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Microsoft going multiplatform?

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Core information:


Microsoft Has No Plans To Make Another Smartphone, Exec Says [Sept 16] wrote The Wall Street Journal yesterday. Is it big news? Some say so. Wired’s reaction to the internals of that article is the most notable one: Microsoft’s New Mobile Strategy: Software for Every Platform [Sept 17].

Microsoft’s Tivanka Ellawala told the WSJ that the company’s done with smartphone hardware (beyond in-house prototypes, presumably): “We are in the software business and that is where our business will be focused,” he said. That means no follow-ups to the Kin social media smartphone, definitely; no resuscitation of the Courier e-reader/tablet project, probably; and a new focus on making apps for other platforms, quite possibly.

Then there is a reference to “Microsoft blogger Paul Thurrott confirmed the rumors on Twitter”:

Shhh…. It’s true: Microsoft is working on iPad apps. [Paul Thurrot is a Penton Media technology analyst creating all the content of the SuperSite for Windows]

By the rumors it is meant what has been written in the WSJ blogpost as:

He [Tivanka Ellawala ] made the remark in response to a question about rumors that the Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth is working on a new phone.

So we should still get more information, rumors or otherwise, to accept Wired’s interpretation which essentially means that Microsoft is becoming a multiplatform software vendor.

Until we have that further information we should collect the already existing evidence indicating such a direction for Microsoft:

1. Market neccessity. The Wall Street Journal is coming again handy with the news that Retailers Turn to Gadgets — Best Buy, Others Stock Up on Handhelds for Holidays as TVs, PCs Lose Luster [Sept 14]:

The new priorities are plainly evident in the changing strategy of Best Buy Co., the nation’s largest electronics retailer by revenue, which is now morphing into a mobile gadget specialist after decades of promoting the latest in big-screen televisions, desktop computers and high-fidelity stereos. Best Buy … said it will showcase devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet computer and Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle e-reader* this holiday season. … internal estimates showed that the iPad had cannibalized sales from laptop PCs by as much as 50%.

  • Note on the Kindle (*): This is showing perfectly well the reality that iPad is not cannibalizing single-purpose e-reader sales, so the FUD described in my Undermining E-Ink and single-purpose E-readers [Aug 23, updated till Sept 17 and beyond] could have very little effect on the market.

Subsequently Engadget has relayed these news as iPad has halved laptop sales, claims Best Buy CEO [Sept 17], while Wired went as far as declaring Best Buy Chief: iPad Cannibalizes Laptop Sales by 50% [Sept 17].

2. Microsoft has already a well developed “multiplatform” strategy for its Software + Services approach. Look at their latest summary of  Microsoft cloud computing & cloud services – So much more than just BPOS [Aug 23]. Microsoft Office Web Apps and Windows Live Essentials are the most visible manifestations of the AJAX multiplatform technology underlying these applications. We know only – in fact for almost two years already – that a C# to JavaScript tool, called Script# is an essential part of that. And there are continuous improvements in both set of applications, see the MSDN blog of the Microsoft Office Web Apps team, as well as the Inside Windows Live and the Windows Live for Developers blogs.

While the current Office Web Apps (an only 2:37 long video) has much more functionality than the current Office Mobile version we should understand that the highly portable AJAX code beneath Office Web Apps could relatively easily be tweaked for any strategic smartphone or media tablet/pad platform.

3. The current Windows 7 platform will stay with x86 only as has been shown in my posts here: Microsoft strengths for the PC -> cloud transition [June 27] and Windows slates in the coming months? Not much seen yet [July 13]. At the same time there are a number of indications that the next Windows 8 platform might extend to the ARM architectures as well. All the speculations are based on the fact that Microsoft Licenses ARM Architecture [July 23]. Interpretations are abound. See: New Microsoft, ARM licensing agreement; Could a Windows Phone tablet be coming? [July 23 with updates], or a digest of several of them: What can Microsoft do with ARM chips? [July 23].

4. Internet Explorer will be even more closely tied to the Windows platform, so Microsoft’s browser will not become multiplatform as per Sinofsky on IE9, Windows Live, and more (Q&A) [Sept 16]:

Browsing is the thing that a lot of people do, obviously. What we really wanted to make sure of is that when you get Windows you get the very, very best browsing experience, period. Among all the people who make browsers, we’re uniquely committed to doing a great job for Windows, which is the platform that the vast majority of people use when they are browsing.

We think there is something there and that you shouldn’t be constrained by a least common denominator across operating systems.

It’s a fact that we are not encumbered by trying to do browsers on all of the operating systems that have very small numbers of users. Other people can do that and that’s great, but with that come a set of decisions and a set of hard challenges.

And Windows Live is an essential extension of that:

We think that the combination of Windows plus Windows Live–and of course with the latest Internet Explorer–offers what we think of a complete Windows experience. It connects Windows up with services that you care about and it also provides rich experiences for photos, for movies, and for Messenger. There’s some really exciting and innovative things in it and they also tap into the power of hardware. Movie Maker and Photo Gallery are all hardware accelerated and do a really great job using accelerated video and accelerated graphics in general. It’s that whole complete experience. It’s the things we have been doing in the very immediate term with Windows Live–connecting it up to Facebook and over 100 service providers.

5. In the broad “productivity solutions” space Microsoft is already going multiplatform: Microsoft and Nokia form global alliance to design, develop and market mobile productivity solutions [Aug 12]

… the two companies will begin collaborating immediately on the design, development and marketing of productivity solutions for the mobile professional, bringing Microsoft Office Mobile and Microsoft business communications, collaboration and device management software to Nokia’s Symbian devices. These solutions will be available for a broad range of Nokia smartphones starting with the company’s business-optimized range, Nokia Eseries.

… Next year, Nokia intends to start shipping Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile on its smartphones, followed by other Office applications and related software and services in the future. These will include:
– The ability to view, edit, create and share Office documents on more devices in more places with mobile-optimized versions of Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft OneNote
– Enterprise instant messaging and presence, and optimized conferencing and collaboration experience with Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile
– Mobile access to intranet and extranet portals built on Microsoft SharePoint Server
– Enterprise device management withMicrosoft System Center

Since just a week ago the Microsoft executive in charge of this alliance changed the seats and became Nokia’s new CEO – see: Stephen Elop to join Nokia as President and CEO [Sept 10] – this agreement will not only be carried out in the full but also might significantly be extended in the future. See also a good summary of that turn of events: Will Microsoft And Nokia Team Up To Take On Apple, Google? [Sept 15].

Conclusion: as one could see from the above 5 points Microsoft is already multiplatform or at least multiplatform capable in a number of key application segments, while in the core Windows segment it might become multiplatfrom with the next Windows 8 version.



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