The Apple-ization of Microsoft

2020-02-08T18:08:25-07:00October 25th, 2012|

Is Microsoft really planning to sell a branded smartphone? I’d be surprised to hear otherwise.

Indeed, as the company prepares for what might be the most critical series of announcements in its 37-year history, the question isn’t whether it’s planning its own Windows Phone. Rather, it’s what Microsoft hopes to gain by releasing it.

All the smartphone buzz is coming to a head even as some PC vendors are still trying to understand why Microsoft is selling Surface, its own family of tablets built around Windows RT, the iterant of Windows 8 for ARM processors. Many of the PC suppliers are also producing Windows RT tablets, and the notion that Microsoft would be competing with them is tough to swallow. The Surface tablets–as well as many of the other RT devices–will be available on Friday, which is also the first day that consumers can take home Windows 8-based PCs from Microsoft’s hardware partners.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 devices similarly would compete with smartphones produced by Microsoft’s hardware partners. So after decades of producing either peripherals that complement its partners’ products or proprietary platforms in non-PC markets–such as Xbox and Zune–Microsoft’s hardware portfolio soon will sport two devices that battle its partners’ offerings. The burning question: Why has the company decided to cross that line?

Read the entire column on InformationWeek.com.

Are PC Vendors Ready for Win 8?

2019-12-19T15:50:33-07:00October 18th, 2012|

The first Windows 8 advertisement danced its way across television screens across America during breaks in NFL football action on Sunday, and guess what? It was all about touch. Touch and tiles.

That should shock no one. Touch and tiles, that’s the essence of Windows 8’s new user interface. Swap out the new UI – Microsoft now calls it the “Modern UI” – with the Windows 7 “Start” menu and all you’d be left with are a few cosmetic changes along with some minor improvements under the hood. So if Windows 8 compels consumers to run out and buy PCs this holiday season, it will be because Modern UI is a hit. And Modern UI is all about – I’ll say it again – touch and tiles.

Pretty simple. And yet a surprising number of the Windows 8 PCs now making their way to store shelves in preparation for the October 26 launch date aren’t touch enabled. The reason: PC makers are worried that most consumers won’t be willing to shell out the money for a new laptop with touch, which adds about $100 to the price of a system.

It’s hard to fault them entirely for that line of reasoning. While there will be some Windows 8-based Ultrabooks available at mainstream, high-volume price points, many of the coolest, most lust-inducing models will be priced north of $1,000. Which means they’re not going to sell that many of them.

So the PC vendors are caught in bit of a Catch 22: They can build Windows 8 systems at prices that most consumers are willing to pay. Or they can build Windows 8 systems that most consumers will really want to buy. But they’re having trouble compressing both into the same systems – which means there’ll be a firesale for non-touch laptops come January.

Read the entire column on InformationWeek.com

Can Microsoft Balance Win 8 & RT? Uh …

2020-02-08T18:10:41-07:00October 4th, 2012|

In a few short weeks, buyers will get their first glimpse of this holiday season’s PCs. By most any measure, it’s an exceptional vintage of sleek, ultra-thin laptops running Windows 8. Indeed, the upcoming models represent the biggest leap over the prior year’s harvest than we’ve seen in a long time–maybe ever.

So if you set aside all the other variables that sway how consumers apportion their electronics budgets, you’d expect PC sales to swell this quarter. That’s what happened three years ago, when Microsoft replaced a dreadful OS, Windows Vista, with Windows 7. PC sales grew 22.1 percent that quarter, sharply higher than the 0.5 percent growth logged in the prior period, according to Gartner data.

Of course, you can’t set aside all the other variables. The economy has been pinching consumers’ wallets for four years now. At the same time, other exciting devices like HDTVs, smartphones, and tablets have been taking a bigger slice of those budgets.

As we head into the year’s final period, the threat level from the tablet side of the aisle is most perplexing. On the one hand, sales are slowing as many Americans who’ve craved a companion device now have one.

On the other hand sits a potentially disruptive new platform. And ironically, it’s from Microsoft–the same company that’s bringing you Windows 8. The software giant plans to release what it calls Windows RT, a tablet version of Windows 8 for ARM processors, in concert with the PC version of the new OS. Conventional Windows 8, like all previous versions of Windows, runs on x86 processors.

Along the floor space between the Windows 8 systems and Windows RT tablets is a marketing minefield that Microsoft will need to maneuver with extreme caution or the holiday season could blow up in its face.

Read the entire column on InformationWeek.com.