Microsoft CFO: Cross-platform services key to Microsoft's Windows 8 iPad-compete plans

Microsoft's CFO said common consumer and business services running on Windows 8 and other devices will give Microsoft leverage against its tablet competitors.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

One of the perennial questions about Windows 8 -- and one that many Microsoft watchers asked yet again last week after Microsoft's latest disclosures on Windows on ARM -- is what the Softies think they have to one-up the iPad.

Many believe Office will be Microsoft's trump card, especially given Microsoft's plan to "include" four Office 15 apps on Windows 8 ARM tablets and PCs. But if Microsoft ends up fielding Office for iPad, as rumored, that advantage may be moot.

During an appearance at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference on February 15, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein offered some more color on Microsoft's plans to stand out from other tablet/PC competitors.

Services, including search; various consumer and enterprise cloud services; and entertainment services like those provided by Xbox Live are going to be key differentiators, Klein said, and will help drive device pick-up with Windows 8.

Microsoft has a growing set of both kinds of services that it will provide to users at home, at work and at play. As Microsoft officials have said before, the grand plan is to offer a core set of services across all kinds of screens: Phones, PCs, tablets and TVs.  Microsoft also plans to offer its users common calendaring, email, photo, music, video, gaming and communication services, he said.

The "most fundamental service (category) across devices is communication," Klein told Goldman conference attendees (and those of us watching via the Webcast). Skype extends mail, messaging, voice and video, he said.

Office is another such category/set of experiences that will span all kinds of device types, he said. When asked whether Microsoft was planning to provide Office on iPad, Klein simply said that Microsoft believes it has a "great tablet experience with Office."

In related news, Microsoft is planning to detail more about its cross-platform Xbox Live development strategy at the upcoming Game Developers Conference (GDC) in early March in San Francisco.

On March 6, there will be a day-long event aimed at "professional developers who build games and entertainment applications for Xbox 360 and Kinect, Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the web," according to a Microsoft blog post.

"Developers will learn about the new Windows 8 Metro style application platform and new Xbox LIVE services that deliver breakthrough entertainment experiences across all of Microsoft's entertainment platforms," the post added.

A deep dive on Xbox Live on Windows 8 -- an app Microsoft officials showed off at the Build conference last fall; asynchronous gaming; storing game data in the cloud and "entertainment reimagined" are all on the March 6 agenda.

Back to Microsoft's cross-platform/cross-device services message with Windows 8. The common services idea is definitely a new tact for the company, in terms of its iPad-compete strategy. With Windows 7 tablets, Microsoft attempted to play up the lack of enterprise management functionality as the main leverage point it had against the iPad.

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