Amidst all the talk of the Microsoft Office apps coming to the iPad, there hasn’t been much thought about what bringing the apps to the iPad means to Microsoft’s long-term future. Peter Bright of Ars Technica thinks that Microsoft is playing a dangerous game:
“Should this come to pass, Microsoft will not just be banging a nail into the coffin of Windows RT and, by extension, its Surface tablet. It’ll be digging the grave, tossing in the body, and then unloading a few tons of concrete into the hole to ensure that there’s no risk of reanimation.”
Peter does have a point. The unique selling point of Windows RT is that it comes with “real” Office apps, and in handing the iPad the keys to the Office kingdom Microsoft runs the risk of undermining its own competing product.
But there’s a few counterpoints. First of all, it’s unlikely that the versions of Office for iOS will include many of the features that Windows RT Office has. On Microsoft’s platform, Office has feature parity with the full Windows 8 version. On iPad, it’s much more likely to be closer to the web Office apps in features. You’ll be able to do basic edits, but that’s probably about it.
Second, and more important in the long term, if Microsoft doesn’t produce apps for the iPad it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant on a platform that’s being widely adopted by business. If it wants to keep the rest of the “Windows/Office/Exchange” software stack intact, it has to be on iPad. Google, probably it’s biggest competitor at the moment in enterprise office apps, it already there and keeps adding new features to its iOS programmes.
If Microsoft doesn’t eat it’s own young, then someone else will. Better to preserve two elements of Windows/Office/Exchange than lose them.
Apple and Microsoft are going head to head over the future of Microsoft Skydrive, according to AllThingsD:
“Sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between Apple and Microsoft tell AllThingsD that the companies are at loggerheads not over the 30 percent commission Apple asks of storage upgrade sales made through SkyDrive, but over applying that same commission to Office 365 subscriptions sold through Microsoft Office for iOS, which is expected to launch sometime next year.”
This makes much more sense than the two companies arguing over the relatively-small Microsoft Skydrive. But what I don’t understand is what Microsoft thinks it’s playing at: there’s simply no way that Apple is going to bend over this.
Is Samsung price fixing? The Washington Post certainly thinks so:
“That sentiment has intensified in recent years, a period during which Samsung has obstructed price-fixing investigations — drawing only minor fines — and seen its chairman indicted for financial crimes, only to receive a presidential pardon ‘in the national interest,’ as a government spokesman put it.”
Maybe Google should amend “Don’t be evil” to “Don’t be evil, but don’t be too choosy about what your partners get up to”.
Toward a More Informed Discussion on Android | TechPinions:
“Android is in no way shape or form the same as OS X, Windows, iOS, Windows Phone, or RIM’s Blackberry OS. When we speak of those operating systems we are speaking of a unified platform controlled by one company whose platform share represents the total addressable market, via single SDK, for developers. Should a developer want to develop for any of those platforms, all they need do is get the SDK for that single platform. Android, however, is an entirely different beast.
Android is not actually a platform, it is an enabling technology that allows companies to create platforms Because Android is open source, all the term Android refers to is the AOSP, or Android Open Source Project. Anyone can take this core code and create their own custom operating system using Android as the core. Google created and manages the AOSP but also has their own version of Android. Amazon does this and has their own version of Android. Barnes and Noble does this and has their own version of Android. I would not be shocked if new entrants as well take the Android platform and make it their own for their own needs as well.”
This is the thing that gets overlooked, all the time. Android is not a single, unified operating platform: it’s a set of semi-compatible platforms, built around the same technology.
Amazon’s version of Android is to Google’s version of Android what FreeBSD is to Ubuntu. You can probably get the same apps to run – but be prepared for some tweaking.
Harry McCracken thinks that, despite the potential confusion, Windows is still the best name for Windows:
“But here’s the thing: Moving away from the Windows name, either swiftly or slowly, won’t fix any of these issues. Windows Phone has had the Windows name for three generations now; calling it something else would just muddle matters. (It would also ensure that every mention of the product for years to come would include a note that it was formerly known as Windows Phone, which would eliminate any theoretical benefit of a fresh new brand.)
Windows RT, meanwhile, has too much in common with Windows 8 to have an unrelated name. And Windows 8? Well, it is Windows.”
Up to a point, I agree with Harry regarding Windows CE/Mobile/Phone. But Windows RT? That’s a whole different kettle of fish.
