Microsoft's shifting priorities: It's about time

Microsoft's shifting priorities: It's about time

Summary: I’ve asked a few illustrious members of the worldwide Microsoft community to share their insights via guest posts on a variety of topics — from Windows Phone, to Hyper-V.


I'm taking a couple weeks off before the busiest part of Microsoft's 2012 kicks into full gear. But never fear: The Microsoft watching will go on while I'm gone. I've asked a few illustrious members of the worldwide Microsoft community to share their insights via guest posts on a variety of topics -- from Windows Phone, to Hyper-V. Today's entry is all about Microsoft's increasing consumer focus and is authored by Mike Brown.

For a while I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could tell something different was happening in Redmond.

It started with Windows Phone 7. The mobile team, which was normally very accessible and open, had gone dark. Anyone paying attention knew something big was happening, but just what was it? Granted there were some leaks that gave hints as to how the next mobile platform would work. But there was very little voluntary information coming from Microsoft until they were ready.

The level of secrecy around Windows Phone 7 was like an open book compared to the tight wraps Microsoft has placed on Windows 8. Again, there were inevitable leaks, but the Windows team, the Visual Studio team, everyone remotely involved with Windows 8 again has had tight lips -- even to the point that the Build conference did not even have a public agenda before the opening keynote.

Having observed this shifting tide over the past few years, I can finally identify what is happening. Whereas in the past, Microsoft’s offerings have been targeted at the enterprise and developers, Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 both have a consumer focus.

To that, I say it’s about time.

I’m not saying that prior versions of Windows 8 and Windows Mobile totally ignored the non-business/non-professional user. It’s more that Microsoft counted on the fact that people were familiar with Windows from work, making it the easy choice for their home.

But then came the iPad. The iPad and the iPhone before it were gateways into the Apple ecosystem. If you’ve stepped inside an Apple Store, you’ve probably observed how it is a streamlined experience to get you engaged with their product. “Oh you want an iPad? While you’re at it have you looked at our new MacBook Pro with 17 inch high resolution display and brushed metal unibody construction?”

The Apple store feels less like a computer store and more like a high end boutique that sales Apple products instead of clothing. Not only is Apple winning larger and larger shares of the home computing market, but their customers are bringing their devices to work and impacting corporate decisions. While I find it unlikely that a big enterprise will perform a corporate-wide rollout of MacBooks for all employees, there's no question that more creative groups and executives are choosing these over Windows based devices that are just plain in comparison.

Microsoft has needed to respond to this phenomenon. And respond, it did.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 are Microsoft’s ode to the consumer. Not everything is perfect (yet). For example, as a developer, there are some aspects of both platforms that I feel are missing. For example I wish it were possible to jump from a Metro App to a full Desktop Application in Windows 8 (a la Internet Explorer). I would love the ability to communicate to a background service running on the machine from a Metro App. Also there are questions about managing devices and deploying enterprise Metro apps from an IT management perspective.

But to me all these are minor inconveniences because -- for the first time in many years -- I am excited about Windows as an end user again.

Mike Brown is a software engineer with over 16 years of experience in the IT field. When not involved in late night experiments with Windows 8, he is working on re-launching Azure Coding .NET as the premiere portal for Microsoft Cloud news and resources.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Who wants a phone interface on their desktop computer?

    Microsoft is at it again.

    With the older Windows Mobile, Microsoft tried to put its desktop interface on a phone. The result was that you had to use a stylus pen to hit the tiny buttons, and so it failed.

    Now Microsoft is at it again with Windows 8. This time, it is putting its mobile OS interface on its desktop OS. It will also fail.
    • Do you actually know what you're talking about?

      "Now Microsoft is at it again with Windows 8. This time, it is putting its mobile OS interface on its desktop OS. It will also fail."

      It seems not! Microsoft are re-writing the phone O/S which will share elements with the Windows 8 desktop which means your above statement is pure troll. Now go and play with your Macintosh or Linux box, there's a good chap!
      • Seriously?

        Windows Phone 7 already has Metro. They're rewriting the desktop so that it shares elements with the phone. Did you catch that part of the article where the author says they assumed if you used Windows at work you'd use it at home? MS is now assuming if you're forced to use Metro on the desktop you'll choose it on the tablet and phone.
      • No Seriously

        I did say that Microsoft was able to rely on people picking Windows because that's what they were familiar with at work. But they're seeing more and more that consumers are picking Apple for their personal needs. Windows 8 is about Microsoft focusing on the consumer not relying on the trickle down effect of business users becoming personal users.
        • focusing on consumers

          It's a pity MSFT has little control over macro hardware design. Compare the aesthetics of a desktop Mac with an HP all-in-one. Which would you rather have?

