Microsoft Surface makes us all winners, even as it loses

Microsoft Surface makes us all winners, even as it loses

Summary: Microsoft is showing a way to enterprise mobility, albeit via a perilous path for its historic partners and channels.

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Where goes Apple, there follows Microsoft. Where goes Microsoft, there follows the enterprise.

And so, the inevitability of mobile work and resulting higher productivity across almost all that IT enables is now assured, thanks to Microsoft's unveiling yesterday of its Surface family of mobility PCs.

It's not that workers have not wanted mobility, as only defined in the past few years by smartphones and tablets, best represented by iOS and Android. It's just that IT departments and planners didn't really know how to give it to them.

Now, with Surface and the Windows PC-tablet hybrid it defines, Microsoft is showing a way to enterprise mobility, albeit via a perilous path for its historic partners and channels. But Microsoft has bolted from its own ecosystem before and still thrived.

Give up control
W
hat's different this time is that Microsoft will need to give up much more control over its users and its ecosystem in order to make its late-to-the game Windows mobility plan work. And that means the Surface plan will be no means replicate the old Windows Everywhere business model.

In effect, to be successful against Apple and the Android ecosystems, Microsoft must walk away from how its own very definition of success was once measured. At best, Microsoft will go head to head in a three-way tied race over a long slog. And that does not allow for the margins or lock-in it has enjoyed in the past -- at any level.

The more that Windows locks in across Windows-only devices, the more value the other platforms demonstrate for doing dynamic and services-based, extra-enterprise business -- even if all other things are equal. To win, Microsoft must give up its long-cherished assets of control -- which means it loses.

To clamp down and force a Windows-only enterprise, means that those shops suffer compared to ones that enjoy more open mobility, broader ecosystems and agile cloud-services vibrancy.

Low chance of lock in
T
his is great news for enterprises. Surface gives them a path from their legacy Windows PCs, applications, and data to progress to mobility, but with low chance of being locked in again, or of losing their past Windows investments. They can have their old Windows cake, and their new cloud-driven mobility marketplace productivity -- and the choice of new services galore, a blooming universe of available native apps, and interoperability across nearly all their HTML 5-empowered web and software-as-a-service (SaaS) services.

Because Microsoft has not won a cloud advantage either, it lacks a critical mass of applications to force a mobile platform lock in Surface. There's just no way to cut off the oxygen of the cloud. That means Surface is just another mobile choice, not THE mobile choice for enterprises, and that makes all the difference.

There's just no way to cut off the oxygen of the cloud.

More likely -- and a reverse from its role in the lead up to GUI PCs -- Microsoft will soften up the enterprise for mobility in general, and make it easier for its competitors to do far better there than without Surface in the game. Surface also forces total client strategy choices that may well lead to more mobile and less PC, which at this point does not favor Redmond.

This is all a huge boon, and it shouldn't be underestimated. There is so much opportunity to improve how business is done and how people work when mobility is part of the full mix.
Absolutely huge

Enterprise architects, business analysts, and IT innovators around the world should now feel confident that they can design their processes and innovate and transform businesses based on the knowledge that nearly all apps and all data can reach all people at all time. This is absolutely huge.

With Surface, Microsoft has pushed the enterprise from the era of limited client vehicles to the era of processes borne on any transport, of untying work from a client form factor. Finally.

Microsoft will try to keep this a Windows Everywhere world, but that won't hold up. What makes mobility powerful is the escape from the platform, device, app shackle. Once information and process flow and agility are the paramount goals, those shackles can no longer bind.

Mobility requires the information flow to move across all boundaries. Windows lock-in can't meet the requirements of mobility, and the mobility competitors will always stay one step more interoperable -- and therefore advantageous -- than a Windows only solution.

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Topics: Software, Hardware, Wi-Fi, Tablets, Security, Operating Systems, Mobility, Microsoft, Laptops, Windows

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81 comments
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  • You're right...

