Microsoft's differentiation plan: A suite of 'experiences' on any device

Microsoft's differentiation plan: A suite of 'experiences' on any device

Summary: Microsoft gave its reseller partners their fiscal 2015 marching orders on the opening day of its annual partner conference. Productivity, enterprise mobility, security and CRM all figured prominently.


At Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference, company officials give tens of thousands of reseller partners their marching orders for the next fiscal year.


On July 14, the opening day of the 2014 show, those marching orders included some differentiators from the directives of previous years. Specifically, Microsoft's brass is telling partners that "productivity is our strength," in the words of Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner.

The focus on productivity -- and "platforms" -- is the newest focus for Satya Nadella's Microsoft. Just last week, Nadella outlined Microsoft's shift from a devices and services company to one focused on productivity and platforms. Turner elaborated on this message during his part of the three-hour opening day WPC 2014 keynote in Washington, DC.

For Microsoft, productivity starts with the company's core Office apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Lync and OneNote. But it goes beyond that to include OneDrive, Bing,, Xbox Music, Skype, Skype Wi-Fi, and Office Mobile, Turner explained. He talked about Microsoft targeting dual users: Ones that have work and home lives that are intertwined.

Turner said Microsoft's goal is to continue to offer the "best experience" on Windows. But now it's part of the company's -- and, by extension, its partner salesforce -- to extend those productivity experiences to other platforms, including Mac, iOS and Android.

Microsoft wants to offer a "complete suite of Microsoft experiences preinstalled on any device, on any platform," Turner said. And that's a far different mission which centered around "attach and license," he said.

Turner acknowledged that if all platforms, meaning all phone, tablet and PC operating systems worldwide were measured as a single entity, Microsoft has only 14 percent market share -- in spite of the fact that it still has 90 percent PC operating system share. That's why, in the new mobile first/cloud first world, Microsoft and its partners need to have a "challenger mindset," he told Monday's keynote attendees.

Turner teased the partner audience with a passing reference to "Threshold," the next version of Windows. While he said Microsoft would not be discussing that OS release, which will be a spring 2015 deliverable, during his remarks today, he did promise that it would be "great world class enterprise OS when it comes out."

Turner also promised that Microsoft would listen and take into account feedback from not just consumers, but enterprise and small/midsize business users in developing Threshold -- an important commitment given the largely lackluster reception that Windows 8 received initially from business users. 

Turner told partners to expect Microsoft to emphasize its Dynamics CRM Online, Enterprise Mobility Suite and its OneNote note-taking platform in fiscal 2015, which for the company began on July 1, 2014. These products are all examples of where Microsoft can and will differentiate itself from the competition, Turner said.

Turner also promised that Microsoft's new "zero dollar" pricing for Windows on devices under nine inches will result in some new, inexpensive devices from its OEM partners later this year, including $99 seven- to eight-inch tablets and $249 Windows PCs, the latter of which -- coming from Acer and Toshiba -- will be positioned as Chromebook competitors. 

Topics: Mobility, Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft, Unified Comms


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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  • we'll see

    start by shipping gemini, this year. then we'll talk.
    • Satya Nadella's Microsoft

      A new theme is beginning to come into focus. I am starting to wonder if the next Windows OS will be a free upgrade and basically free to all expect those selling new high end computers. I expect to see the zero-price threshold slowly creep up. I wonder if in the future all the money will come from Office subscriptions. Maybe I should say productivity subscriptions. The cost will be based on how productive you want to be.

      Face it, an operating system has almost no perceivable value any longer. Android killed that perception. Productivity has a perceivable value.
      • Great point

        And I wouldn't be surprised if that scenario plays out. And you're right, the OS has no perceivable value anymore. It's all about integrated hardware + services.
      • It is about pursuing value vs. cheapness

        Based on the prices of Android devices, you could also conclude that devices have next to no value any longer. Yet in that market, Apple manages to be the most valuable company on the planet, with nicely priced hardware. If MS bases its ecosystem around value, then software and other IP will retain their value in the ecosystem, while the value of these things, like just about everything else, will plummet in the Android ecosystem.

        MS really should focus on getting WinRT apps to take off, offering highly differentiated experiences, in even the low end of the market, so that it can raise the price of Windows to what it used to be.

        And again, antitrust regulators need to pursue Google and other large companies, that floor prices in a manner that undermines competition.
        P. Douglas
        • maybe, maybe not

          Windows is inescapably linked to cheap PCs, so anything running Windows would need to be cheap in its market segment. Consider the Windows netbooks reported to be coming this holiday season: under US$200 to compete against Chromebooks. Value?

          Consider also reports that MSFT may not charge licensing fees for WP for some Indian phone makers. Value?

