Highs and Lows Part III: Microsoft's Smartphone Strategy - Rules of Engagement, Business Unusual

Steve Ballmer in 2007
Steve Ballmer in 2007 (Image credit: Microsoft)

In this piece, we'll look at how Microsoft is addressing the challenge of engaging the millions of users acquired through its low-end strategy. We'll observe how Microsoft underwent massive but necessary internal changes. Changes initiated to reorganize the company around a vision of deeper team integration to create products representative of a synergy of Microsoft's diverse strengths. We'll ultimately see how these products are designed with user engagement in mind. This piece will reveal how Microsoft has laid the groundwork to engage users of it's mobile phone platform.

If people talk about you, if you're part of the conversation, that's what counts.

Get Your Business Straight

If you or I were to venture into a clothing store and happen upon an item that is both trendy and desirable but not designed for our particular physique, we would be faced with a dilemma. We could forego partaking in this trend allowing it to bypass us. Or, if possible, we could commit to the necessary dietary and exercise regimen to change our bodies from the inside out, thus diligently reshaping ourselves to conform to the direction of the clothing industry.

"Improving our performance has three big dimensions: focusing the whole company on a single strategy, improving our capability in all disciplines and engineering/technology areas, and working together with more collaboration and agility around our common goals," 7/11/2013 -Steve Ballmer

It is no secret that Microsoft's multiple divisions have operated more like an association of independent units over the years, rather than unified components of a larger body sharing a singular mission. In years past, this mode of operation served them well. When the desktop ruled computing, where Windows ruled the desktop, a Windows and Microsoft Office focused company with many of Redmond's other divisions playing supporting roles was good for business.

We have since transitioned to an age where much of our computing has shifted away from Microsoft's desktop stronghold to a mobile model where the company is minimally represented. Microsoft's rivals have pioneered a cohesion of products and services that interact and connect in synergistic ways creating broad and vibrant ecosystems. In a new world with new lifestyle and work productivity demands, Microsoft could no longer engage in business as usual. To fit the new paradigm, they had to change from the inside out.

Can't We All Just Get Along? – The Disconnect

The graph above was shared by Microsoft's Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela during Convergence 2015. It's not comprehensive as it only represents a brief snapshot in time. It does, however, provide some useful insights. The size of each circle represents the amount of users for that particular product in the US. More importantly the lines connecting the circles represent the reality that an individual using product 'A' is also likely using product 'B'. Apple is represented as gold, Google purple, and Microsoft blue.

As you can see, both Apple's and Google's graphs are tangled webs of product and services interconnectivity. Conversely, Microsoft's graph looks more like a representation of one way and dead end streets. What the chart confirms is the almost hubris laced claim by Apple regarding its product line – "It Just Works."

With connectivity between products so deep, Apple need only advertise its devices. Users who buy an iPhone or iPad (or Android) device are quickly engaged with a range of services that just work well together.

"But it also shows you that we don't have nearly the connectivity between our products that Google has engineered and that Apple has engineered,"- Capossela

If Microsoft's ecosystem could speak, it would likely bemoan its compartmentalized nature. Unlike the harmonious symphony of collaboration found in Apple's and Google's ecosystems Microsoft's ecosystem is a jangling cacophony of individual expression. The disconnected nature of the companies various products is undoubtedly a legacy of the pre "One Microsoft" era. That era was characterized by the divided nature of Microsoft where collaboration between divisions was minimal. In 2013, while still under Ballmer's leadership, the Microsoft behemoth began its slow transition to the more collaborative "One Microsoft (opens in new tab)" we see taking shape today.

"It changes our org structure, the way we collaborate, how we allocate resources, how we best empower our engineers and how we market." - Ballmer -7/11/2013

Harbingers of Change or An Ethos of Design With Marketing in Mind

Naturally, this deep internal organizational change was designed to bear external fruit. Thus, a shining example of a product born from the work toward a more homogenous Microsoft is the company's flagship tablet, the Surface Pro 3. A tablet that Redmond claims can replace your laptop. The Pro 3 is a convergence of hardware and software that makes the simple click of the N-trig digitizer pen a portal to Microsoft's cloud-based cross-platform OneNote product. Capossela shared that through engineering and collaboration, such synergy was achieved.

"We had to convince the Windows team to work with the Surface team to work with the OneNote team. And yet when you buy that Surface Pro 3, if you just click the pen, even if the Surface is asleep, it will wake up and above your lock screen OneNote will come up and you'll start taking notes." - Capossela

This bit of engineering and collaboration has inked a solid line connecting the Surface and OneNote. Capossela confirmed that there were a greater number OneNote users among Surface owners than there are among other Windows users.

He also shared other examples of deliberate engineering that interconnects Microsoft's diverse product portfolio. The integration of Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana (which is essentially Bing), into Windows 10 (and Windows Phone) is a much more engaging method to entice users to use Bing than attempting to persuade them to defer to Bing.com over Google.com.

…"Cortana, next track," and we'll change the track, "Cortana, play Taylor Swift," and we'll go off and play Taylor Swift music for you. I mean, that type of change of building Bing into Windows gives me a far better, more effective way to win a Google user over to Bing than just competing head to head." - Capossela

Similar implementations of greater product integration have already begun to take shape as well. Outlook.com will feature a Skype button in the toolbar. This will allow users to easily instant message contacts directly from Microsoft Outlook using Skype. Furthermore, the instant message conversation can then be easily transformed into a Skype video call with the click of a button. Microsoft's intentional integration of its products within other products allows users to seamlessly flow from using one product to the other without leaving the context of the initial product. This level of product integration and the necessary division collaboration to achieve it is something that would have likely never occurred under Microsoft's previous business model.

For Microsoft, such collaboration is business unusual.

Additionally, what this level of integration provides for Microsoft is the marketing of particular products simply by the use of another. The marketing is engineered into the products. Thus through this model Microsoft doesn't have to spend marketing dollars to push its complete range of products. They need only push the products that pull other products behind them.