    ...80% of what an enterprise "knowledge worker" does is ad-hoc or unexpected - i.e. not captured in a LoB system. And people want more than the Office + SharePoint + Exchange platform to address this need. In fact a platform slows down business agility and innovation considerably.

    They want innovative"point solution" tools they can assemble and configure together to provide what they need (which have OPEX commercials, and come-and-go as collaboration and knowledge sharing best practices evolve and improve dramatically to deliver what Drucker was raging about many years ago). This goes against a platform approach (with it's attendant lock-in).
    stephen@...
    • What People want that? How did you collect your data?

      You are making an argument w/o a shred of data to back it up, ironically so since this is the goal of your argument - data.
      Most enterprises do not have knowledge workers producing "80 percent" of their work Ad-Hoc, as you suggest. Not even close. LoB applications are extremely complex today, for instance in healthcare, where every bit of data a knowledge worker gathers IS in the applications. This is the goal of the enterprise and it's not "binding" anyone, it just demonstrates the power of workers using consistent tools to create and store data, and yes A LOT of it is Ad Hoc (not nearly 80%) but I've not seen an LOB app that doesn't allow for Ad-hoc collection of data in years.
      Can you please provide the source for your statements? Mine is surely anecdotal but I am speaking about Healthcare enterprises using the Meditech platform which is running a top MS Windows 2008 servers. There is no demand, desire or any such thing for what you suggest by any of our knowledge workers.
      They are more than happy with the Office/Sharepoint combination for data outside the HIS. In the Small to Medium sized organizations, which makes up a huge sector of the worlds businesses, we are just reaching a point where Sharepoint is being rolled out in any real numbers. The vast majority of the world is not on the bleeding edge so these arguments are for very small percentages of people and enterprises and it's blown totally out of proportion.
      xuniL_z
  • windoze can't make you a 'winner'

    a loser, very likely!
    The Linux Geek
    • Thank you for your wisdom Linux Geek!

      Phew, I thought we wouldn't get a taste of your illustrious thinking ...
      drivellc
    • windoze can't make you a 'winner'

      Why do you think like that? Just wait and watch buddy.
      GILLRAKESH
  • Doubt it. I think Adrian's analysis is more accurate.

    The fact that MS thinks a keyboard and trackpad is the killer feature of their tablet shows they don't get the tablet market at all; they think it's just a super-duper light-weight laptop that you can sometimes use your finger on to watch a movie or look at a web page.
    baggins_z
    • Out of "Touch"

      The fact that you can live without a keyboard or mouse shows how little real work you do.
      clcrockett
      • Welcome to the paradigm. You keep thinking people

        are buying iPads to do work.
        baggins_z
      • LOL - talk about out of "touch"

        Man what century do you live in? You remind me of those Windows Mobile users who when the iPhone first came out were touting the fact that WinMo had Office and Excel, and the iPhone did not. Can do "real work" on that tiny screen on the road and the iPhone could not. Had physical keyboards and the iPhone did not.

        Looking at the smart phone market today, 90% of the phones out are touch-screen phones. Everyone fallowed the iPhone path, a paradigm shift. Even BlackBerry is transitioning (finally) to all touch.

        @baggins_z - I think Microsoft does gets it. Meaning they wan't to keep "Windows" PCs in the minds of consumers (full OS, keyboard, mouse/trackpad) and not have them veer too far off the beacon path with these "post-pc" devices.
        dave95.
      • Out of Touch

        The fact that you think all work is done with a keyboard or mouse shows how limited your thinking is in job fields.
        benched42
        • All vs More

          Who is saying "all" work needs a keyboard and a mouse.

          Having the option to use a device as a full portable tablet AND the option to fold out a keyboard and trackpad opens up more possibile avenues to productivity (since that seems to be the subject).. Especially if it isn't using a low power mobile CPU or mobile operating system.

          Tablets are nice toys for sitting around and doing light activities, but are not very well suited for more intense activities. Not to say they cannot get the job done, but they are not the most efficient .

