If Microsoft is patient, it can win

As Microsoft works on Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox, users will be pulled back into its orbit, one product at a time

I don't live in a bubble. Daily, I go to a variety of periodicals to fill me in on the facts and opinions floating around the stratosphere. This week, I read Serdar Yegulalp's post in the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog entitled "How Microsoft's 'silent majority' hurts Windows," which brought up serious concerns users have been expressing about UI changes in Windows 8 and Office 15. It highlights the term "user telemetry" and explains that many changes are based on data coming in from users' actual behavior in Microsoft software, such as when search is used or which menus are accessed and in what order. Some people believe the term serves as a buzzphrase to give Microsoft carte blanche to do whatever it likes with the UI, regardless of users' complaints.

I came away feeling down. Then I read the CNN Money post "Microsoft's master plan to beat Apple and Google" by David Goldman. It looked not only at Windows 8 but at three products that, collectively, could change the game in Microsoft's favor: Windows on the desktop and tablet (that is, Windows 8), the Xbox gaming console, and the Windows Phone mobile operating system.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman explains how Microsoft's and Apple's post-PC strategies differ -- and where they are the same. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in InfoWorld's Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

The key to Microsoft's play is patience. The company knows it won't win this today, Goldman says; he also calls Microsoft the "underdog," an interesting position for the Redmond giant. Microsoft is doing what the other two big players (Apple and Google) have decided not to do. Apple is focused on leaving the PC behind, while Google wants everything in the cloud.

Microsoft can hold on to its existing enterprise consumer base with Windows 7 because -- let's face it -- Windows 8 will not be quickly adapted by the enterprise base that's just now weaning itself off Windows XP. At the same time, Microsoft can stretch out and be more innovative in making a seamless experience between your PC (morphing more and more into a tablet device that can be taken on the go or snapped into a larger monitor with keyboard and mouse), your gaming console, and your smartphone.

I believe this vision is possible. I just purchased my first Xbox for my son, and the Metro UI doesn't bother me when working with a gaming system. Today, I'm going out to pick up my new Windows Phone. Yes, I've avoided it until now because I like my Android, which still feels a bit rough around the edges and has never matched up to the iPhone.

I've decided to try something new, and Windows Phone is it. I'm not oblivious to the fact that the iPhone is still the leading product, but I'm a Microsoft guy, so I'm getting myself a Microsoft phone. It's time I support the company that I write, speak, and teach about 24/7.

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