"… It's using a resource that we have a lot of, engineering at Microsoft, and it's counterbalancing a resource that we frankly want to spend less on, marketing, in order to get people to experience the full ecosystem and fill out those lines on that blue, purple, orange chart, to really compete ecosystem to ecosystem as opposed to product to product." - Capossela

Marketing included.

It Just May Work

"And the beautiful thing about having lots of lines is that you don't have to market all of your products. You only market the locomotives. And then when someone uses your locomotive, it pulls along the cabooses." - Capossela

The implementations of product integration mentioned above are encouraging examples of what Microsoft is doing as an organization to "increase the number of lines" connecting its products. As we mentioned at the close of Part II, Microsoft has acquired millions of users through its low-end strategy. Their challenge is now engaging these users with its range of products and services such as Office and Skype.

Currently, the millions of consumers Microsoft has acquired through its low-end strategy have little to entice them into using the range of services available on their Windows Phone 8.1 devices. The clear exception, of course, is Cortana. The interactive AI, which is the face of Bing, is a powerful tool to engage users to use Bing. That's if Cortana is available in the users region of course.

As the facilitator of all web-based and device level searches, Cortana sits front and center on a Windows Phone. Intelligent engineering has ensured that the assistant is easily accessible via a capacitive or software search key on all devices as well as by voice on certain high-end devices. The Cortana live tile, which can be pinned to the start screen proactively serves up news, weather and departure time information that easily draws a user's attention into the service. Engagement.

Cortana is even tied into the systems notifications and will proactively notify a user when information arrives that they may find interesting. As mentioned above Cortana is Bing. Bing is not only Microsoft's rival to Google Inc.'s popular search engine but it is a key investment that supports many of Microsoft's other services. Thus, increased engagement with Cortana is increased engagement with one of Microsoft's core products.

The Cortana team has worked hard at imbuing Cortana with numerous engaging functions to increase user engagement. Asking Cortana "What's up?" will prompt the assistant to share an interesting historical fact about the current date. "Surprise me" directed to the assistant will prompt Cortana to issue a riddle that users are encouraged to solve. She has also shared her predictions with users regarding who would win in popular contests such as Dancing with the Stars and American Idol, along with a host of sporting events.

Of course Cortana is but one of Microsoft's products available to Windows Phone users. Microsoft's mobile Office suite, Skype, One Note and One Drive are also part of the Windows Phone platform. Engineering products in such a way that draws users deeper into the platform is Redmond's ultimate goal.

"One of the things we realized immediately is marketing dollars spent around engagement can be effective, but actually product design is far more effective at getting people to be deeply engaged in your products." - Capossela

So the question is, how will Redmond engage users with some of its less, as compared to Cortana, proactive tools?

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

Hannibal Smith from the popular 80's television series the A-Team was a strategist. He didn't wait for a situation to befall him before he acted.

He always had a plan.

An easy pitfall many succumb to is viewing current information and hot topics in this highly dynamic and swift moving tech landscape as comprehensive and representative of the full story.

Many enthusiasts have bemoaned Microsoft's current low-end focused mobile strategy. They may view only the phase of this strategy currently in play. Namely the proliferation of low-end Lumia devices and the foregoing of high-end flagship smartphones. One thing we, enthusiasts, must all keep in mind is that in most cases, any plan that is devised by a company the size of Microsoft will have been forged years in advance. It has multiple components and is revealed publicly in increments.

The tech industry moves fast. Very fast. I fear that the hopping from hot topic to hot topic common to tech reporting creates an illusion of speed within the industry that is not reflective of the true pace of change. No company the size of Microsoft could plan and implement a mobile strategy, or devise and release a new product in the brief window of time just prior to journalists/bloggers receiving the leaks of products or roadmaps and consumers find the devices in their tech-hungry hands or see the manifestation of huge organizational shifts or strategies.

The moves begin long before we ever hear about them. As time progresses carefully crafted and strategically timed communications from the leadership provide in broad terms the strategy that the company will have already embarked on.

Ballmer

"To improve engineering pace and quality, we will increase focus on our engineering systems, processes, and tools to improve the productivity of every engineer and to facilitate engineering collaboration and contribution across the company." - Ballmer, 7/11/13

In later communications, we begin to see the message coalescing around a more discernable vision.

"So my second transformation agenda item for Microsoft is this notion of using our amazing innovation engineering resource pool to build marketing into our products." - Capossela, 3/16/15

Finally when a product or service is just about ready the strategy that began years earlier is laid bare, having culminated in form and function, in a way that is discernible to the consumer.

Joe Belfiore

"We're going to help all of you and our end users discover value in the Windows ecosystem on the Lock screen, on the Start menu with Cortana with Microsoft Edge and how we're going to enable great new devices with continuum." - Belfiore, 4/29/15

As we can see, the ideology that guided Microsoft's vision of engineering greater opportunities for engagement into its products as shared by Joe Belfiore at Build 2015, began long before Windows 10 became the exciting and ever-present news topic it is today. The corporate shifts that have led to the monumental changes we see regarding deeper product integration at Microsoft began under ex-CEO Steve Ballmer's tenure. As I shared, shifts in the tech world are not always as fast as they may sometimes seem.

The changes Ballmer initiated culminated in what Belfiore shared with attendees at Build 2015. He passionately divulged several new areas where Redmond has engineered its products to increase user interaction with the Microsoft ecosystem. In Windows 10 for PC Smart Suggestions, Windows Spotlight, and a new depth of integration of Cortana with apps will bring apps and functions in the Microsoft ecosystem to the forefront in a very personal way. These OS and UI innovations are a clear move by Redmond to create a more elaborate tangle of app interaction within its ecosystem akin to that achieved by rivals Apple and Google.

Capossela

"Then your marketing can move on from acquisition and it can actually move to engagement where we get to see what you're not doing with the product, and we do marketing to get you to do more with the product, so you get deeply engaged in it." - Capossela

Redmond has not left Windows 10 Mobile out of this vision. A foundation has been laid. Just as Microsoft has engineered marketing into various areas of the OS for Windows 10 on the PC, they have also engineered engaging new ways to reach consumers for Windows 10 Mobile on the phone. But for that you'll have to join us for Highs and Lows Part IV: Microsoft's Smartphone Strategy - There's an App for That.

