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This Is Why You Fail

October 18th, 2013 - 8:38 am

Oh, good — now Microsoft is going to further muddy the waters of their mobile computing efforts:

Microsoft tablets, both its own Surfaces and those from third parties and both those running Windows 8 and Windows RT, have been hobbled by software that just doesn’t fit touch devices very well. The upcoming Windows 8.1 improves matters by reducing the frequency with which users have to resort to the traditional Windows Desktop UI, but it can’t change the fact that this is an operating system with mice and keyboards and a traditional desktop file system at its heart, with a lot of touch features bolted on. This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that the features Microsoft counts on to distinguish its tablets, such as keyboard in the ability to run Desktop Office, define them as ultralight PCs, not true tablets.

The enhancements to Windows Phone only confuse things further. It is entirely possible that coming months will see Windows Phones with 6″ displays next to Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets with 7″ screens. For devices this close in size to be running different and incompatible operating systems is a recipe to deepen the bafflement of customers, OEMs, and software developers.

The stupid, it hurts.

Windows Phone 8 is a perfectly good platform. It’s doing so-so in Europe, and has a few diehard users in the US. Not enough, but Nokia is making solid devices running a fine mobile OS. They beat the hell out of most of the crapulent el cheapo phones running Android. I believe there’s room in the market for a third mobile OS to be at least moderately successful. And if anybody has the deep pockets and stubborn sticktoitiveness to make that happen, it’s Microsoft.

(Room for four mobile operating systems, if you include Amazon’s long-rumored cellphone using its custom Kindle fork of Android.)

But I swear Redmond’s unwanted, unloved, ill-conceived Surface tablets are squashing half the life out of Windows Phone.

You have an iPhone, you step up to an iPad when you buy a tablet — same ecosystem. You have an Android phone, you step up to an Android tablet for the same reason. Eventually, if you’re a Kindle tablet owner, you might step down in size to that rumored “Kindle Phone.”

But Microsoft decided, wrongly, that what people really want is a tablet that’s a laptop instead of a true mobile device — that what people want to do is step down from their desktop or their laptop to a full-Windows tablet.

They’ve been at this for almost a dozen years, to total market rejection, and they’re still trying. This year’s nifty new Surface feature is a kickstand with two positions instead of just when, when what they really need is for it to run an honest-to-goodness mobile OS. You know, like the perfectly good one they have with Windows Phone.

Until Microsoft realizes that the ecosystem unity customers want is between their mobile devices, and not between their laptop and one of their mobile devices, there’s a ceiling on how high Windows Phone sales will ever go.

And it’s not a very high ceiling.

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All Comments   (5)
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Android uses a standard file system as well. I really don't think that is the problem. I truly believe Windows could solve the problem of Windows 8 by simply providing the right OS view in the right context. Metro is great for touch, brilliant even with the side by side panelling. Honestly, I have loved using Metro as a tablet interface. Likewise, the Windows 7 desktop is a great desktop interface that I have loved using. But the two should be separate with two distinct use cases.

A simple hardware signal that tells the computer "hey Im connected to the keyboard and mouse" could seamlessly transition from one context to the other. This would give Windows a distinction in the market that would appeal to productivity professionals (like me). I have used my iPad as a "laptop" with a bluetooth keyboard. If I could connect a mouse to it, I wouldn't need my recently purchased Mac Air (the transition is complete...).

Its not a far stretch to imagine that Windows could pull off such a hybrid, especially considering they have already provided both a desktop and a touch interface in their OS. It would also reduce confusion and provide the familiarity needed to attract the mainstream users, especially with the selling point of "Why buy a tablet and a laptop if you can buy both in one."

Granted, it will not provide the best "all day tablet" like the iPad (which my wife routinely uses attached to her charger anyway) nor would it provide the most powerful laptop. But does MS really want to try to compete with the iPad by recreating it? Like Samsung? MS needs to be different. They need a different appeal.

Plus, MS has never been a "best of breed" machine. They provide decent computers at a great price with moderate performance. DIY computer builders would still default to custom PC's for maximum power while mainstream users would benefit from the familiarity of the system they've used since grunge was a thing.

To use W8 Phone as the tablet is to acknowledge that Apple's way is the only way, and it is not. Apple never appealed to me until it was the only realistic option: Android's weak ecosystem and MS insistence on using Metro as a desktop interface.

Microsoft's biggest mistake was forcing desktop users to use a tablet interface and forcing tablet users to use a desktop interface. Separately, both designs are great But this is easily remedied and could probably even be provided by 3rd party software... hey... Id better get to work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Yes, that. Lemme know how that works out, I'm due for an upgrade cycle in the next 6 months or so.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

"But Microsoft decided, wrongly, that what people really want is a tablet that’s a laptop instead of a true mobile device..."

More importantly in my opinion, Redmond decided that developers really want to port their code to three different environments, just for one family of devices. The developers gave that idea the raspberry it deserves.

Believe it or not, there really is a market for a good business laptop/tablet, and I'd bet that it's concentrated among Microsoft's paying customers. I see enough people expressing frustration with trying to use the iPad that way. I'm sure that's what the MS marketing department identified as their opportunity. Ain't no use, though, if there's no apps.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Apple forces you to port to 3 different devices for one family as well. Web development forces you to develop for even more. Porting is not the problem, especially when MS has provided great interfaces for making compatible code using .Net.

The reason developers (like me) didn't want to port their code has nothing to do with difficulty or pitching a fit over "not another device". It has to do with two factors:

1. No one is using Windows 8 Metro for much of anything (see my previous comment regarding why we don't like Metro)
2. MS forced the Apple "pay to develop" model on us.

We've been accustomed to free or inexpensive tools on an open platform for the life of Windows. Now suddenly, they want us to pay just to put our apps out there with no side loading capability? No thank you. Microsoft Windows came to power and stayed in power because of compatibility of software. Backwards, forwards and all around, 3rd party developers MADE Windows what it is today through great software.

The more MS mimics Apple and Apple's ecosystem... the more I want the real thing. You don't change Coke to be more like Pepsi and expect to gain or hold market share. You will lose every time. This is exactly what MS is trying to do and they are failing.

Microsoft wanted me as a user and developer to follow the Apple ecosystem model, so now I do... with an Apple.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Travis, that is precisely why I chose the Windows environment nearly 20 years ago.

Back in the early 90s -I was running MS-DOS with DesqView, doing pre-emptive multitasking before MS or Apple ever touched it- I was trying to decide between Windows & OS/2. The latter was so superior to Windows 3x & 9x that it was no contest. BUT...

I read a comment from Jerry Pournelle at the time that IBM was charging significant $$$ for the OS/2 SDK while MS was almost literally shoving their CDs into the hand of every person at the convention who stood still long enough. Easy guess as to where the programmers would go. :)

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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