500-pound Gorillas In The Mist

Microsoft is in a tough position, though, too. Win Phone 7 isn’t selling for crap right now, and they have no actual tablet strategy. As computing rapidly moves to tablets and smartphones, Microsoft becomes less and less important. It isn’t hard at all to imagine that 10 years from now — and to a certain extent in just 5 — the only people who will need desktop-class computing will be those in science, engineering, and the people making software for all of the tablets and smartphones and such.

If even they need such things, since tablets (especially down the road) make perfectly great front-ends for truly powerful computers off in the cloud somewhere.

If I owned stock in either company, I’d sell all it tomorrow.

Submitted as comment by Matthew Frederick on 2011/02/13 at 11:01 pm

I think Microsoft have more strategy than you allow, Matthew. While it seems highly unlikely that they’ll ever reattain the dominance they once had, they remain surprisingly nimble for such a vast company. Nobody expected them to come out with something as good as Windows Phone 7 in so little time, and though it isn’t selling yet it is early days, especially considering that there are two established competitors. This deal will certainly make it seem a lot more credible.

It’s not clear to outsiders yet of course, but elements of an integrated desktop-tablet-phone strategy seem to be materializing out of the mist. On one hand, Microsoft has happily been selling software for tablet devices for almost ten years now. OneNote, which I use every day, is actually available for the iPad. (Free for the time being too.) Widows 7 is by far the best OS available for a more heavy-duty class of tablet orientated towards content creation rather than consumption.

It’s the consumption that the new market is all about though, and here Windows 7 devices, with their greater energy demands, weight, and cost, are obviously at a huge disadvantage. It’s a no-brainer to bring out a version of Win Phone 7 tweaked for bigger screens just like iOS or Android was. Some think that Microsoft don’t want to do that because it will compete with Windows 7 on tablets, but I doubt that’s the case. I think we’ll see it just as soon as MS thinks the time is ripe. That is, when there are things ready to sell on it. The phone will lead the way just as with the others.

Alongside that then is the intriguing appearance of Windows for ARM.¹ Whether there will ever actually be an ARM version or this is just meant to galvanize the energy-efficiency efforts of Intel and AMD, expect full Windows 7 devices with much lower power demands.²

I expect that, like Apple with Lion, they will soon mate the two OSes together to make a class of portable computers that get more flexible as more energy becomes available. Using cloud processing on the move, powerful processors in their own right when plugged in. That would be pretty nice.

  1. A microprocessor family designed for extreme power efficiency, used on the overwhelming majority of phone and tablet devices, as opposed to the more general-purpose x86 family that Windows only runs on now.
  2. What’s the betting they’ll be releasing tools to help software makers port their products from x86 to ARM? Though not before their own apps have had a good head start of course.

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