As usual, sound off in the comments and on Twitter @JLTechWord. We have much to discuss.

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

119 Comments
  • Microsoft still wins
  • Google is top when it comes to smartphone OS.....it increased the security that people thought was missing...... Windows has a long road ahead.....
  • What security when most android phones are using outdated OS versions.  Flagship phones usually get their share of updates, low to mid end phones, not so much.  And this includes security updates.
  • The same way most Windows users are using an Out-Dated OS?  I'm not sure what your point is.
  • All Windows users get security updates. Unless they have stuck with XP for 14 years. Android users can still go out today and buy a phone, most of them come equipped with old OS that won't ever get updates, including security updates. It is nice for them that their OS is really open and they can do a lot with it. But it is also open to viruses.
  • The difference is that they use outdated versions of Windows because they want because they want (the minority), or because they want because they don't manage well with computers and a friend-of-them who is a hipster of whom continue saying that windows XP is the best OS ever told them to use it (the VAST majority), and almost every Android user wants to update but, oh, they can't. Sorry about expression errors.
  • Securities that windows (mobile) already had and will be part of win10. Not much of a long road. It WAS a long road before but now the end is coming up fast as evident by the article.
  • I think you mean Windows Phone sir. Windows as a whole is far more popular than Android OS..
  • Yeah i meant phone. It is now called windows mobile, so i said mobile.
  • Windows 10 mobile. But it is still a Windows phone
  • Haha, I was replying to sai harsha, not you
  • Security? What security are you talking about? Did Android get all FIPS certifications yet? I guess not. Talk about security when they fulfil even the most basic FIPS requirements. "Security" LOL!
  • Google ain't on top. Samsung is when it comes to android smart phones. Security my foot.Almost half of android footprint is still running ICS, one of the most insecure platforms out there. It has a security problem google won't even address.
  • Only 10% of Android devices are on ICS or lower. This number is also dropping quickly. Lollipop has already surpassed it.
  • Here is a 2013 story. http://marketingland.com/study-nearly-90-percent-of-ios-users-on-latest-... My point here is that the vast number of android deployments are no longer secured by google. Making the majority of android deployments unsecured. That isn't to say anyone could punch holes in any version of the OS easily but with a sizable percentage of android users side-loading pirated apps, its a morass of security risks. 
  • It is 2015! Google does control a good amount of the code on 90% of current Android phones and pushes out updates to them all every several weeks. Where do you get these numbers that a sizable amount of Android users are sideloading pirated apps? That number cannot be more than a few precent!
  • http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/piracy-android-how-bad-is-it-really/ It actually is at 90%... Google's DRM/License system is worth absolutely nothing and doesn't work at all.
  • If you believe that article, which has no solid numbers and admits that the ones it does have are flawed, then iPhone also has a sizable chunk of pirates! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • What?  LOL. Your head is deep in the sand. Real deep son.  .
  • How? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • MSFT is spending too much time on having cortana and office in phone ... lets accept it, its good to have office on phone but it sux ... I rather do it on PC. its been 5 yrs since windows is out ... no significant change in apis ... still no access to WIFI, bluetooth, file system access (list is pretty long) ...multitasking sux big time ... where Android is killing it ... (don't argue windows have it better ... it does not)
  • cortana on phone is the same as siri on iphone. it works great. office on phone is never going to be better than on a computer, who wants to write an essay or manipulate a spreadsheet on a phone rather than a PC - i agree with you, but I also understand it as being an extension - secondary, not the main way to get work done vs a PC. Although it definitely needs more apps simply to compete with Android and iOS, it has alot of the popular, more useful ones for a while - so I would say they definitely made an improvement in apps. WHat do you mean about the WIFI and bluetooth access - to my understanding most WIndows related products have both? maybe im missing that one. I have a windows phone and computer and multitasking work great on both. I jump for app to app on a windows phone quicker than on iOS and Android. I'm not againts your android comment though
  • @Jose ... when I talk about WIFI, bluetooth etc ... I mean programmatically switching off and ON ... I have apps that turns on/off bluetooth, wifi, data etc on certain time and location etc ... its a background task runs infinitely. also I have one more app keeps track of when phone screen was on/off/unlocked etc.  I would love to bring those apps on windows but unfortunately no APIs to do that. These are only 2 examples there are many more
  • Why do you need to switch WIFI or Bluetooth on and off? I'm just wondering. I used to do that with my android phone, I just did it manually, to save power. However, with WP I have just left them both on since my battery life is better anyway.
  • Then please search and watch demonstartions of Continuum. Even though Continuum is not here yet, my daughter an 11th grader now only carries her phone and the 7" Windows HP tablet (the one from MS store for $79.) She also has this little gadget (Sd3500v USB 3.0 Universal Docking Station ) All she needs at home, firnds house etc is a monitor and that little tablet she uses for all types of browsing, media consuption becomes light weight productivity machine for with full office. Imagine what I think MS have in stock for Continuum.... All you will need to carry from then henceforth is you powerful phone, you dock it and it becomes light weight PC.
  • I use office on my phone only when I need to write some document in hurry and when I can't get on PC.
  • Office on mobile is actually pretty darn good for light editing, etc. It's gonna get even better in 10. I'm excited.
  • The Office in 10 is going to be basically a carbon copy of what's already been out for iOS for several months and what it's Preview for Android. So while it will be better for you, it's just going to be more of the same for everyone else. All of the major Office Suites on Mobile are good enough for light editing:  Google Docs, Apple's iWorks, and Microsoft Office. The big problem I have with Office Mobile is that the feature disparity between Desktop and Metro/Mobile/Web is too vast. How do you define "editing." Is it editing only if you need to change/add some text or change some numbers? Is it also editing if you need to do something that is totally possible in the desktop app, but totally impossible from any of hte mobile clients? That's the big reason why I don't use Office Mobile, nad why I've just "settled" for iWork instead.  Yes, I give up some functionality that *may* be very useful to me which Office has (but iWork doesn't), but I almost never run into the issue of not being able to edit/adjust an element, or features which exist in the desktop software that are impossible to perform in the mobile client. The only Office app worth using over the iWork equivalent is Excel, anyways, and that's assuming that you need functionality well above what the average consumer or rookie spreadsheet user expects.  