          If this was about the macbook air integrating a touchscreen and converted the keyboard into some transformable cover the folded into the front or back I'm pretty sure people would be raving about how innovative it is and a huge leap forward in mobile computing.
          Emacho
    • The clear fact you don't see it that way...

      ...shows just how poorly you understand what the millions of average people on earth want in a tablet.

      Its absolutely consistent in what I hear from people every day, and without surprise given there is no doubt MS did some consumer research on this.
      Cayble
      • Considering tablets have existed ten years prior

        to the iPad and never sold more than a few hundred thousand units, I think Apple understands what millions of average people on earth want in a tablet.
        baggins_z
      • Fok want different things in a tablet..

        to baggins_z.. the ipad has been a revelation but it's still a toy to some extent. It's not in the enterprise that I can see apart from some secure apps which seriously undermine its usefulness. Lack of mouse support IS an issue despite many saying it's not.

        Pros: Rock solid, 98% stable and your granny could use one without fear. Some great apps but some rather limited on the intelect and not business related in any way. Talking Tom on a business tool... gimme a break.
        Cons: Apple tie in, limited formats, limited connectivity (apart from what Apple define for you). A consumer product unsecure for enterprise.

        The MS surface should be a great step forward for traditional MS apps and working in general. It makes perfect sense if they can pull it off, and touchscreen with keyboard and mouse support is Nirvanna. Anyone not understanding this is already locked into Apple and brainwashed. I've Asus transformer and ipad; for general use I'll go with my Asus every time with keyboard, mouse, touch and slots for media insertion. Yes if I want itunes synch I need the iPad but thats no big deal for me as all my media is on a NAS anyway.

        For enterprise connnectivity (read MS largely); why would I mess about with Citrix on an ipad when I can get a gadget on the network that I can simply lift and take with me, and remote connect when I decide. I just can't figure out how this can not be seen as great!

        ps I had an early tablet HP4200 many years ago. Pen based but touch screen. I've seen the benefits of apps tailored for multiple inputs and have longed for this news for a long time. I suspect many denegraders are comparing this direct to an iPad rather than as a different beast, and offering different solutions. For you just stick with an ipad and leave these to the folk that value them.
        pjmckay
        • pjmckay

          Well said!
          ron.harding@...
      • Microsoft's "consumer research"

        [i]"Its absolutely consistent in what I hear from people every day, and without surprise given there is no doubt MS did some consumer research on this."[/i]

        Last time I heard about Microsoft doing consumer research (aka focus group) was for the KIN debacle.

        So when will Microsoft release this "consumer research" which shows millions of consumers wanting keyboards and mouse/trackpads on a tablet form factor.
        dave95.
      • Huh?

        If the "millions of average people on earth" wanted a table like the MS Surface, then why didn't they buy any of the Windows tablets on the market? Why did they decide that the iPad [b]and[/b] Android tablets [i]are[/i] ideal and buy them in the hundreds of millions of units so far?

        Clearly all those people who bought Android tablets and iPads [i]aren't[/i] average, or Microsoft sycophants; but you knew that already.
        anti-trolls
    • Well then, baggins sir, explain just what it is?

      What is the killer feature of a tablet today, beyond content consumption?
      I would love to know.
      Most organizations are Windows friendly and passing on iPad as they are not able to be managed with Active Directory (although I recently read that MS has added AD integration to InTune, so I admittedly need to research that update before commenting further on the AD aspect)
      The intel pads are used quite heavily in the enterprise because of the management factor. It's huge to the enterprise and goes far beyond the popularity of a device.
      And even then we see that MS is supporting Apple and Google and not trying to shut them out, with InTune and building Apps for both platforms....where is the lockin there? That is not their strategy here.
      xuniL_z
  • The big winners are the Apple astroturfers like baggins_z

    Since they get paid per post, they are making a killing this week. Good job Apple munchkins.
    toddbottom3
    • Sucks to be a Microsoft astroturfer!

      You've all had to work your little rings off trying to pretend that this is what everyone will want, as opposed to what all the MS sycophants think everyone should have, because they have been so thoroughly brainwashed.
      anti-trolls