Microsoft’s Tablet Delay: a Bigger Mistake Than Previously Thought

| Particle Debris

Microsoft's slow response to the tablet era reminds one of the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief. Denial has created a domino effect that's now starting to kick in. When will Microsoft skip to the "acceptance" phase?


I have a story to tell for good reason. When Apple shipped the original iPad in early April 2010, I assumed that Microsoft would recognize the significance of what Apple had done. Surely, a Microsoft tablet, codenamed Courier wouldn't be far behind. Surely, I must have been joking.

Instead, Steven Sinofsky was reported to have killed Courier (here's the prototype demo) and pushed the idea that Windows would be Microsoft's pride, glory, platform and brand going forward. What that led to was well over a two year delay that culminated in the debacle of the Surface tablet family.

Recall that Microsoft rationalized, early on, that the community is at the beginning of the tablet era and that it has all eternity to catch up. That may be true, but just as many of Microsoft's competitors announced new and exciting tablets and smartphones in the fall of 2013, Microsoft announced a slightly improved Surface 2. This ill-timed event smothered all the enthusiasm customers may have had for a newfound Redmond emphasis on mobility.

The basic problem all along has been that few customers, compared to Apple, have shown an interest in a tablet running Windows and sporting a keyboard. Microsoft must be feeling some "Kübler-Ross" anger and depression now.

But it gets worse. The head start that Apple/iOS and Google/Android have, combined with the tremendous emphasis on mobility means that if Microsoft were to change course now, the company would fall even further behind. For Microsoft, market share really does matter.

I'm recounting this history because another shoe may have fallen. There may be a new, emerging sense that developing for Android (and likely iOS) is more fun, profitable and useful than developing for Windows in a Post-PC era. This is hinted at in the last item of the Tech News Debris below. Of course, there are still may Windows developers making a living, but we've come to learn that trends and technical currents can't be ignored in modern technology.

I keep wondering. What domino will fall next? When will Microsoft arrive at the "acceptance" stage?


Tech News Debris for the Week of September 23

One of the challenges in this business is to always sit back, sip some tea, and think about the bigger picture with added insight drawn from Apple's historical behavior. We get a little of that here from Scott Stein at CNET   "What the latest iPhones tell us about the next iPads."

Danny Sullivan, who is an expert on Internet search and is always worth reading, has some sharp words for Google. "How Google could have made the Web secure and failed -- again."

Oh, if only people who write about Apple's business had accumulated a boatload of data resources and knew how to do research. One gets the feeling that all some writers have on their boot drive is photos of their kids and a copy of MS Office 2004. Anyway, get ready for some fireworks from Daniel Dilger as he analyzes iPhone 5c/5s sales: "Gene Munster's iPhone launch estimates off by 5M units for the second year in a row."

Question: Does the movement to mobile video streaming mean that the traditional cable and satellite providers are going to lapse into technical obsolescence? It's something to keep an eye on, and I wrote about it earlier today. In the meantime, "Netflix Sees Rates Of Tablet Video Streaming Triple In A Year, And Phone Streaming Double." This is another example of technical currents, not to be ignored.

iPhone 5s camera. Image credit: Apple

Have you ever wished you could learn how to use your iPhone's camera better? Now, there's an app for that. "LensTutorial for iOS will teach you a lot about how lenses and cameras interact."

There are writers (with names you've never heard of) who like to fly off the handle for effect. Hell, it's a paycheck. For example, there are always a few who think that every new Amazon Kindle Fire is a grave threat to Apple. Rocco Pendola, of The Street, who you certainly do know by now sets things straight. "Apple and Amazon: Perfect Complements to One Another."

Apple's new iPhone 5s has a 64-bit A7 System on a Chip (SoC). Here is everything you need to know about what a 64-bit ARM chips means to you. Mr. Ash knows his stuff and has kindly set me straight on one of my own articles.

My regular readers know that I am enthusiastic about IPv6, the next generation Internet Protocol. Thankfully, it's picking up some steam, and here's a state-of article for those who are curious: "IPv6 gathering momentum."

Finally, "There is nothing as unavoidable as inevitability," is a quote that I love and used recently. That seems to be the case now as developers are showing more and more enthusiasm for Android. That's not surprising because we've been told by Apple developers in our WWDC interviews that it really isn't much fun to write for Windows. Without an exciting and popular mobile platform to carry them forward in time, Microsoft is now suffering a bit -- not just in PC sales but now in developer interest. "Windows is losing ground among enterprise developers as Android gains."

This is a disturbing trend. Developers go where there's energy, technology, excitement and money. Can Microsoft's future CEO bring back a corporate excitement and enthusiasm through direction, action and products? We shall see.

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But will the new CEO shout “DEVELOPERS” over and over again during keynote speeches?



Some truly great picks this past week on PD. I’ve been hammered by an aggressive work schedule that has allowed me very little discretionary time, but now that I’m waiting for a lift to the airport, I can breathe.

There are times when someone, or a group, responds to an event or an issue in a way that makes you question whether they were following the discussion thread, or perhaps they (or you) were hearing a very different discussion or witnessing a very different event. The MS take on tablets, and their Surface riposte, make one question if MS were following anything at all in this space-time continuum. If so, then the Surface is inexplicable, and doubling-down with the Surface 2, impenetrably abstruse.

That is, until you change the underlying assumptions of your observation from those of MS responding to the tablet challenge in the post-PC era to those of preserving and extending their Windows-centric and Windows-dependent business platform. The difference being that the former, responding to the tablet challenge, is adaptive whilst the latter, extending Windows to tablets is reactionary and desperate. The one has a chance at life in the post-PC era, the other faces improbable odds at any life with quality. The Mikael Riknas piece on ‘MS losing ground’ underscores this point, with poignancy.

Dilger’s piece on Gene Munster and other overly bullish analysts is a timely reminder that ‘friendly fire’ is just as lethal as the hostile variant, even more so when ‘friendlies’ leave unspent cartridges around for hostiles to pick up and finish the job, as Munster did with the likes of Joe Wilcox. Furthermore, it’s a reminder that, before one wades in weapons-hot, it pays to survey the battlefield, look at not only what’s there, but likely where it’s just been and where it’s headed - in other words, take a dynamic situation assessment - before deciding where to deploy your assistance, lest you do your cause more harm than good, assuming of course that you intend to succour and not slay your own side.

The double standard that the media, analysts and the Street apply to Apple vs any of their competition, particularly Samsung, when it comes to performance indicators, like opening weekend sales, is both palpable and grotesque - almost as much as the Galaxy Gear. It is therefore refreshing to see a balanced and adult assessment, such as Rocco Pendola’s piece on Amazon and Apple.

Again, nice picks. Many thanks.

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