  • @n8ter Yeah, it's a good point you made. I'm still a student, so I don't require much. People who use Office day in day out, however, would definitely require the full PC suite; you're right.
  • And that's why it is also the version they want your money for. They know only professionals need the full version so that's what they charge for.
  • @sumair I'm pretty excited about I too!
  • I love articles like this,,
  • Me too!
  • @sumair and @sewzeppelin Thanks so much. I'm glad you like them! I enjoy providing them to you guys!
  • I like these articles as well. It feels like speculation. But with some facts and truth to it. These articles kind of let us know what Microsoft's vision/strategy for the future is. Since they can't say everything yet. PS: Jason, maybe I'm too greedy but, I wish you got these more faster. Of course, great things take time. And I can imagine the time it took to write this one the the previous articles of this series. Brainstorming a bit, doing lots of research, contacting Microsoft (maybe?) and then some more hours just writing. Thanks for these articles man! Looking forward to the next one. :)
  • If they added Azure on that bubble chart, it would eat iCloud.  
  • Apples to Oranges comparison.  iCloud is not the same as Azure.
  • And iCloud resides on Amazon's cloud.
  • Are you sure? I heard it ran on Azure. EDIT: Apparently it runs on both.
  • This was my point. Apple's consumer services run (in part) atop a Microsoft business service.
  • As I recall, iTunes runs on Azure and iCloud runs on Amazon cloud.
  • That's a low hit....XD
  • Are you serious? Azure is not a consumer product.
  • Correct, however it supports iCloud.
  • Great article never knew about Microsoft's strategy now understanding the big picture the future looks bright
  • +1. Jason Ward gives me hope.
  • A well written article.
  • @vineet Thanks so much!
  • The funny thing is, Microsoft has acquired lower income users in emerging markets, using budget Lumia devices, but services like Cortana and others, that they could get tied into using, are pretty much U.S./UK only features.   Sure,  eventually it may roll out to other languages, but 'eventually' won't pay the bills for Redmond's mobile efforts. It's like, one step forward, two steps back. Another point is that, most of Microsoft's new mobile services tend to be productivity and enterprise focused, which is fine, but that won't allow those arrows to cross with popular social network sites and such.   Nobody Instagrams or Facebook posts about using OneDrive and Azure.
  • I think a large part of their strategy is getting people hooked on the "dumbed down" versions of their software (Office for Touch) and making sure everyone (low-income, children, students) are familiar with it. Then when a company thinks about buying some software they'll obviously choose the software that everyone already knows how to operate because MS will keep the same UI and feel from their dumb versions on their enterprise software. On the Cortana not being available in India et al I completely agree that it's a fail, but I think with win10 they'll have Cortana ready for India as well, they already have it working in China at least (more than Google and Apple can say).
  • Nice article. Can't wait for pt4
  • @Owen Thanks Owen! I'm glad you enjoyed the piece! I appreciate your support:-)
  • Create article
  • @Mortenvs Thank you! I appreciate that.:-) I hope you enjoy the next piece as well!
  • " Get Your Business Straight If you or I were to venture into a clothing store and happen upon an item that is both trendy and desirable but not designed for our particular physique, we would be faced with a dilemma. We could forego partaking in this trend allowing it to bypass us. Or, if possible, we could commit to the necessary dietary and exercise regimen to change our bodies from the inside out, thus diligently reshaping ourselves to conform to the direction of the clothing industry." Microsoft saw how successful Flagship phones from Samsung and Apple were, and created low budget phones... They saw how Samsung and Apple were available on every carrier in the US, and then fragmented that market with exclusivities. They saw how Samsung and Apple showed how to use their phones during the commercials, and released a "few" commercials with dancing lawyers/architects who apparently work in offices way beyond their pay..(which is why those offices have no furniture) Not sure what market they were going for.
  • Hopefully the carrier exclusives will go away.  Phones sales are no longer subsidized and they have their foot in the door now.   MS is already taking control of the software updates. 
  • Except Apple and Samsung started in the exact same way. Exclusive to Verizon and others and with weird commercials showing people dancing around and pushing their products as a "lifestyle". You do this till people know your name and then you start showing people that your product is actually worth it. Microsoft seemed to forget that everyone already knew their name (or maybe their research said people really didn't?)
  • Show time
  • They missed show time five years ago.  They're still auditioning to this day.
  • yep, microsoft needs more time to "finish" windows 10. I still think july 29th is too soon.
  • TLDR...until I get him from work
  • Microsoft makes most of its revenue on Enterprise servers and services, which are not properly represented on the diagram.
    Microsoft failing the consumer space because they only work in the US. Google is eating Microsoft lunch in consumer space, because Google is Global worldwide services.
    Its no point keep bigging up Cortana when it is only fully operational in United States. Simply wrong aptitude towards world consumers.
  • Really? MS is more international than Google and Apple combined in consumer and enterprise space. Cortana is already available in China! Something noone else has even marginally achieved. Also MS employs more people outside the US than Google and Apple (India and Germany are huge engineering hubs for MS) not to speak of the fact that product releases are usually global events and not limited to the US at the beginning.
  • Same old MS, big on promises and small, if ever, on delivery.  Remain cautiously skeptical.
  • Great piece... but for early adopters like me who are getting tired of the retoric: Just wait "Windows X Mobile" will be amazing when I see MSFT making it more and more easy for me to be on other ecosystem and still have all the benefits of being in the MSFT ecosystem (and sometime even more). It is easy to come to the conclusion, the next smartphone won't be a Windowsphone, Windows Mobile or what ever brand reboot they want to do. I bought a Lumia 830 and I regret it, my old Lumia 920 was in some aspect better. I bough a Surface RT and I'm being left out. I bought a Vivotab 8 and it's unclear what I will get. So for the next Smartphone, the next Tablet, MSFT will have to make it a compelling story for me to stay on board, from a device perspective.
