Microsoft 'all in' with Windows 8, Windows Phone 8
Microsoft pushes its Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 platforms as it seeks relevance in the post-PC world
The way Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer describes it, there have been three seminal moments for the company: the release of the IBM PC, the Windows 95 launch and the recent launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. The company is "all in" with Windows 8, Ballmer said during the company's Build 2012 conference keynote.
Microsoft calls Windows 8 the "reimagined" version of Windows and it's actually quite a dramatic departure from previous iterations. One look at the touch-friendly, always-updating tile interface and you can clearly see that Microsoft is taking the tablet and mobile future seriously.
Although it was never said, it's clear that the iPad has had a big impact on the look and feel of Windows 8. As we potentially move to a post-PC world where users just want an easy-to-use computing appliance, Microsoft has made drastic changes to its bread and butter OS to perform well on a new class of devices. That includes the Microsoft-made Surface tablet, as well as the traditional desktop and laptops.
You could even say that it all started with the mobile side, as the live-tile interface first debuted with Windows Phone 7 two years ago. Microsoft recently introduced Windows Phone 8 and it shares the same base-level kernal as Windows 8.
Ballmer acknowledged that Windows Phone has been a "small-volume player" but he believes there's tremendous upside for app developers. First of all, he said it will be the best companion platform for Windows 8. If PC sales and volume remain flat, we could still be looking at 400 million Windows 8 users by the time all's said and done.
He also said that thanks to Microsoft's services and the just-released Windows Phone 8 SDK, developers will be able to make the best apps on Microsoft's platform. That's obviously subjective but the company has done a much better job of creating a platform that would be appealing to app makers.
Also, don't ever say Microsoft doesn't know how to treat its developers. Everyone who attends Build 2012 will receive a free Microsoft Surface, 100GB of SkyDrive storage and a complimentary Nokia Lumia 920. You can be sure that received a lot of cheers.
Ballmer wasn't exaggerating when he said Windows 8 is a big moment for Microsoft, as it may be a major inflection point for the company. For years, Microsoft has held a near monopoly on computing and it has had the profits and clout to show for it.
But over the last few years, the mobile space has really changed who the big players in computing are. Google's Eric Schmidt likes to describe the "Four Horsemen" of the tech world as Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon -- dismissing Microsoft as a well-run company but one that doesn't innovate.
While that's just one man's opinion, it's clear that Microsoft is not going to have the market share it once had in the computing space because how we compute is changing. We'll soon have more phones than people out there and these will all be connected to the Internet and will likely be the primary computing device for many, particularly in the fast-growing emerging markets. Throw in the proliferation of tablets and Microsoft needed to make a drastic move like Windows 8 to remain relevant.
I'm not going to go too far, as the company is still wildly profitable and Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 and Xbox Kinnect show that it still has plenty of innovation left. Windows 8 has already seen four million upgrades in three days and it looks like it will be a winner with many consumers.
I still have my doubts about Windows Phone 8 even though I'm intrigued by it. The new hardware looks fantastic, the design of the software is cool and it looks like the app ecosystem is finally rounding into shape. Still, Microsoft is playing for third place in the mobile space behind Android and iOS, and I'm not certain I see that many reasons to switch other than wanting something a little different.
For Microsoft's sake, let's hope I'm wrong.