6 changes Microsoft must make to matter again in mobile

Microsoft must enact six key changes if it wants Windows to have a meaningful presence in mobile in the coming years

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3. Unify the smartphone and tablet
As InfoWorld has argued in its Windows Red proposals, Microsoft needs to separate the Windows Desktop from Metro, treating PCs as one class and tablets as another -- just as Apple has done with OS X on the Mac versus iOS on the iPad. Windows RT ironically copied that strategy, but undercut it with the dual-OS Windows 8 and lack of native Office for RT. Microsoft needs to revisit that original strategy -- the right way, this time.

Separating the tablet from the PC is not enough. Microsoft also needs to unify the smartphone and the tablet, as iOS and Android do. That means Windows Phone needs to become Windows Mobile and run across both types of devices.

It also needs to use a common, consistent set of security and management APIs, whether based on System Center, an MDM-compatible API set, or even the iffy Intune. Businesses need a way to manage all Windows mobile devices as easily as they can manage iOS and Android devices -- or at least the same way they now manage Windows PCs. Today, there are three -- count 'em! -- sets of security and management protocols for Windows devices.

Such unification will create a viable ecosystem for Metro developers.

4. Develop compelling apps for mobile
If it's not clear by now, it never will be: People buy devices to do things, and there's not much you can do on a Windows mobile device. Whatever you think of the relative merits of iOS, Android, Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone, I don't believe you can argue against the premise that all those iOS apps played a huge part in the success of the iPhone and, particularly, the iPad.

All the platforms do email, calendars, contact management, e-book reading, cloud storage, music playing, video watching, instant messaging, audio and video chatting, and social networking. While you can argue over which are better, such apps are table stakes. To nurture user loyalty, you need apps like iMovie, iPhoto, the iWork suite, GarageBand, Music Studio, Office2HD, OmniFocus, Adobe Photoshop Touch, Quickoffice (until Google ruined it this past fall), Snapseed, GoodReader, PDF Reader, and FTPOnTheGo Pro. You'll find none of these for Windows mobile devices.

And, yes, Microsoft should develop a really good version of Office for mobile devices -- not just for Windows devices but also for iOS and Android.

Microsoft thinks that Office is a competitive weapon that will draw people to its otherwise sucky platforms, so it provides crippled versions elsewhere, as Mac users have long experienced. Microsoft has a much worse version of Office for mobile devices (even for its own Windows Phone), a crappy app that is hardly different from the crippled version it was shipping in Windows Mobile five years ago.

But Office is no longer a competitive weapon that can shore up Microsoft's Windows franchise, as falling PC sales and the minor sales of Windows mobile devices handily prove. Office should be its own platform-agnostic business, like Exchange. Microsoft has successfully positioned Exchange to be a common protocol and platform for all platforms, so even vendors like Google with competing services still support it.

That's what Microsoft needs to do with Office. Otherwise, the world will eventually dump Office and use the solid Office-compatible competitors coming from Apple and others. The truth is that most of us don't need Microsoft Office to tackle Office tasks, and more people are now realizing that. if Apple ever got serious about iWork or Google ever got serious about Quickoffice, game over.

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