  • "So for the next Smartphone, the next Tablet..." @Franky_B -- There's that tired old rhetoric.
  • I probably have more MSFT hardware in my house then most...Here's the short long list (Samsung WP7, Lumia 920, Lumia 830, Surface RT, Vivotab 8, XPS 18 and XBOX 1) And of course I have Office 365.  So don't lecture me on the fact that I'm questionning the next hardware won't be MSFT. Why? Because the service I love from MSFT are everywhere and better supported on other hardware... Still waiting on the tablet version of Office for Windows and guess what? Still not announced. On top of that, my company still doesn't provide BYOD support for Windowsphone or other Windows device.
  • >Still waiting on the tablet version of Office for Windows and guess what? Still not announced. it is announced. im using it on my w10 preview pc BYOD what? your angry rant is hard to understand. MS services are not better on ther platforms, you arejust being overly emotive now.
  • Yes, Office for WIn10 has been announced, 2 years after it debuted on iOS
  • Settle down, man.  I wasn't lecturing you.  I was merely pointing out that you stated how "early adopters like me who are getting tired of the retoric: Just wait "Windows X Mobile" will be amazing..." Then 3 paragraphs down, you state the thing that you said you are tired of:   "So for the next Smartphone, the next Tablet, MSFT will have to make it a compelling story for me to stay on board..."  Sounds like you're still waiting.  You don't even realize that you have bought into the rhetoric. 
  • 3rd pic from the bottom of the page..looks a lot like Dr. Evil
  • "No company the size of Microsoft could plan and implement a mobile strategy, or devise and release a new product in the brief window of time just prior to journalists/bloggers receiving the leaks of products or roadmaps and consumers find the devices in their tech-hungry hands or see the manifestation of huge organizational shifts or strategies." This is what needs to change with Microsoft.  They can't keep playing this card every time Android or iPhone beats them to the punch.  Its tiring.
  • Also completely ignores the fact they weren't just fast enough, they completely swung and missed with RT and WP 8.
  • In the smartphone marketplace, Microsoft is simply not a visionary company.  They are constantly working on fixing what is broken today rather than looking out 3, 5, or 10 years from now.  I guarantee you that Apple's not currently working on the iPhone 7.  They've got iPhones 7 through 9 done and just sitting in a vault waiting to be released. (of course I don't know this, but to my point...)  Right now, they're working on stuff we don't even know we want or need.  That's how a visionary company operates and survives in the consumer electronics market. Windows Phone owners will never be satisfied with anything they release as long as things remain as they are.  You can see that clear as day if you've spent any time at all in the forums over the past 3 or 4 years.
  • The only thing visionary about Apple was Steve Jobs. Now without him they are still following his roadmap he left them extending the next few years. Once that runs out that will be the end of Apples vision. Keep in mind that the last time Apple was without Steve they were on the verge of bankruptcy until Bill Gates threw them a bone with Office for Mac and gave Steve the time and capital to turn NeXtStep into OSX and bring the company back to profitability.
  • Another great article by Jason.
    Well done!
  • @ia_win Thanks so much!
  • First off, articles like these are very much appreciated!!! Thank you!   The sad thing about Microsoft is, that they will never be able to claim "it just works". They advertise Cortana so much, that I begun thinking Windows 10 will be more or less Flop. Of course many Win 7 users will upgrade to 10 and new customers would rather buy 10 over 7/8, but the mobile division won't get a big change unless the new Flagship will have big features no other smartphone has. As the last few years showed, it is difficult to gain market share in the mobile segment with small innovations. Cortana may be an interesting App in the US, but let's be honest, here in Germany Cortana (Alpha) is not really usable. If I understood correctly, they need consumers use Cortana, sothat Cortana learns and improves with the data obtained. But when there is only a small amount of people in Germany who talk to Cortana, how slow can her improvements be? In Germany, Siri or Google Voice are far better than Cortana. So even the Android & IOS users won't use her. The only hope lies in Windows 10, but i'm very skeptical about that. What's worse, many countries don't even have the Alpha of Cortana in Windows 10. So how should they be happy about Windows 10, if a feature heavily advertised is not available for them?  In general, Microsoft is blind to see the people's desire for an os with the same features worldwide. I remember the very first Windows 8 keynote, where they were proud to announce a "nearby locations" button after a tap on search button. I never saw any of this.  The last thing I need to criticise is false promises. The Lumias are not camera phones! At least here in germany they seem to be by far worse than other companies. Every photo on 920,925, 830 (these were the ones I tested) in every light are kinda blurred (I don't know an english word for that). Just compare the sample Pics on gsm arena. There you see the difference between Iphone and Lumia, though Iphone takes them thrice as fast. But I give them (or Nokia) credit for the options given in the Lumia Apps!   For all the commentors, I like Windows & Windows Phone & i use both daily. So I'm really happy with Windows but that doesn't hold me off criticising them.    Thank you for reading! :) 
  • @Canjok Thank you go your support and your thoughtful input!
  • I just hope the new flagship phones r awesome, or its time for me to change.
  • Is everyone still going to hate Ballmer now? Lol
  • Not going to defend MSFT's past strategy but the author forgot to mention a very key part of MSFT's history that may have baring on its old business model. In the 1980s MSFT was sued and lost to the US Justice department for antitrust behavior of forcing IE as part of the Windows OS. MSFT afterwards created a siloed company to avoid the appearance of antitrust behavior among its many products. The resulting effect was a disconnected company that was not leveraging its assets effectively. MSFT appears to be less fearful of being sued because Apple & Google appears to have monopoly business practices that meet the US Justice Dept tacit approval, except for the exclusion of the EU's current investigations of Google & Apple's business practices. MSFT was being very cautious but now the sleeping giant has reawakened. Google, MSFT's real competitor, am sure is very nervous about the new MSFT.
