It didn’t seem all that long ago that Microsoft dominated the rugged market with Windows Mobile and even Windows CE taking the lion’s share of rugged device sales. Even on consumer phones there was a moment where Windows Mobile was dominant, even more so than the mighty Blackberry at one stage and I remember the biog challenge for me at that tie was to try to convince businesses that a weak, flimsy HTC device was just not going to work for them. I’m a huge consumer of new technologies, I would also be lying if a little part of me didn’t miss knowing where I stood day to day as life was pretty good back then with updates coming out once in a blue moon and with all the technology we used packed into a few tools that were largely Microsoft technologies!
This scenario seems to fit how Microsoft do things. Lock down a market, control it, keep others out and win! and to be honest it used to work. At least businesses knew where they stood, they could invest in new technology and know it would still be relevant 5 years later. However as we all know, things got a little bit heated up in all the mobile markets in the past 5 years making it unrealistic for Microsoft to operate in the same way.
What I find really interesting is that no-one has even really understood Microsoft’s mobile operating systems. They don’t talk about the strategy, they certainly don’t make it easy to understand the versions and they choose their partners carefully in the rugged market. I spoke to someone at the weekend about Windows 10 mobile or embedded or whatever it is these days and the thought struck me that it’s not only the past few years of operating system people don’t get (Windows phone/mobile/embedded etc etc) it’s actually all the way along they have never understood, from their pocket PC to windows mobile to windows embedded handheld days.
Android is a complete reversal of this. Its open, free and some would say already a huge API/SDK to learn. But because of this it has a huge cohort of sponsors, users, developers and in turn documentation, debate and argument over it. It’s easy to find help with Android when you’re in trouble and it’s easy to understand the versions, whats coming next 3-6 months before it happens and I can even see how many devices are using each operating system if I want to. A far cry from how Microsoft do things.
Microsoft still argue that their mobile operating systems are built for business, secure, integrating with back-ends easily whilst at the same time being familiar and easy to use, just like your laptop! and with Windows 10 mobile and its companion rugged OS (Bet you don’t know what that ones called!) coming out in the next few months you’d think businesses and mobile technology companies like us would be clammering all over it. But no.
I can’t talk for the consumer market but surely the successor to Windows mobile, which has now had about 2.5 years to succeed has in fact failed. Most of the big rugged companies don’t even have it licensed yet and as we stand today available devices are few and far between and only available from a select few manufacturers. This sounds like a failure to me. But if you actually use the products then you’ll see that they’re not perfect but they’re good, even innovative in some areas but it’s nothing to do with that.
In the past Microsoft fitted the “mission critical” 5 year ROI world really well, but things changed. Now-a-days their OS’s are closed doors, no-one is contributing to them like you see with Android and Apple and it has surely got to the point where as a business you can’t risk this black hole. Android for all it’s apparent sins at least leaves you knowing exactly where you are and it’s technology isn’t too shabby either.
As Windows 10 mobile gets released in the coming weeks, you’ll see a lot of W10 Mobile V Android N blogs etc etc but they all focus on the OS and what it does. I thnk for businesses it’s of course a little bit about that but surely it’s also about knowing you’ll be supported and have a platform to innovate on that will be around and relevant for the next few years.
The big question is, does Microsoft give you that any more?