Remember 21 January, 2015: it will go down in history either as the date that made Microsoft or the reason why victory in mobile was put on hold for another two years.
Today, the world’s largest software firm will officially reveal what it is calling the “next chapter” in Windows: Windows 10.
Microsoft is expected to release test code of Windows 10 that will more or less be what gets shipped on PCs and to retailers later this year.
Redmond will also showcase the next version of Windows mobile, which can work on Intel and ARM-based tablets and Windows phones.
Actual Windows Phone code is not expected for release until next month, the eve of the massive Mobile World Congress in Spain.
The day-long event on Wednesday will be significant. Microsoft will be pulling out all the stops to help attendees walk away from the event with the idea there is now “one Windows” – not separate versions of things called Windows for PCs, phones and tablets.
Satya Nadella talked about this in July last year.
The firm has been developing OneCore – a common kernel, libraries and set of apps – capable or running on phones, tablets and PCs.
They're not saying "one app, all platforms". It refers to software architecture.
The idea is that developers build their app only once, adding various front ends to allow app to run on various flavours of Windows devices. The win for Microsoft is application ubiquity and its place in the app economy.
It’s the latest fashionable idea to sweep through Microsoft and one that’s likely to produce a similarly disappointing outcome for the company.
Microsoft’s mobile and device strategy has so far been a failure. Windows 8 was Microsoft’s move into touch tablets, and was rejected by consumers and businesses, where it sold less than Windows 7.
Market share for Windows Phone has fallen to three per cent – down by 0.6 per cent year on year to the third-quarter of 2014 in flat market, according to Gartner.
Smartphones running Google’s Android and iOS eclipse Windows Phone’s slice of the market.
Can a unified platform strategy tap the app economy and bring victory to Microsoft?
It's an app-happy mobile world...
Talk to those with a stake in it, and they’ll tell you the future is the “app economy”. The app economy has translated into two things: devs building smartphone apps – and possibly getting paid for their use – or apps makers getting bought because of the success of their software. Either way, the net effect has been a rush to populate smartphone app stores with free and paid games and social network and other apps.
When Apple and Google were racing to increase their respective smartphone market share, they boasted it was app numbers in their stores that were winning phone users.
As ever, Microsoft is late to the party and it has been involved in mop-up operations to get leading apps like Facebook and Twitter, free stuff like Candy Crush and others in its store.
But lack of apps isn’t the factor that has held back Microsoft’s mobile strategy. Quite the contrary: Microsoft’s mobile platforms are as well served as those of Android and iOS.
All of the top 50 free iOS and Android apps for which there are Windows desktop apps already exist as Windows Phone apps. Of the top 50 free iOS and Android apps, not one exists solely as a desktop app without being available on Windows Phone.
Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson, who compiled the numbers here, wrote: “If the theory is that sharing a code base across desktop and mobile will lead to desktop apps being ported to the mobile environment in greater numbers, within this sample at least, this has no applicability at all. All the apps available on Windows PCs are already available on Windows Phone.”
The problem with Microsoft and mobile is deeper – on the business side it has structural supply problems and among users, a desire problem.
C'mon - swallow our tablets
Windows tablets have not sold – Windows 8 rusts unwanted as customers stump for Windows 7 on the familiar old desktop.
Five years into a rebooted smartphone operating system story, Windows Phone still has just three per cent of the global smartphone market, according to Gartner.
Windows Phone is selling mere thousands of units versus hundreds of thousands for Google’s Android (83.1 per cent of the market) in the third quarter.
Microsoft’s mobile ambitions have suffered for a number of reasons, chiefly trying to be like Apple rather than Google.
It has placed its bets on high-cost phones – like the iPhone – only coming late to cheaper, mass-market phones like Android.
The software and devices firm has also made the error of looking to a single supplier, Nokia, which hass to date been responsible for about 80 per cent of Windows Phone sales. That has spooked other potential handset partners, who then moved to Android instead. In the third quarter, Nokia’s market share slumped to 9.5 per cent from 13.8 per cent the year before.
Today has already been billed as a big day by Microsoft’s PR. But it’s worth marking this date in your own calendars, too.
That’s because, after the false starts of Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Microsoft is taking a second stab at both tablets and phones, with a more converged Windows – not a single version of Windows, mind, but a Windows that shares more code.
But to succeed in mobile and devices, Microsoft must examine the fundamentals rather than cooking up more code strategies and PR hype. ®