  • @FunGuy13 Thank you fir your input!:-) When a company owns 90% of the computing desktop space, incorporating products as MS was punished, yes is certainly something to be careful not to repeat. MS is in such a disadvantaged position now where much of our computing is now mobile and MS is barely there yes they can go all out! As you say, the sleeping giant is awakened!!:-)
  • This was a lovely article! Can't wait for part 3. I really do wish Windows Central would do more editorial pieces.
  • Thanks Yanano! I appreciate that. We hear you. :-)
  • I agree Jason. After the antitrust settlement, outside of Office and Windows, it appeared that MSFT was afraid/reluctant of being too successful in cross selling its products.
  • Exactly.. Why can't be google sued for same. It attacked Vista saying you cannot change search engine from Live Search to Google.. Now same goes with Google on Android. Though you can add but its google everywhere! You cannot even remove google apps and if u want total google free environment there is no entry in play store! Google chrome is big elephant on desktop with 2- 4 services running by default and weather you open chrome or not!
  • There is the rub. Cortana needs to be available everywhere Windows is on launch. Period. When an app comes out for IOS, there will suddenly be more access on those devices than all of Windows phone and Windows. We saw it with Zune, to an extent we saw it with WP, and limited roll out of Surface. Why should hundreds of millions of customers be forced to wait?
  • This is a great article from Windows Central, I want more like this. I think the issue with messaging platform is that Microsoft purchased Skype and abandoned their Messenger which was popular in the 90's, 00's decade. Since 2010, Messenger is a dead product, and so is Skype as a messaging platform. I have tried to tell my friends and family to use Skype,but they don't like it since it does not work as good as Whatsapp, photos, videos, don't get attached, and this is not the app's problem, is the ISP which don't give a damn about Skype traffic and value much more traffic from Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and other popular apps.
  • Hangouts have taken over Skype.. It is built right into box and no need to make additional accounts your gmail just works! So people have shifted there... Ppl ask me u use hangouts I say no.. As there is no app and I hardly use google services. Skype all r forgotten names!
  • Skype is not what is used to be, Although MS might think otherwise. There are other services like Facebook messenger and WhatsApp that have taken over Skype and now more users are actively using them than skype.... Skype is only being used by people who were using it... Its not getting many new users as other apps/services are... Same with Cortana, MS thinks its the best thing since sliced bread... But only available in US/UK... They market their US only features everywhere... and disappoint users... The local scout in Wp8 never worked in Ireland... So does Cortana... I have to change my region to UK to experience it... and why does quite hours needs Cortana? They do stupid things and then wonder why WP hasn't taken off in a big way...Even Podcasts were only available in US untill WP8.1 was released....
  • So...what's new in nadella strategy?
  • Android/iOS compiler for Windows Phone. It sounds impossible, maybe but is a huge achievement that will bring big developers mobile apps to Windows Phone ecosystem (Facebook, Snapchat, Mozilla, Yahoo, many others and as well many important studios).
  • Nadella hasn't really been around long enough to put a lot of new things into affect. There are probably a lot of things in the pipeline.
  • I think MSFT are being disingenious: the diagram shows a lot of disconnects (where's the line from Xbox to Windows for instance?) and yet, on using the products, I feel connected enough. Am I as connected as on Google or Apple? Don't know and don't care. Could I be more connected (and hence productive) at work if they let me have WP instead of forcing me down a mixed (Windows and Apple) ecosystem route? Absolutely!
  • Cortana really isn't any different than Google Now. Both update interests abs provide weather and traffic updates. Neither Cortana nor Google Now provide a compelling reason to buy a particular device. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Great article. Great series.
  • @LeFreak Thanks so much!
  • So much infuriating babble and not a peep about what sense it could possibly make to have the "low end strategy" be "NOTHING BUT low end strategy". Would selling also a few high end phones somehow reduce total sales, or what? Insanity.
  • Love Microsoft. NR
  • The only reason Google and Apple is surviving coz they provide similar UI I.e desktop with grid of icons or say app launcher with grid of icons.. I asked my friend why he dislikes live tiles? He says why it comes ? Where is my desktop? How can i create shortcuts on desktop? Why tiles are flipping? Android provides same with home screen n ios has nothing but grid of icons. They forget WP home screen are not rocket science.. Same icons (tiles) which are bit smarter and can give info at glance! Other reason is Google services on Android and iOS. People get their familiar Gmail, google engine, YouTube so why switch? Ms must get equivalent services as google has refused to co-operate with there apps and get people using it.
  • You have to appreciate the irony of this article and the discussion around the disconnected nature of Microsoft compared to the cohesive strategy of Apple and Google.   It's ironic because the federal government spent years and billions of dollars to destroy the cohesive strategy Microsoft was building, years before Google existed and while Apple was trying to keep the the lights on.
  • Folks I think if Developers make Windows Apps AKA Universal Apps for Microsoft Surface Tablets and Microsoft's OEM Partners Tablets which are Popular the same app will run on a Windows mobile smartphone running windows 10. I hope that delvelpers are smart enough to realize that hundreds of millions of Windows 10 desktop PC's and laptops will be available to them to sell their apps in their Windows stores that will  be inside every brand new or old Desktop PC, Laptop or tablet running windows 10 and there will be hundreds of Millions of them. Every retailer selling new Windows 10 PC's and Laptops and Windows Tablets will make a potential customer to buy their apps in the windows store. some developers are going to make lots of money selling their apps in Windows 10 devices stores. Windows 10 smart phones which can run a Universal app wiil run appas that can run on other Windows computers will benefit from this by getting new apps 
  • The summary of the article is that Microsoft is integrating all it's different services with each other now, whereas Google and Apple have already done it long ago. Great strategy by Microsoft, but once again late to the party. And I don't get the articles point about Microsoft targeting low end customers. What has engagement with Cortana got anything to with targeting low end customers?
