Paul wrote an awesome analysis in his recent Windows in the Mobile First, Cloud First Era article. In it, he talked about how Microsoft is working to develop a more competitive, lower cost Windows that may result in a free offering eventually. Free Windows? It's possible.
As Paul stated, Microsoft's theory is that…
…the firm will make money elsewhere, primarily in subscription services like/OneDrive, Xbox Music, and the like, and that the broader stable of Microsoft offerings will keep users in the software giant's camp.
But, one thing Paul left out, maybe unintentionally, is the number of Mobile app and service releases in the past few months that have nothing to do with the Windows ecosystem. I know many customers have noticed, and for some it has raised their ire, that Microsoft has been releasing new software and software updates to non-Windows platforms first – particularly mobile software.
Take the release of Office for iPad for example. iPad users praised the release, but long-time Windows customers felt left out and still do today as they wait for a touch-friendly version of Microsoft's productivity suite. Office Touch for Windows is now rumored to be pushed back until after Windows 9 releases. Office for Android devices and even iPhones have a broad range of rich features that make Windows users salivate, and they continue to be updated at a sprinter's pace.
A more recent example, and one that really has caught fire, is the release of a consumer app called SNIPP3T. SNIPP3T is basically a stalker's dream, allowing users to "snip" celebrity news. Choose the specific celebrities' lives you want to monitor and subscribe to keep up to date. The app released solely for iOS, available only in the iTunes store.
In a Reddit AMA yesterday, Donald Soon, the PM for SNIPP3T was accosted by participants who were upset that the app released for iOS first, without any regard to the Windows ecosystem – particularly Windows Phone. Mr. Soon stated that the app was born out of a hack day idea and Microsoft then prioritized resources (read: shifted resources) ruthlessly to finish and launch it. Soon also said that the iPhone was the best platform on which to release it.
And, this really highlights the discussion here.
From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense. Microsoft is finally waking up (much like it did in the Netscape/Internet Explorer days). But, a very different world exists now, where iOS ignited a new industry and Android took over to become the market leader. Like the rest of the world that actively and successfully participates in today's market, Microsoft is forced to release apps and services for non-Windows platforms first. Doing this allows the company to hit the biggest share with the most potential revenue. People forget that Microsoft is a business that needs to make money.
But, this brings up an all important question: Is the "Popular-Platform-First" policy sustainable to the Windows Ecosystem?
I don't think so, and that may actually be Microsoft's intent. Per Paul, Microsoft will make money elsewhere as a Mobile and Cloud vendor. Think about it…there's no "Windows" in Mobile and Cloud, probably on purpose. Mobile First/Cloud First is not an ill-conceived statement. It wasn't put together as a hack day idea. It's an intricately fashioned mantra with "Windows" decisively omitted. Looking back now, it provided more about Microsoft's direction than many realized at the time.
As Microsoft continues to breakdown the Windows-first barriers, we may actually experience pigs flying and snowballs in Hell. We might actually see apps that release for iOS and Android that never, ever show up on Windows or Windows Phone. Microsoft's actions seems to suggest it believes it's already communicated this, though many aren’t accustomed, and some get offended, to such subtlety.
To clarify this approach, Soon later states that…
…Under Satya, MS has a direction to break our existing molds and one of those previous molds was being Windows centric. This is an incubation app right now in the sense that we're trying to iterate and see what works and what doesn't in spaces we haven't fully explored. The target user (celebrity fans) was taken into account for the initial platform we chose.
This is an example of the growth hacking culture that Satya is encouraging at Microsoft and everyone should expect to see more of these experiments released in the future.
If this is truly the case, what's left for Windows users? Why would anyone choose to continue using products from the Windows ecosystem?
The AMA thread led to a response by hrok76, who summed up customer angst and confusion perfectly:
You don't see a problem with this? The main argument against windows phone is no apps, and here you are as a Microsoft employee saying that you can't put the resources into making a windows phone app. How can Microsoft have the gall to then expect people who have no investment in Microsoft to make apps for their platforms? They can't even get their own employees to do it.
Microsoft needs to figure it out or quit. End windows phone if they don't have balls to follow through.
So, it seems, Microsoft's intent really is to make money elsewhere – anywhere but Windows. As a Windows customer, is this something you can live with?