Today Microsoft released a couple of major announcements regarding the restructuring of their entire business. The complete One Microsoft email from Steve Ballmer along with an internal memo entitled Transforming Our Company are available online at Microsoft’s news center, but what does it all really mean? That’s actually a bit difficult to say; clearly times are changing and Microsoft needs to adapt to the new environment, and if we remove all of the buzzwords and business talk, that’s basically what the memo and email are about. Microsoft calls their new strategy the “devices and services chapter” of their business, which gives a clear indication of where they’re heading.

We’ve seen some of this already over the past year or so, in particular the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro devices are a departure from the way Microsoft has done things in the past – though of course we had other hardware releases like the Xbox, Xbox 360, Zune, etc. We’ve discussed this in some of our reviews as well, where the traditional PC markets are losing ground to smartphones, tablets, and other devices. When companies like Apple and Google are regularly updating their operating systems, in particular iOS and Android, the old model of rolling out a new Windows operating system every several years is no longer sufficient. Depending on other companies for the hardware that properly showcases your platform can also be problematic when one of the most successful companies of the last few years (Apple Computer) controls everything from the top to bottom on their devices.

There’s also the factor of cost; when companies are getting Android OS for free, minus the groundwork required to get it running on your platform, charging $50 or $100 for Windows can be a barrier to adoption. When Microsoft talks about a shift towards devices and services, they are looking for new ways to monetize their business structure. The subscription model for Office 365 is one example of this; rather than owning a copy of office that you can use on one system, you instead pay $100 for the right to use Office 365 on up to five systems for an entire year. This sort of model has worked well for the antivirus companies not to mention subscription gaming services like World of WarCraft, EverQuest, etc., so why not try it for Office? I have to wonder if household subscriptions to Windows are next on the auction block.

One of the other topics that Microsoft gets into with their memo is the need for a consistent user experience across all of the devices people use on a daily basis. Right now, it’s not uncommon for people to have a smartphone, tablet, laptop and/or desktop, a TV set-top box, and maybe even a gaming console or two – and depending on how you are set up, each of those might have a different OS and a different user interface. Some people might not mind switching between the various user interfaces, but this is definitely something that I’ve heard Apple users mention as a benefit: getting a consistent experience across your whole electronic ecosystem. Apple doesn’t get it right in every case either, but I know people that have MacBook laptops, iPads/iPods and iPhones, Apple TV, iTunes, and an AirPort Extreme router, and they are willing to pay more for what they perceive as a better and easier overall experience.

Windows 8 was a step towards that same sort of ecosystem, trying to unify the experience on desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and the Xbox One; some might call it a misstep, but regardless Microsoft is making the effort. “We will strive for a single experience for everything in a person’s life that matters. One experience, one company, one set of learnings, one set of apps, and one personal library of entertainment, photos and information everywhere. One store for everything.” It’s an ambitious goal, and that sort of approach definitely won’t appeal to everyone [thoughts of Big Brother…]; exactly how well Microsoft does in realizing this goal is going to determine how successful this initiative ends up being.

One of the other thoughts I’ve heard increasingly over the past year or two is that while competition is in theory good for the consumer, too much competition can simply result in confusion. The Android smartphone and tablet offerings are good example of this; which version of Android are you running, and which SoC powers your device? There are huge droves of people that couldn't care less about the answer to either question; they just want everything to work properly. I’ve heard some people jokingly (or perhaps not so jokingly) suggest that we would benefit if more than one of the current SoC companies simply “disappeared” – and we could say the same about some of the GPU and CPU vendors that make the cores that go into these SoCs. Again, Microsoft is in a position to help alleviate some of this confusion with their software and devices; whether they can manage to do this better than some of the others that have tried remains to be seen.

However you want to look at things, this is a pretty major attempt at changing the way Microsoft functions. Can actually pull this all off, or is it just so many words? Thankfully, most of us have the easy job of sitting on the sidelines and taking a “wait and see” approach. Steve Ballmer notes, “We have resolved many details of this org, but we still will have more work to do. Undoubtedly, as we involve more people there will be new issues and changes to our current thinking as well. Completing this process will take through the end of the calendar year as we figure things out and as we keep existing teams focused on current deliverables like Windows 8.1, Xbox One, Windows Phone, etc.”

Whatever happens to Microsoft over the coming year or two, these are exciting times for technology enthusiasts. Microsoft has been with us for 37 years now, and clearly they intend to stick around for the next 37 as well. Enjoy the ride!

Source: Microsoft News

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  • Voldenuit - Friday, July 19, 2013 - link

    PS Two things about Jarred's article don't gel with me.

    If MS is moving to a more rapid schedule of OS and Office releases, why are they still charging the same price for a product that is going to be superseded much quicker? I paid $99 for Win 7 on my desktop (still going strong), and $15 for Win 8 upgrade on the wife's laptop (promotion price). $15 sounds about right to me for a proprietary OS in the current market of free OSes.
  • Voldenuit - Saturday, July 20, 2013 - link

    Standalone Office used to give you 3 licenses FOREVER for $129. You don't need Pro for most home, school and small office use.

    New pricing scheme is a ripoff.
  • flyingpants1 - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    Who cares? SAS is the way to go. You own nothing and and control nothing. They'll do it if they can get away with it. It's literally just a matter of time. They tried it on xbone where they have an equal competitor. What makes you think they won't try it with Windows where their market share is ~90%?

    Why should Microsoft continue supporting XP? Redhat charges money for support. Why should Microsoft provide Windows Update or anything else for free? In the age of Netflix, a small monthly fee is not a big deal for most people, especially if it disappears the upfront cost.
  • Da W - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    You pay 100$ a year for the whole office suite, which used to be called professionnal and cost 599$. So it's not a bad deal, it depends what you need.
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, July 15, 2013 - link

    Most people don't even pay $30 for Antivirus!

    Many, many, many people I know are running things like AVG Free. Wake up.
  • eanazag - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    Keep in mind that the $100 a year is five copies of Office and installable on Windows and Mac. They are bundling 20GB of Skydrive, which I haven't really used. And at least one email account from my understanding. Their new mobile app is also relying on buying into the Office 365 deal.
    I dont have a subscription, but I am considering it at some point only because I have more than one computer I'd like to have Office licenses on.
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, July 15, 2013 - link

    Who in the right mind would use Skydrive, after they gave the NSA backdoor access?
  • Jammrock - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    The Office 365 license is $100/year for up to five devices, PC or Mac. If you are in a home with 4-5 computers, like mine, it can be a good deal.

    With four computers on the traditional model you'd pay $560 ($140 * 4) for Office 2013 home and student to be licensed. That's nearly six years of the subscription, not including the extra SkyDrive storage and Skype minutes you get. Assuming you upgrade Office at least every 5 years or so it is worth the cost.

    For people who rarely upgrade or only have one or two computers it's not really worth it. Unless you absolutely have to be on cutting edge all the time. Which is why the stand-alone product is still available.
  • webby7 - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    "could care less"

  • mga318 - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    The professionals are rolling their eyes at your shuttering. Do you struggle with evolutionary change, too? Or just the naturally occurring language change that's been going on for the past 40,000 years?

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