.

I’m just not into the tiles. Sorry.

November 7, 2012  2:22 PM

Smartphone market share numbers have to be tough for Microsoft to swallow

Posted by: Ron Miller

Like any politician watching the election map betray them, Microsoft has to recognize the numbers aren’t materializing for Windows smartphones.

When the latest comScore Mobile Lens figures came out, I thought for certain we would start see some movement from Microsoft, but instead I was surprised to find that Windows mobile actually lost market share again in this report and is languishing at 3.6 percent.

Microsoft sits behind RIM, which is the saddest story in mobile. With each passing report, the news gets a little worse. In the latest report, RIM drops another 2.3 points down to 8.4 percent, the first time it’s been below double digits since I’ve been following these reports in 2009.

But you can understand why RIM is in free fall. It is a company in disarray. It seems to lack the ability to build the phones people want. When Google and Apple came on the scene, RIM was slow to react. When it did, it produced inferior products. At the same time, the trend was away from IT choosing phones for people and toward bring your own device (BYOD).

RIM went on a downward spiral it hasn’t been able to recover from. Issues in management haven’t helped and the result is a company that has been bleeding market share for years (and that’s saying something in mobile).

On the other hand, we have Microsoft. After some fits and starts (Kin anyone), Microsoft made a concerted effort to define a coherent mobile strategy beginning with Windows Phone 7. Nokia went so far as to stake its company on the Windows Phone OS.  Others including HTC, LG and Samsung also developed Windows phones.

Now with Windows 8, the strategy is solidifying, and while the Windows 8 piece hasn’t had time to bake yet, I think we can still fairly assess the results to this point, and if these numbers are anywhere near accurate (and there’s no reason to believe they’re not), then Windows on the phone is just not catching on.

Numbers are numbers. They don’t lie. Ask the Nate Silver bashers if you doubt that. Lumia has done OK. According to GigaOm they sold 300,000 phones in the second quarter, but that’s really not enough to make a dent in the market and the other Windows phone manufacturers don’t seem to be doing as well as Nokia. It’s begins to look like the election map. The numbers have to come from somewhere and Microsoft seems to lacking a solid user base to fall back on.

And lest you think comScore is some kind of statistical anomaly, consider that Asymco has similar numbers. In its July market share report, it had the Windows phone OS in the 4 percent range, right there with comScore.

Microsoft as we’ve discussed here is trying for a Windows 8 trifecta hoping that users will be intrigued by the idea of a similar interface across their desktop, tablet and smartphone, but there is scant evidence so far that the market has any interest in a Windows phone in enough numbers to matter — and that has to make Microsoft as unhappy as any politician who gave a concession speech on Election Day after the numbers turned on them and the result became clear.

Photo by joamm tall on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

October 31, 2012  8:26 AM

Microsoft’s New Cloud and Mobile Approach Uses Same Old Lock-in Strategy

Posted by: Ron Miller
Cloud computing, Microsoft, mobile

Microsoft’s new look Windows 8 and Office integration is designed to do what it always has: lock users in to an all-Microsoft product approach.

Microsoft  has certainly has an exciting few days. Last Thursday it was Windows 8, Friday it was the Surface with Windows RT and this week, it was the Windows 8 phone. It’s actually a bit overwhelming to have all these product announcements on top of each other like this, but it reveals Microsoft’s mobile and cloud strategy quite clearly — and surprisingly it looks quite familiar.

On the surface (if you’ll pardon the expression), it appears, this is a company that has seen the light. They have bought into Ray Ozzie’s whole Dawn of a New Day post-PC rhetoric, and they are all in on the cloud and mobile. They have designed a hybrid operating system to work on mobile or the desktop. They’ve created their own tablets along with those from partners, and they have a new line of phones coming from OEMs in time for the holidays. They also have the cloud services in place.

Everything looks right. They seem to understand the cloud-mobile connection they have been missing for so long, but there’s one slight problem. They can’t seem to let go of the past. For all these years, Microsoft has been mostly a software company that made lots of money locking in customers on high margin items like Windows and Office and it was great — until it wasn’t anymore.

Then Microsoft had an identity crisis, and it took some time and decided it wanted to be a cloud and mobile vendor — but it wanted to operate the way it always has by locking people into a Microsoft system where you use Microsoft products all the time — still making Windows and Office the center of everyone’s world. Brilliant, right? It combines the old with the new, but it fails to take into account a couple of key changes to the world.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer put it this way in a Wall Street Journal interview this week when he was asked to define the Microsoft vision today: “We talk internally about enabling people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. Whether that’s sexy or not, putting you in control of your world, and letting you do things you weren’t able to do before, that’s what we’re about for people and for businesses.”

Essentially Ballmer’s company view comes down to this: Tablets and phones and desktop computers all integrate in an all-Microsoft vision where you can access Office on the desktop or in the cloud and it’s all held together by Windows 8 across devices. You see, it’s the same old all-Microsoft strategy in a cloud and mobile package and this time they even can sell their own hardware. Sounds pretty great — for them.

Sure, Microsoft saw the cloud and mobile trends, probably before it was too late, but the world wasn’t standing still while they came to their senses. People have been choosing their own devices for some time now, and just maybe people don’t love Microsoft all that much to want a Windows phone and a Window tablet to go with their Windows desktop/laptop. Maybe they want variety. Perhaps they want and a Samsung Galaxy S3 or an iPhone. Maybe they want Nexus 7 or an iPad mini. They may very well want a Window device too, but all Windows? That’s just not likely, not when there are so many other options out there.

And while the whole software strategy of going to the cloud with Azure and Office 365 and so forth all plays into this,  it’s not realistic to believe that everyone is going to choose the Microsoft cloud product — not when there are so many enterprise-friendly consumer-like alternatives out there now.

The thing is, if this were three years ago and companies were still handing out Blackberries and an IBM ThinkPad, and everyone had a beige box under their desk running Office and Windows, the strategy might have worked just fine, but the world shifted under Microsoft’s feet even while it was trying so hard to adjust.

Microsoft did get part of the story right, and they deserve a great deal of credit for it, but maybe they just couldn’t or didn’t want to see the BYOD piece. The fact is that when you peel back all the hardware and software, and get to the core of it, this strategy is the same one they have been delivering for the last 20 years. It’s  just baked into the company DNA to design their offerings this way and they don’t seem to know how to do it any other way.

The problem isn’t what Microsoft has delivered, it’s that it took so long, and there are just so many alternatives out there now. Microsoft doesn’t have the field to itself anymore and no matter how well designed the phones and the tablets and the operating system and the cloud services may be; there are others that are just as good and maybe better — and everyone gets to choose now.

Photo Credit: Microsoft 

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