On the eve of Microsoft’s possibly most significant earnings reports in recent history, eyes are fixed are on the Redmond giant. The recent announcement of pricing and availability of their tablet product – the Surface Pro is no coincidence, regardless of the earnings outcome this announcement will be a positive prospect. Most importantly, the earnings will be the first since the company released the latest version of its flagship product – Windows 8. Some facts have emerged such as the 60 million Windows licenses sold so far – a number on par with Windows 7 sales at this juncture. It remains to be seen if this has any bearing on consumer adoption rates however as these numbers include OEM sales.
We’ve heard blips about Windows 8 sales being soft, but I think we’re in for some big surprises here in the weeks and months to come. Microsoft is an enterprise behemoth that has kicked it into gear to transform throughout, having aggressively rebranded its enterprise and consumer products across the board. Certainly there is no shortage of people out there that are calling an end to the PC. We hear the iPad is here and we are liberated. Android tablets and BYOD – same thing. One guy on Forbes is apparently calling for Ballmer’s head. However, there are some real issues with all these naysayers and their observations. For one, Windows 8 will take a longer path, it’s never been a flavor-of-the-month proposition, another big reason is here comes the enterprise – and leading the way is the Surface Pro.
Anybody who touts their iPad or Android device as a true productivity device is simply not aware or not telling the truth. The number of applications that run and function better on a dedicated device are countless, but the root of this is the mother of all business productivity tools ever created – Microsoft Office. There simply is no replacement for a full-fledged Microsoft Office installation, believe me I have tried all the Open-This, Star-That, and G-That applications that are glorified hacks rife with incompatibilities, deprecated performance and features. I spent close to twenty years in the technology business, and I can tell you without a doubt, with only the slimmest possibility of those rare anomalies (you know who you are), the enterprise is comfortable with Microsoft, Windows Servers and workstations, Office, and mobility. That is just not going to change, and anyone who thinks that trendy consumer devices or open source is going to change that is just flat out wrong. People have been signaling Microsoft would be dead for years, particularly when things like Linux and the cloud emerged and so many new technologies that have not made the Microsoft-killing impact that some expected.
Windows 8 was overdue. There is little denying that, but Microsoft has strategically chosen to pursue this within a complete revision of all the company’s products. They have built for mobility, they have introduced a phone platform, they have a tablet-focused OS, they have also deployed a dual-feature desktop/touch OS, and they have also re-engineered the enterprise – That’s where the Surface Pro steps in. It’s also where a whole bunch of exciting new partner-developed Windows 8 business devices are starting to emerge including tablets, convertibles, and mobile workstations.
Windows 8 is misunderstood – there are many people ready to pounce on any negative news, but the fact of the matter is that Microsoft’s strategy has been focused on the introduction and alignment of what was once very disparate territories meaning mobile smartphones, mobile computing, tablets, desktops, consumer and enterprise. Microsoft has brought about the Windows 8 brand across the spectrum – it should be pretty clear to observers what a task that is. The enterprise adoption of Windows 8 will be a big story in the year to come, as many companies are most comfortable choosing to sit out new Windows releases until the first revision (SP1). Most projections expect SP1 to hit the scene fairly soon by Microsoft standards (codename Microsoft Blue) as Microsoft moves to quicker and quicker revisions.
Microsoft – Just Getting Started
When the earnings hit, we will know what has happened so far for Windows 8 sales, Surface RT sales, and Windows Phone 8 sales. People will react, some will take whatever news comes out and draw the picture of doom – it’s called link bait. Calling this for Microsoft’s competitors is like calling the NFC championship for the Falcons over the 49ers last week based on the first quarter. Look how that turned out – the 49ers are now in the Super Bowl. The 49ers were once the top franchise in the league and they’ve been on a comeback of late. It sounds an awful lot like Microsoft’s story on that level. Microsoft is beholden to its investors for sure, but their strategy is long-term so pay attention to the reach and influence of Microsoft’s base for cues to its future. For all of Microsoft’s classic and very-exposed failures, they do a lot of things well – that includes user experience, enterprise, productivity, and value.