          Potential WinRT app developers are likely to have accepted that as long as Windows 7, Vista and even XP make up more than 75% of all PCs in use, there's not much money to be made selling WinRT apps to PC users. Too bad there are so few Windows phone and tablet users.

          MSFT either needs to pay developers to make WinRT apps, or they need to target a lot more of their own software at WinRT. MSFT has desktop viewers for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Shouldn't there already be Modern UI viewers too?

          As for Android, welcome to the FOSS world. No antitrust implications. As MSFT itself has already proven, it's possible to modify Android phones to use MSFT services by default. The problem MSFT and its fans face is that most people seem to prefer using Google's services, thus generating ad revenue for Google and bupkis for MSFT. So sad.
          • It is true that you can buy a 15" Windows PC for $350 or you can buy ...

            ... an entry-level 13" MacBook Air for $1,000 and both can do the very same job - especially if you do what many of my colleagues have done (by running Windows on their MacBook Air instead of Mac OS X).

            The point is that the MacBook Air is a much more attractive device but does it really do a better job? Does it last any longer? Not necessarily.

            The enterprise routinely pays $1,000 or more for a robust Windows notebook so it is a wash as to whether they buy a MacBook or a Windows notebook computer. They will buy both with three-to-five years of warranty because the enterprise buys in terms of return on investment (ROI) - or alternatively on total cost of ownership (TCO).

            Consumers don't look that far ahead. They buy on price and perceived value. Whether they keep their Macintosh PCs longer than other keep their Windows PCs, I just don't know.

            My point is that most consumers find that a Windows PC meets their needs for less money than a Macintosh computer. That is why Microsoft sold more Windows licenses in the last quarter of 2013 (a slow quarter at that) than all the tablets ever sold by anyone since the appearance of the iPad in 2010.

            Has the tablet displaced the PC with consumers? To some extent, YES because today's tablet can do 90% of the things that consumers used to need a PC to do.

            The question for which I have yet to get an answer though is this: Are consumers REPLACING their PCs or are they buying tablets and keeping their PCs for those things the tablet cannot do?

            There is still pent-up demand for tablets. Not so much for consumer PCs because most people who want a PC already have them. As tablet prices come down, so will demand - again, because everyone who wants one will have one.

            In the end, Microsoft makes their money from enterprise customers and OEM's. OEM's make their money by selling high-PCs to the enterprise and entry-level PCs to consumers.

            Some may perceive the ChromeBook to represent good value but at what cost? I do not trust Google to protect my data or my interests. All they need me for is so their customers (advertisers) can target me.

            I do trust Microsoft to protect my data because their very existence is dependent upon protecting the interests of their enterprise customers. Those customers hire people who know hoe to use Windows PC's.
            M Wagner
          • are consumers REPLACING PCs?

            In one sense no. People aren't throwing out existing home PCs. In another sense yes. Few households will ever again have one PC per family member.

            In 2000 my family of 5 had 6 PCs between work (3) and home (3). 6 years later that became 7 PCs (2 work, 5 home). Today add 2 tablets and a Chromebook to the 7 PCs, and only the PCs run Windows. Given my family's respective ages, all my kids and most of their friends were just old enough to have had their own PCs, so everyone I know is in about the same position of having at least 1 PC per family member plus additional devices.

            However, when I think about new families with parents 20 years younger than me, I expect the parents have laptops from work which they use at home, and they may have one home PC to share, plus they have a few other devices. That's the future. One PC per white collar worker plus one shared PC at home. Everything else smaller devices not running Windows.

            MSFT is in the process of losing what presence it had in the comsumer market. In 10 years most of their consumer revenues will come from Xboxes. Home PCs aren't disappearing, but they're no longer a growth or even a stagnant market. They're a shrinking market.
          • Well ...

            You've hit on two problems for MS.

            Firstly that a tablet can fulfil most of the average persons computing needs.

            Secondly that the Xbox removes most of the need for a gamer to buy a PC.

            However, anyone that wants to do serious computing/gaming still needs to buy a PC and I don't think that this will change any time soon.

            I think what you're seeing is that PC's simply got too powerful for 'most' everyday tasks. So much so that the replacement cycle is now closer to 10 years than the 1 or two you see in the tablet market.

            So all I can say is just wait until the tablet market matures and see their sales fall off a cliff.

            One salient point that needs to be made is that a tablets USP comes from it's size. While many people are happy to squint over a small screen for convenience or when travelling, for sheer pleasure there is nothing like using a 23"+ screen and anything that size simply has to be a PC (MS, Apple or Linux whatever) because a 23" tablet just doesn't make sense.

            I'd note that many people I know that got sucked into the Apple ecosystem have ended up buying an Apple PC because they wanted to do more.
        • WinRT apps are not going to take off

          They just don't do enough, compared to their higher firepower Win32 brethren.

