One of the most amazing transformations happening right now is coming from a relative dinosaur of a company – Microsoft. For a long time now Microsoft has been something of a has-been – a company that has survived not thanks to innovation, but its entrenchment in the corporate world. While Apple has thoroughly beaten the softies in mindshare and leadership of the industry, I wouldn’t count them out yet, and here’s why.
First off, this is written prior to trying out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, so some of my thoughts may be vindicated or thrown out the window following that (which I am downloading as I write these thoughts up).
Microsoft is now in the position of the underdog, and it’s something seems almost inevitable. Look through history – even the biggest and greatest empires fall, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. With the comeback of Apple, this now forces Microsoft to try things it may not have otherwise. Microsoft knows its in a precarious spot – a slow loss of corporate dominance, not being “cool” anymore (ever?), is now forcing Microsoft to innovate at an unprecedented pace, taking a big (big may even me an understatement) risk on Metro.
Heck, you know Microsoft is in a bad spot when it partners with Apple:
“Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what’s going on,” Google Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, wrotethis week when accusing those two companies of trying to destroy Android. And he’s right. After decade of being bitter rivals, Apple and Microsoft now seem to have aligned interests. But you don’t have to wonder what’s going on, it’s very apparent: they both hate Google.“
While it’s apparent that it is over a mutual hate of Google, it is hard to have imagined this scenario taking place back when Microsoft was so dominant.
And not only that, but there’s a whole other malady of reasons why you might count Microsoft out – financials in online services bleeding out, Windows Phone not gaining significant traction/marketshare…the list could go on and on.
But here’s why I’m excited.
Being the underdog again has made Microsoft reevaluate itself, and ultimately reinvent itself. Anyone who owns a Windows Phone could see the beginnings of this.
Microsoft has completely reinvented the desktop into something akin to the phone. Yes, the “real” productivity-centered desktop is hidden in the back there, grafted on like some abomination (seriously Microsoft, check out this Desktop UI concept, hire this guy, and take it). But for all the producers out there, scientists, engineers, et al, it is currently a necessary evil while companies reinvent their UI’s to fit touch-based computing.
The ability to check your updates without launching an app? A new, non-OS like interface (one that is absolutely beautiful might I add)? Reconfiguring Windows to run on ARM? The consolidation of its online services, powered by SkyDrive, all at the OS level? The ability of applications to easily talk to one another? And all the little touches like picture password, semantic zoom, etc. etc. etc.
Yeah, I’d say even if Microsoft fails, it at least went out with a bang. And I’m beyond excited to see a new take on computing to compete with Apple’s vision. While the two companies are no longer equals by any means, that’s part of what makes this story most exciting. Not only that, I’d argue that it’s absolutely necessary to help continue innovation in the mobile space – some might argue Apple looks far beyond the competition, but I wouldn’t be so sure that they haven’t taken some cues from Microsoft.
That’s what makes Windows 8 a good fight. Sure, he may look lanky, but he’s got fightin’ words, and a fightin’ spirit to back it up.
So go try out the Consumer Preview! [note though, it takes 30 minutes+ to check for compatible apps/devices....]