  • Honestly, you guys have to work on these articles. There is no proper flow to the article with ideas being jumbled and questions not being answered. For example, the article gives this particular question, "So the question is, how will Redmond engage users with some of its less, as compared to Cortana, proactive tools?" After this it proceeds to talk endlessly about strategy taking time and planning being done in advance etc but never actually answering the question itself. The articles point is quite incoherent, apparently the main point of the article according to the opening paragraph is addressing how Microsoft's is going to engage users using its low end strategy, and most of the article doesn't seem to address this at all. I usually enjoy reading articles analysing the current situation but this particular article really needs work.
  • Thanks for your input @pericle. I appreciate that you give thoughtful observations to the piece. I think I can help answer your questions. In your first comment you ask, What has engagement with Cortana have to do with targeting. low-end customers? Actually Microsoft's"targeting" of low end customers was the observation made in part I of this series, and part II we look at Microsoft's strategy in targeting low end consumers. This piece focused on "engaging" them now that you have them. How dies Microsoft draw them deeper into the device and ecosystem they were convinced to buy into? Tho was the focus of this piece. Of course that necessitated looking into some deep corporate shifts that would reposition the company to build a more cohesive ecosystem. The opening paragraph is where I shared this particular direction of the piece: "In this piece, we'll look at how Microsoft is addressing the challenge of engaging the millions of users acquired through its low-end strategy. We'll observe how Microsoft underwent massive but necessary internal changes. Changes initiated to reorganize the company around a vision of deeper team integration to create products representative of a synergy of Microsoft's diverse strengths. We'll ultimately see how these products are designed with user engagement in mind. This piece will reveal how Microsoft has laid the groundwork to engage users of it's mobile phone platform." Your next question, regarding a question you felt was not answered " So the question is, how will Refmond engage users with some of its less, as Compared to Cortana, proactive tools." I then deliberately introduced the section, "I Love it when a plan Comes Together" which draws on points introduced earlier in the piece regarding infrastructure change that repositioned the company. I then introduced three quotes by 3 high level Microsoft execs from 3 different periods of time spanning a couple of years each of which were making the same point. The first of which was broad and vague culminating with the last be Belfiore which gave very specific ways users would be engaged in windows 10, Start Screen, Cortana, Smart Suggestions etc. This laid the foundation for how MS is engaging users on the mobile as well. The paragraph just below Befiores quote helps with this point. As noted part four will take things a little deeper into how MS will attempt to engage mobile users. I'm glad you usually enjoy these pieces. Hope this helps.
  • Great article. However, please don't leave out CrApple evil way of practice, along with Google doing whatever they can to badmouth MS and make a mountain out of mold. These 2 comps, will not stop, to make MS look bad in ever evil way possible. Like paying off tech comp, to make absolute BS comts about MS/Windows, or post untrue comts in every site they can, by brainwashing people to think Windows and its prods are awful, and not worth getting them.,.....................and many more. Just look what happened to Win8/8.1 BS and untrue reviews, and due to that fact, how CrApple and Chromebook happen to sale like crazy. Huuuummm Do you see my point? CrApple and Google, will not stop backstabbing MS and its Win10 either. These 2 evil comp, did such a good job, hurting Win8/8.1 is not even funny. None of the crap i hear or read is true(i know, i had Win8 since day 1, and know everything about it, along with Win8.1). here Some of their BS comts posted around the web about Win8/8.1, and why they left MS/Windows for CrApple or Chromebook: 1. Windows 8/8.1 is the worst OS. No Desktop, No power button, No Start, No Media player,........ We now have CrApple MacCrap/Chromebook 2. I want everything to look and perform just like Win7, WinXP,..... but have different name.......We now have CrApple MacCrap, Chromebook 3. How can we play games on Tile Screen? ............We now have MacCrap or Chromebook now 4. What happen to the Start button? How can we access our prog/apps?.........We now have MacCrap or Chromebook 5. Windows gets viruses, and CrApple and chromebook does not ever get viruses or malware or gets hacked............ (SURE, yeah). We now have MacCrap or Chromebook 6. it takes so many clicks to power off now, with win7 only takes 2 clicks(it takes also 2 clicks on Win8/8.1, using """Windows Power Menu""").......We now have McCrap or Chromebook 7. Win7 and XP are so much better than Win8/8.1, i will never spent any money on this crap, instated I bought a $2000+ MacCrap, we have money for that, but not for MS huge price tag for this OS.(I paid $39.99 for Win8-PRO directly from MS, taking advantage of their 90 days promotion, and of course i got Win8.1-Pro upgrade for free. I guess $40 is a lot more than $2000+ to some people) 8. Who wants mobile OS on a desktop PC?..........We are no have CrApple or Chromebok 9. I don't have a touchscreen desktop PC MS, how am i suppose to use this touchscreen OS on my PC now?........We are now have MacCrap or Chromebook 10, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, .........LIES, LIES, LIES, LIES, LIES..........we are now have MacCRap or Chromebook.  Well you get the point. As long as CrApple is holding a HUGE dagger in MS's back, with Google's help, MS is going to have a hard time getting ahead and show the world they are the best, with 1000x more superior prods, that no CrApple or Google can match/touch. MS has to overcome all the LIes, BS, Misleading, Brainwashing, Backstabbing, trash talking...........CrApple and its "Paid Off Dogs", along with Google, are spreading false and BS Comts, Articles, Reviews, Posts, Comparison,.......anything and everything around, to make MS and its prods look bad.  Once MS overcome these huge obstacles, created by CrApple and Google, then MS can be back on top. I can guarantee there are people even here in WindowsCentral, working for CrApple and Google, just to post false info about MS and their prods. You can even go on to YouTube and you will find people made bunch of UNTRUE, total BS lies about Win8/8.1. Also you can go to Yahoo, CNET, CNBC,.........just about anywhere, there are CrApple's and Google's employees bashing on MS, pretending they are just normal users. Well these type of BS lies, has worked on some people enough for them to switch to CrApple and Android/Google prods. We all need to work together and help stop CrApple and Google's from spreding BS lies. By letting people know, MS prods are great and none of those lies are true. Evil CrApple must NOT win. I personally wil NEVER stop helping MS. 
  • What are you talking about... Please try to make sense... Its not all BS... otherwise MS fanboys would not be so critical of MS efforts... It has been too little too late since many years, especially on mobile... And with all the attention MS is giving to iOS/Android... WP is going to fall behind even more... WP is not part of their stratehy anymore... Its just an afterthought to show shareholders that MS is still in the game (but sitting on the benches)...