          I've ranted about this before - but there is no Data API for the .NET Tailored Profile for the .NET Framework for Store Apps. Nothing, nada. There's no System.Data, there's no SQL Server CE, there's nothing, nada. (I guess their hope is you'll buffer it all to Azure, but that's no help in disconnected scenarios.)

          The competition has data - CocoaTouch has Core Data, and there's SQLite for CocoaTouch and Android.

          Microsoft has the best designed data stack of them all, but no support for any of it at the programming level. Definitely a WTH moment when I first learned of this, and I still can't believe they're too stubborn to re-introduce it.
          • Maybe

            they'll introduce them with the "Threshold" wave of Windows releases?
          • Micrsofot hopes you're wrong. The challenge for the iOS and Android ...

            ... ecosystems is that they have lots of games, utilities, and NEWS/weather/sports apps - in a gazillion languages but very little for personal productivity. Microsoft knows it needs to change that via it's own ecosystem. Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud will be the cornerstone of that transition but it will be only the beginning - at least according to Nadella.

            It the strategy fails, Microsoft could find itself with a much smaller consumer base. Frankly, Microsoft has a history of coming form behind and eventually dominating a market.
            M Wagner
          • productivity

            MSFT already has a lock on productivity tablets. Unfortunately for MSFT, most people want LEISURE tablets, and iPads and Android tablets are far better suited to that role and have multiples more apps available.

            MSFT's tablet future is enterprises giving them to their employees, replacing laptop Windows licenses with tablet Windows licenses for no net gain in Windows licenses for MSFT. Under 5% is where Windows will remain in consumer tablets because the uses people make of productivity software for leisure use is more than adequately addressed by iPads and Android tablets.

            The last time MSFT came from behind and dominated a market was with Xbox, and then only because Sega was quite weak financially in the early 2000s. And Xbox 'dominating' means being far ahead of Nintendo but just holding its own against Sony.

            Tales of MSFT coming from behind are ancient history, the stuff of legends. Little relevance to the present or future.
          • wait for Windows 9

            Which MSFT needs enterprises to embrace. It'll be Windows 7 Reborn with Modern UI as an extra you can't get rid of, like IE.
  • Great to hear

    Dynamics and OneNote are both spectacular products. Yes, yes, I know there's EverNote, but OneNote was around long before any of that, and the Windows desktop version does a lot more.
  • devices and services company - born 2013 - died 2014 RIP

    "Microsoft's shift from a devices and services company to one focused on productivity and platforms."
    • lasted longer than Kin

  • Microsoft's differentiation plan: A suite of 'experiences' on any device

    Microsoft always provided a great experience on their platforms.

    "Turner said Microsoft's goal is to continue to offer the "best experience" on Windows."
    This new direction they are taking will be a great way to get more users to migrate to the Microsoft Windows platform. Tease the other platforms a bit then tell them they can get everything they need on Microsoft Windows. Meanwhile the other companies are going to be left in the dust because of this move.
    • Lovewrong Strikes Again ..

      "Tease the other platforms a bit then tell them they can get everything they need on Microsoft Windows"

      What could possibly go wrong?

      And - as always - no Plan B.
    • Great jokes, LD!

      I loved the joke about other companies being "left in the dust"!

      But I think your best joke recently is STILL the one about tech bloggers being responsible for the failure of Windows 8.

      Bring on more jokes! You're here to entertain us!
  • Let's Talk For A Moment About The "Microsoft Experience"...

    Over the weekend I upgraded my Lenovo Ideatab from Windows 8 Pro to Windows 8.1 Pro.

    * For just a point upgrade it took 3-hours (and that was after the hour and a half it took to download 65 prerequisite updates... lovely).

    * You never know when it's going to finish, as a percentage timeline can stay stuck on 82% for 45-minutes!

    * All you see is a black spinning wheel, and just when you think you'll die and go straight to hell before it finishes, you get two more hours of cryptic and vague messages like: "installing devices", then "analyzing devices", then "getting devices ready", then another hour of just plain old "getting ready"... pathetic.

    * I have always hated Metro Apps and I decided to give them another go after the install, but then I watched the Youtube and Flipboard Metro apps crash my system to the kernel... nice improvement MS.

    * The touch keyboard used to minimize with one click, but MS thought that was too easy so now it's two clicks; and that's when it decides to pop up at all.

    * Internet Explorer is so slow and crappy, I had to use Firefox just to download files... completely sad and reprehensible.

    * Using Windows 8.x as a tablet is such a painful experience, I would rather be waterboarded if given a choice.

    Then after getting everything installed I got a BIG surprise... Windows 8.1 is about 30 to 40% slower. Thanks MS, can I have that wasted 5-hours of my life back now?