Why The Microsoft Surface Just Died Last Week – Forbes
I’m looking for a new laptop and the Surface has been one of the top contenders. I like it a lot. And although a slow seller for Microsoft it’s been gaining in popularity and many reviewers have given it high marks. It’s a powerful little laptop, lightweight with a Windows 8 touchscreen and a long battery life. Sure, it’s a little pricier than some of its competitors. But it’s also both tablet and laptop and integrates tightly with other Microsoft applications (like Office) so for a business user like me it seems worth it. It was on the top of my list. Until last week.
That was when the company’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, announced the launch of Office for the iPad. He emphasized the company’s focus on cloud and mobile for the future. “We think about users both as individuals and organizations spanning across all devices,” Nadella said during the launch event. And what he said effectively killed the Microsoft Surface. At least for me. And probably for you too.
Nadella represents a new, better age for the company. He is a decade younger than his predecessor and looks young for his age. He has a different, laid back style. He’s nerdy. He’s technical. He’s cool. He’s the future. And with last week’s announcement he has pointed the company in a direction that will likely leave the Microsoft Surface behind. Why? Two reasons.
For starters, the company has officially abandoned its “Windows First” policy. This is not just a strategy. It’s a complete change in perception and branding. No offense to Bill Gates, but he’s the old guard. And so is Steve Ballmer. They represent all that was wonderful about Microsoft two decades ago – the arrogance, the confidence, the ruthlessness, the brilliance. But they are from another age. They are from the age of DOS, OS/2, Lotus, Netscape, Borland, WordPerfect and other brands that are mostly unrecognizable to the 25 year old person working today. They don’t remember the excitement of the “Start” button or the first time you could transfer a file over a dial up connection. They were babies when Windows dominated the earth, Apple Apple was facing bankruptcy and Google Google was just a mathematical term. But that’s ancient history now.
And Nadella understands that. He is a break from that history. At 47, he’s a hundred years younger than Ballmer and Gates in terms of technology. He remembers those days but has little nostalgia for them. He has no emotional ties to Windows. He looks at a world today where the great majority of devices sold now and in the future will not have Windows installed on them. And he’s OK with that. This is opportunity for a company like Microsoft. And he’s positioning his company to take advantage of that opportunity. A Windows First policy was the reason behind products like the Surface. Not anymore.
Secondly, and most importantly, Nadella is taking Microsoft back to the very root of what the company is: a maker of software. Nadella looks at the world around him and he sees devices. Not only iPads, but phones, tablets and PCs. He sees other operating systems like iOS and Android. And he sees the forthcoming explosion in the Internet of Things: wearable tech, drones, driverless cars, robots, appliances that talk to each other, point of sale systems that text greetings and discounts to customers that walk into a store, self-service kiosks and digestible pills that send signals back to doctors from inside the human body.
The millions of little hardware components that will be talking to each other will not need operating systems like Windows. But they will need software to run them. And Microsoft, at its very core, is a software company. A software company with billions in cash, a mountain of patents and an army of employees and partners who are standing by ready to do what Microsoft does: develop software. Why would Nadella want to waste time making hardware, unless it was something as integrated (and profitable) as the Xbox? He is not in the hardware business. He’s in the software business.
Where does this leave the Microsoft Surface? In the dust. The whole appeal that justified the extra price for the Surface was that it was a Microsoft device running Windows and therefore would be a better device for Windows applications. But that argument was rendered moot by the company’s decision to write software like Office for the iPad and to focus on writing applications for all devices, whether they’re running Windows or not. Which means I don’t have to own Microsoft hardware. And that’s a good thing – I’d rather just use the company’s software to be as productive as possible on whatever device I choose.
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