Welcome to MicroApple.
It’s beginning to look as if Microsoft intends to get traction for Surface and other tablets running Windows by building a walled garden, creating more of the vendor lock-in that’s made Redmond famous. In other words, don’t expect to see any Microsoft programs ported to Android or iOS any time soon. Although this exclusivity has worked to keep the company’s monopoly intact in the past, this time it’s headed for failure. Windows has finally run out of steam.
I’m talking about Microsoft’s revelation last week that it has no immediate plans to make the tablet version of MS Office available on any platform but Windows. According to CNET, Redmond’s spin is that this is being done with only the user in mind:
“In an interview with CNET, Office division President Kurt DelBene said Microsoft’s own Windows is the priority for the newest version of Office. The new touch-friendly productivity suite will debut on Windows 8, which launches in October, in large part because the operating system is the best showcase for Microsoft’s application suite.”
DelBene’s got it backwards, of course, as the purpose here is really for Office to showcase Windows–which is getting long in the tooth on the desktop and going nowhere on mobile.
Even the word “showcase” might be misleading. The truth is, Microsoft thinks that business is still tightly locked into the proprietary Office formats, so it’s trying to get a message to the enterprise that “bring you own device” should refer only to Microsoft devices that will integrate with their existing IT infrastructures.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has pulled this rabbit out of the hat so many times that the trick has become a tired cliche. Although Office remains firmly entrenched in the enterprise, it’s lost much of the firm grip it once held. Unless it’s a highly formatted spreadsheet, opening an Office document in LibreOffice or Google Docs works fine. I’m just guessing here, but it’s my bet that most workers aren’t going to do a lot of work on highly formatted spreadsheets on their smartphones or tablets. Even if they do, there are workarounds.
The other problem for Microsoft is there doesn’t seem to be a demand for phones or tablets running the Windows brand. Nokia’s initial foray into the mobile Windows market with the Lumia 900 turned out to be DOA, with the Finnish company last week announcing it was cutting the price of the phone by half after just three months on the market. This was a major concession, although the company attempted to put a business-as-usual spin on the move:
“‘This move is a normal strategy that is put in place during the life cycle of most phones,’ Nokia spokesman Doug Dawson said in an email. It ‘allows a broader consumer base to buy this flagship device at a more accessible price.'”
But that was last week. Today, we learn from Examiner.com that the phone which was selling for $99 two weeks ago and $49.99 just last week, can now be purchased through Amazon or AT&T for a mere $19.99:
“The $19.99 sale price for Nokia’s Lumia 900 Windows phone caught some industry watchers by surprise; they knew things weren’t going well for the model but no one expected another heavy discount so soon.
“The rapid decline of the price of the Lumia 900 could be seen as a further attempt by Nokia outlets such as AT&T and Amazon to boost sales and clear old stock. But others speculate that it is the precursor to the end of the Lumia 900.”
This doesn’t bode well for Nokia, which has gambled it’s future on Windows, or Microsoft. Both companies would like us to believe the move was brought about by Redmond’s recent announcement there will be no upgrade path from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 when it’s released in a few months time. The truth seems to be that consumers simply aren’t interested in portable Windows devices, despite the gee-whiz advertising that’s been showing up on network TV recently.
With the exception of the Xbox, the luster seems to have worn off all Microsoft’s consumer products, including its flagship operating system. Here at FOSS Force, only 35% of our visitors are running Windows, which isn’t necessarily surprising as we’re an open source site. However, on another site we publish that doesn’t attract tech savvy visitors, Windows only accounts for 62% of our visitors, down from 91% only three years ago.
Until recently, OEMs pretty much refused to get serious about introducing computers running anything other than Windows, and for good reason. On computers, consumers use what they know, and they knew Windows. That’s all changed. Not only have consumers come to like their experiences with Android on handsets, they’re coming to have the same affection for Android on tablets as well. Just weeks after release, Google has already sold out of the 16GB version of the Nexus 7.
It might be time for Google to release a version of Android optimized for desktops and laptops. If it did, that might reduce Windows to being just another option, even on the desktop. The walled garden approach isn’t going to work for Redmond like it does for Cupertino. That approach requires a superior product and neither Windows nor Office falls into that category.