  • MS priority is always Windows, Xbox then WP. <-- at least I feel this way having owning the 3.
    I have a Win 10 Preview Laptop, Lumia 535 and an XBox One.
  • You got it wrong... Its iOS, Android, Windows, Xbox and then WP is time/resources remain...
  • Great article and series, Jason! Thank you :)  I can't wait for the next one!
  • @secher Thank you so much!
  • I think the strategy may make some sense, but the execution has been lacking. Here in the USA the market hasn't exactly been flooded with low-end devices. Sure you can find them if you search in an obscure aisle in WalMart where you might find a few Lumia 635 GoPhones and maybe even a T-Mobile one. That's it for the big box stores while there are huge displays for iPhones, Samsung, and the big carriers with tons of phones, but usually no Windows ones. Go into an AT&T or T-Mobile store and you'll have to hunt around to find the one or two lonely display models. The only reliable way to find the higher end models is Amazon or eBay, and often they are imports not meant for the USA market. So step 1 in the strategy was a failure. Step 2 is to apparently entice these few hardy souls who were able to find a Windows phone to get interested in the larger Windows ecosystem, but again try finding something like a Surface in the ordinary stores where most people shop--forget about it. I think Best Buy carries them, but I'm not sure because I don't go there very often. The prices are too high, the service terrible, and they have terrible stock levels--one broken one on display and none in stock, or all of them locked into a case and no demo. There aren't very many Microsoft stores, so that is out for most people. Sure, most of use Windows PCs at work and they are all running Windows 7 because 8 was so crappy, and you will hear nothing but grumbles from IT about the idea of using touch screens and/or Windows 10 being forced on them. The vast majority of stuff most people do at work (there are many exceptions that prove the rule) are email, spreadsheets, Google, other Office stuff, and maybe a few cloudy programs like Salesforce or Mail Chimp. In any case, this all works just peachy on every computer that is less than say 5 years old so there is no incentive to upgrade. Businesses just want equipment that is cheap and works. They don't care about using a stylus, or Hololens, or the new Edge browser. It's going to be a long time before W10 dominates the workplace, so the whole Continuum thing is interesting but it will be for consumers with newer equipment and phones that have not yet been made. Personally, I think where Apple and even Android are winning is in nearly continuous and gradual upgrades and improvements without abandoning the existing equipment and fans. I'm worried that with Windows 10 making a big leap forward they will orphan older phones (again!) and drive away that lower end market that apparently is such a big part of the strategy. The lower end doesn't go out and buy a newer lower-end to keep up with the cutting edge that they can't find, try out, or afford.
  • I have my flagship, my 1520. I dont care that its almost 2 years old. I dont need a better camera. Except for Bank of America, I dont need any apps I dont have. I'm switching to Ally bank soon, if BOA doesnt fix the app. I call BOA every few days, on speakerphone, while doing other crap, just to harrass them. I love OneDrive, and the fact that all my stuff appears on my home PC, and my tablet after it replicates down from the cloud. lookin forward to getting some developers back, after we all move to Windows 10! Microsoft will rise from the ashes in 2016! like a phoenix from the flames    
  • I look forward to reading your articles. I logged in just to say thank you for your articles. They provide a somewhat balanced viewpoint, although the emphasis is solely on Microsoft side.  It would be great to hear an account on the way the others (e.g. Google, Amazon, Apple, XiaoMi) goes about getting ppl to engage with their brand in terms of services or products, and contrasting with Microsoft's own efforts. What is the end play, 1 year; 2, 5, 10 years down the road for all these major tech firms..?
  • @cewe Thanks so much for that. And you are very welcome.:-) I think the methods of engagement employed by Google and Apple are certainly areas that are worth understanding and I'm sure MS has really delved into. They may have likely attempted to mimic what they have seen is successful in those platforms. The end play for these firms 1, 2, 5, 10 years...hmmmm....That could be fun to write about.:-)
  • The first part of developing a cure is acknoledging a problem exists.  As mentioned MS has had internal structure issues dating back a long time.  They ARE changing and that change is slowly bringing results.  WHen MS are as deeply integrated as the other two with lines communicating into both apple and google then we will see that MS is actually the best option.  They WILL get there, its only a matter of time, everyone with half a brain knows this.
  • You know, something that nobody is really talking much about is the fact that Microsoft may not want to do much in the 'device sales' department. Everyone clammers for a flagship... Everyone wants a follow up to the 1020... Everyone want's a new 1520... Here's a small news flash - nobody bought them when they came out - they won't buy an updated one either. Facts are facts... The quarters where MS gained US market share were the Q4's when the 520/521's and again with he low cost 530/635's. These budget friendly devices were snagged up by parents getting into smartphones, kids that destroyed their smartphone and anyone else that needed a non-contract/lower cost device. That's the market they are going after and that was the market they were winning. Now with the delay and confusion in their low end line, even I have problems deciding what to get. For example: Lumia 520 $55.98 (AT&T), Lumia 635 $46.24 (AT&T) and the Lumia 530 $47.91 (T-Mobile) ae all fighting for the same market space right now. The sub-$50 handset market is a mess right now, but ultimately, they missed an area in the US where they could have really made a huge impact... The MVNO's. The Straight Talks, Net10's and Simple Mobile's could have cleaned up by offering a sub $50 handset like the Lumias above, but Microsoft played with the big boys and left the little markets to Samsung, Alcatel and ZTE. It's really a shame that they didn't make a move into the MVNO space as they could have cleaned up with devices as strong and inexpensive as the Lumias. I've said it a few hundred times before this though, Microsoft needs to grow their ecosystem before they can grow their market share. If MS gets devs to port over their Apps and then gives users a 'free' license from the versions they have purchased from other platfoms, they will have a winner. Until then, I don't see many people flocking to Windows, whether that's Windows 10 Mobile, desktop or tablet. Phones have become too powerful and everyone else is already ahead of them in the game.
  • @waazzupppp Thanks for your input. You make some really good points.:-)