Friday, 20 July 2012
Microsoft has announced its first ever quarterly loss. It was actually a trick of accounting, but who cares? Tim Cook surely doesn’t. I therefore thought the time is ripe for me to share my 2c on where Microsoft’s flagships are heading.
The first of these flagships is Windows. With Windows 8 scheduled for an October release, we’ve been subjected to quite a lot of news and predictions. A lot of the hoo-ha is to do with Windows finally showing up to the age of the tablet. The operating system would be there, and so would Microsoft’s own tablet, dubbed Slate (pictured). But would that really be the case? Could this new tablet achieve a crack in the iPad’s dominance of the tablet market?
My prediction is that it won’t. I could be wrong, of course, but my prediction is based on the fact that Windows’ main drawcard is going to be its dominance at the office. CIOs would much rather get a Windows tablet than they would an iPad (even though Australia has certified the iPad for government use). What Windows won’t be able to boast is an entire ecosystem of contents and apps that’s tailor made for tablet use, which is where I predict its downfall would come: most organizations, especially the larger ones, would be using legacy systems that have no way of working well on a tablet (take banks and their mainframe applications as an example). Microsoft can release the flashiest tablet ever, but it would still be severely crippled in most offices; on the other hand, Apple would still dominate the consumer market.
Moving on to Microsoft’s next dinosaur of a flagship, Microsoft Office. Yes, the product whose mediocrity keeps on annoying me on a daily basis even after Windows has mostly stopped doing so (mostly because I was able to avoid having to administer it at home, mostly because I’m now a Linux/Mac user). One of the headline features of the soon to be released Office 15 suite is its built-in ability to save your work on the cloud. Now, as far as I know, when Microsoft says “cloud” what it actually means is its server farms in the USA and in Singapore.
The problem? Both these places are not particularly friendly when it comes to caring for the privacy of the stored data. With Singapore it’s because of the nature of the local regime, with the USA it’s because of a mix of lax privacy legislation and the good old Patriot Act that effectively allows US agencies free access to the data. And as we know, access it they do.
At the personal level, I am not that fussed. If the USA wants to bore itself to death by looking at my online documents then let them have it. Others, like Iceland’s Birgitta Jónsdóttir may beg to differ, and they are well within their rights (and the world owes the likes of Jónsdóttir a great debt for the exact reason the USA is now on her tail). More to the point, big organizations might have a problem with this cloud service: Australian government, for example, would be legally unable to place its info on Microsoft’s servers without breaking Australian law. Businesses of a large caliber would hesitate putting their intellectual property at risk.
There could be workarounds. Microsoft may partner local Telstra for Aussie hosting (something they failed to properly do till now). Most obviously, organizations may disable the option of saving to the cloud. Then again, if that is the case, then why should they bother rushing to upgrade to Office 15 in the first place?
Times could be interesting for Microsoft. It could be that today’s news is a harbinger of quarters to come.