Unlike Windows Phone, Windows RT actually looks like Windows. It even runs some (but not most) Windows 8 applications. It’s enough like Windows 8 to make a casual user believe they’re the same thing – and that means capable of running all the same apps.
But it doesn’t. Not even close, in fact.
I sometimes wonder if Steve Ballmer’s experience as a marketer at Proctor & Gamble hasn’t ended up making him singularly ill-equipped to run a technology company. The classic marketing idea of brand extension – taking the name and core of a brand into different new products – doesn’t work so well with technology. Something called “Windows” ought to run Windows software. Windows RT, largely, doesn’t.
The Economist gives a fantastic insight into what makes Samsung successful. Hint: it’s not being innovative in terms of technology:
Samsung’s successes come from spotting areas that are small but growing fast. Ideally the area should also be capital-intensive, making it harder for rivals to keep up. Samsung tiptoes into the technology to get familiar with it, then waits for its moment. It was when liquid-crystal displays grew to 40 inches in 2001 that Samsung took the dive and turned them into televisions. In flash memory, Samsung piled in when new technology made it possible to put a whole gigabyte on a chip.
When it pounces, the company floods the sector with cash. Moving into very high volume production as fast as possible not only gives it a price advantage over established firms, but also makes it a key customer for equipment makers. Those relationships help it stay on the leading edge from then on.
The strategy is shrewd. By buying technology rather than building it, Samsung assumes execution risk not innovation risk. It wins as a “fast follower”, slipstreaming in the wake of pioneers at a much larger scale of production. The heavy investment has in the past played to its ability to tap cheap financing from a banking sector that is friendly to big companies, thanks to implicit government guarantees much complained about by rivals elsewhere.
Now consider this in the context of how it’s worked in the smartphone market. “Fast follower”, indeed.
One of the general principles of user interface design should be that when a user has to choose an option, it should be easily reversible – and it should be obvious how to do so.
Take a look at this grab, from Apple’s Keynote on iOS.
When I tapped on the button to insert an image, the iPad gave me the standard privacy control asking if I wanted to grant Keynote access to my photos. I accidentally hit “no”.
Now, whenever I open up the Photos control, I don’t see any images – but I do see an explanation of why I don’t see anything, and instructions on how to change that option if I wish.
That’s good design. It’s reversible, and it tells me how.
Philip Greenspun’s Weblog » Christmas gift for someone you hate: Windows 8:
“A reasonable user might respond to this dog’s breakfast of a user interface by trying to stick with either the familiar desktop or the new tablet. However, this is not possible. Some functions, such as ‘start an application’ or ‘restart the computer’ are available only from the tablet interface. Conversely, when one is comfortably ensconced in a touch/tablet application, an additional click will fire up a Web browser, thereby causing the tablet to disappear in favor of the desktop. Many of the ‘apps’ that show up on the ‘all apps’ menu at the bottom of the screen (accessible only if you swipe down from the top of the screen) dump you right into the desktop on the first click.”
Windows 8 is quite possibly a bigger mess for Microsoft than was Vista. And Vista, at least, was relatively easy for the company to extricate itself from.
Techpinions’ Steve Wildstrom ponders if Microsoft will make a successful transition like IBM, or a failure like AT&T:
“The question is, which model will Microsoft follow, AT&T or IBM? Will it emerge as a chastened, perhaps smaller, but very competitive company? Or will it just slowly fade away? The money gives it time to fix things, but it has to make key decisions about what sort of future it wants soon, and whether the leadership the company now has can get it there.”
IBM, under Louis Gerstner, shredded many sacred cows and emerged leaner, stronger, and able to grow. AT&T made failure into an art form. Microsoft still has the chance to succeed, but it needs to start working hard: much harder than Windows 8 would suggest it’s capable of doing.
Steve Wildstrom of Techpinions tries to set the sleep timer on his Windows 8 laptop, and finds it’s a little harder than he thought it would be:
“The best I could do to stay in Metro was: From the Start screen, bring up the Charms bar and select the Search charm. Pick Settings as the search domain and start typing ‘sleep.’ ’Change when the computer sleeps’ pops up; click it and the control panel opens. Of course, at this point, you are back in Desktop. Again, this method to perform a simple task seems totally unintuitive, especially since if you type ‘screen’ or ‘display’ in the search box you are not offered the sleep option.”
Windows 8 is a mess. Not because Metro is bad, but because Microsoft has bolted two operating systems into one, which makes the entire thing confusing.