          PCs have a long tradition of being functional, and that doesn't include looks. Consumers want looks, and the looks they're interested in aren't primarily OS UIs. Maybe Metro/WinRT apps will look a lot better than OS X apps (and desktop Windows apps), but Apple has an advantage with the hardware's appearance. That's Mac vs PC.

          On tablets, all MSFT's hardware partners need to accomplish vs iPads is lighter, higher capacity, higher resolution, and lower cost. 3 out of 4 ought to get them well past Android, but it's going to take all 4 to get them past iPads.

          Honestly, I don't think Apple has much to worry about from Windows 8. The people who are attracted to Apple products aren't likely to be much impressed by Windows 8.
      • The trickle down pipes appear to be leaking

        [i]Windows 8 is about Microsoft focusing on the consumer not relying on the trickle down effect of business users becoming personal users. [/i]

        "Focusing on the consumer" is a rather cute way of phrasing it. PR aside, it almost sounds noble. But in reality, are they not simply obsessing over Apple and the small form ground they've taken up?

        MS better be careful as they swing so care-freely to the left with their "one show fits all" approach, especially if they assume everything on the right is long since "in the bag" with some sort of fool-proof lock.
    • You Do!

      If you use an iPhone or Android you already have the current desktop interface on your phone... an endless sea of icon, so inovative.
      • Re: No Seriously...

        Mike: (@mbrown77)
        So do you really feel that they are finally getting it, and will try to get Consumers more interested, or is this just a knee jerk reaction to the Ipad and Android markets?

        I agree with you that in the past they did rely on the trickle down effect, use a pc at work and assume the same person will want to use one at home since they're familiar with that OS.

        I know MS can appeal to the consumers, just look at the xbox and kinnect, my wife and I enjoy playing that greatly by the way, and always try to reserve at least 1 day on the weekend for it, if I'm not working. But then I have to wonder what happens to the business end with MS? Will they begin to lose focus?

        But in all honesty, I've never owned an Apple product until the Ipad came out, and I've been very pleased with this and use it on a day to day basis, and before you ask, I don't use this device for surfing the web, I do a lot of writing, and find that its weight is perfect for carrying around compared to a laptop.

        Obviously I use it for other purposes as well too. I've not tried to perform any excel type functions with the device, and considering that I have MS office on my laptop and desktop, for now don't see the need.

        So, again I ask you, do you think they actually get it, or is this just damage control, and fear of falli9ng behind?

    • You aren't making sense...

      By your comments, you would suggest that android and apple products won't work because they have a grid of icons like in Windows 3.1.
    • Deleted

  • Microsoft's shifting priorities: It's about time

    Microsoft has Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 up its sleeve. Hopefully we'll hear more about WP8 next month, I think that is the big news everyone is waiting for.

    [i]The Apple store feels less like a computer store and more like a high end boutique that sales Apple products instead of clothing.[/i]
    I never got that feeling, I've always felt like they were smug and better than everyone else. Last time I was in an Apple store there were more employees standing around than customers. I was in and out in about 5 minutes or less.
    Loverock Davidson-

      Windows phone 8? What about Windows Phone 7??? Oh yeah that's a big seller Loverock.

      Keep drinking that Kool Aid...thanks for giving me something for my blog post today, I've got your history all the way back to Vista on it.
      • link us to your blog

        If you have something to say other than just scavenging , link us to your blog so we can read it.
      • Blog


        Go to Google, search for "zdnet follies". First entry is his blog.
      • Nice comments..

        I read that blog yesterday... More focused on 1 person, but a good read other wise..

        I enjoyed it.
        Anthony E
      • It's a diary about me!

        This guy is so fascinated with me that he writes a diary about me! I can't help but feel flattered. I wonder if he sits in his room at night singing Animotion's Obsession.
        Loverock Davidson-
      • I did that

        [i]Go to Google, search for "zdnet follies". First entry is his blog.[/i]

        The only thing that turned up was [b]your[/b] post.
      • Where Google Search Fails


        Well you can thank Google search bubble for that. Try it without spaces. ;-)
      • "Loverock is a f^ckhead of the highest order and he will continue to be so

        [i]..until ZDNet finally removes him."[/i]

        LOL... I love it. Hilarious.

        I think I'll check in with that blog from time to time. He speaketh de truth.

        more LOL...
    • In and out in 5 minutes or less

      That's exactly how your ex described you.