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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  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    Funny enough, I spoke "couldn't care less" into my microphone with Dragon Naturally Speaking (working on that after playing with funky keyboards for a few months), and it transcribed it as "could care less". If Dragon thinks it's acceptable, who are we to argue? ;-)
  • novastar78 - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    Wow... first world problems... I couldn't care less....
  • lmcd - Monday, July 22, 2013 - link

    If you could care less, but don't, then that means the topic holds some interest to you. There is a distinct difference in both connotation and denotation of what you said, and intended, based on the rest of the article.
  • Tegeril - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    Your list of links is amusing. Two to the same place, two both talking about the same Boston Globe article (that references the former duplicated link).

    The illogical 'could care less' (when describing something that you could not care less about...) does seem to have won a place in US speech, but that doesn't make it any less shudder-inducing.
  • B3an - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link


    "could care less" simply makes absolutely no sense when the person actually means the opposite. And "could" and "couldn't" have very specific meanings, look it up in a dictionary. Theres evolution of language and theres plain stupidity.
  • Friendly0Fire - Saturday, July 13, 2013 - link

    "Theres evolution of language and theres plain stupidity."

    And apparently another evolution is the disappearance of apostrophes :)
  • tcool93 - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    A subscription required for any of their software WILL destroy Microsoft. No one will ever upgrade again, or will switch to an alternative operating system. If they think PC sales are slow now, it will be nothing compared to what will happen with a required subscription.
  • Pirks - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    Hahaha what a load of fucking stupid BS :))) LOL hahaha so funny clownie :))

    Of course no one will be against subscription. Everybody is subscribed to some sort of a wireless plan, people subscribe 'cause they can get unlimited voice, data and cheapo new flagship handset. With SAS it's going to be exactly the same. People will subscribe en masse for exact same reason - they all need some software, some device and some services, subscribing for a low monthly fee makes totally perfect sense for this very common scenario. Right now people get just the smartphone with a plan, but wait a few years and MS will sell Surfaces with the same wireless plan. Want Surface Pro with wireless data? $1000 upfront or $200 on contract with unlimited voice/data. Pay off your three year contract and get a free or cheapo upgrade to the new version of Surface Pro, trade in your old one, get some reimbursement or something, keep using the fresh new one under the same subscription. Everybody will LOVE this arrangement, no big upfront payments any, use the best tablet ever with data/services/software that is regularly updated by MS for free, just keep paying subscription fee every month. Then later MS will introduce layers of subscriptions, like gold, silver and bronze, guys with gold will get pampered red carpet experience with next day Surface replacement in case of loss or damage, accelerated hardware upgrade programs (like every year or two years, faster than the other lower layers), preferred phone support, preferred expert support at the local MS store etc etc. Silver ones will get some light discounts in MS App Store and other minor promotions and bronze guys will get nothing but the replacement for old Surface every X years. This is all obvious, this is where the whole world is moving, your stupid little kiddie cries will change nothing. Be prepared, grow up and deal with it. You can't stop the march of progress, whiner :P
  • fanofanand - Friday, July 12, 2013 - link

    Don Matrick, is that you????
  • Voldenuit - Friday, July 19, 2013 - link

    I think Don Mattick and Adam Orth just had a baby. Oh wait, this is Pirks, maybe it's the other way around?

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