With new CEO Satya Nadella at the helm, Microsoft is changing and into something it needs to be. A company embracing a changing tech landscape. It is apparent that Redmond has woken up to the threats that it faces in today’s world. Over the past decade they’ve been bleeding from a thousand cuts. Apple really killed off their mobile business, Google never slipped up in search so Bing is stalled, Android, Chromebooks and competition in the office apps market have all put pressure on the company. They are finally fighting back and doing it well.
- The Surface Pro 3 shows Microsoft understands hardware enough to be dangerous to Apple, Samsung and Google. The device is a perfect blend of tablet and laptop – it does a lot well but nothing perfectly. It is still a technological marvel of light weight and thinness. Perhaps most importantly it makes Microsoft cool. It is a reason for people to linger in its stores. The precise-drawing stylus allows differentiation and flexibility. The ability to support a mouse makes it stand out from tablets in the iOS and the Android camp.
- Embracing freemium by giving away Office 365 had to be done but is a very bold strategy as it risks watching paid users not renew. Like any company relying on this model however the trick is giving away enough features to be useful but not enough to keep the people with money from shelling out for a subscription.
- Work & Play bundle is an ingenious ecosystem lock-in which offers a 12-month subscription to Office 365 Home, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Music Pass, and Skype Unlimited World + Wi-Fi for $199 – this is a significant savings from the separate price of $450 for the individual components. What we learn here is Microsoft is learning to leverage its combined strengths more than ever.
- Skype for Business is Microsoft’s way of embracing the popularity of Skype with its in-house communications platform Lync. The two services did work together but the Lync name will soon disappear. This is a smart move from a BYOD perspective and moreover immediately makes Skype seem like it is safe for any enterprise.
- Low-priced Windows machines are flourishing thanks to new Intel processors, licensing changes made by Microsoft and the company’s vision in giving away Office 365 away for free to secure customers of these devices. The latest high profile low-cost windows machine is the $199 HP Stream and it’s no secret how I think about the Acer Aspire Switch PC.
- Sway is a new idea from Microsoft which allows users to create documents with internet support which can be seen on a variety of devices easily. It’s like a creative canvass for the web without the bloat associated with past software from Redmond.
- Microsoft finally embraced WebRTC via ORTC support in Internet Explorer. There is a WebRTC craze taking place at the moment and this new technology will bring real-time communications to the masses. It’s notable that I wrote recently that Microsoft was sacrificing IE by not supporting WebRTC – this development is great news for supporters of this browser. Moreover, Microsoft has beaten Apple to the punch and likely just forced Cupertino to make a WebRTC support decision soon. Learn more at WebRTC Expo next week.
- Microsoft embraces Dropbox allowing OneDrive users to interoperate with this popular cloud service. What this shows is a willingness to embrace technologies beyond the company’s borders and it is yet another reason for customers to embrace Office 365 instead of competing solutions.
- Microsoft Band embraces wearable tech via a 10-sensor bracelet more technologically advanced than comfortable. Expect it to improve over time like all Microsoft products and Microsoft Health will likely be serious player in a crowded field.
- Microsoft embraces technology which aids the blind navigate cities – Independence Day is the code name for a prototype solution (see video below) in the UK which helps replace a guide dog.
If there is one areas which I am not sure of it is renaming Nokia products to Microsoft. Nokia is a strong mobile brand in the developing world and this move could hurt the company in some areas decreasing adoption rates. Still, Nokia is not the brand it used to be and it may make sense to replace a decaying name with one which is gaining momentum.
There is more here than the sum of the parts – the reality is in the sound bite driven world in which we live, owning the news is important. Google is almost always in the news, most recently for wanting to put nanoparticles in our blood to help detect disease, robots that can balance on one foot and for wanting to store our genomes.
So yes, Microsoft is winning in the ecosystem wars, the PR wars and I dare say they are making themselves more relevant and even somehow cool in the process. Sure, they aren’t “Instagram-cool” but if they continue down this path they will certainly help thwart the efforts of Google and Apple who have been doing damage to the company for a number of years.