Microsoft has everything it needs to succeed with consumers, except follow-through
A litany of canceled products and a CEO's admission of abandoning consumers presents little hope that Microsoft could ever thrive in the consumer space.
The contrasting irony to Microsoft's history of failed consumer products is that the company has virtually everything it needs to succeed in the consumer space.
A baker can have a killer cake recipe, but without follow-through, the recipe is nothing more than an unfulfilled plan and promising idea. He may possess and may even proceed to mix the required ingredients in precise accordance with the recipe. He may pour that perfect mixture into an appropriately greased cake dish and may have also preheated the oven to the correct temperature for the exact length of time the recipe requires. But if he fails to follow through putting that pan into the oven, nothing more will come of it. He will forever possess a mixture that has the potential to become a cake.
Microsoft has created a promising mixture of consumer technology throughout its history. Sadly, the company doesn't seem to have the fire for the consumer space its rivals have. Consequently, the company appears to be in a perpetual cycle of talking about its recipes, letting us taste the batter but never applying the heat to make the products a consumer success. For companies to succeed in the consumer space, they must often be innovative, require massive financial resources for marketing, broad distribution channels and partnerships, and a strong and recognized brand. Microsoft has all of this; what it lacks is follow-through.
Microsoft CEO admits repeatedly abandoning consumers was a mistake
Microsoft is innovative
Windows 10 Fall Creators Update expands the Mixed Reality platform to span immersive VR and AR holograms.
Microsoft is a company with a history of pushing boundaries and making early investments in tech before it becomes "conventional wisdom." CEO Satya Nadella made this point in a recent GeekWire interview.
He admitted the company's investments in AI and mixed reality began under the tenure of his predecessors. Thus, Microsoft's 2015 introduction of its Mixed Reality strategy via the hardware, HoloLens, and platform, Windows Mixed Reality, was based on years of previous investment.
Until recently, the tech media has been more enamored with HoloLens than the holographic computing platform play Microsoft began executing in 2015. Sadly, Microsoft has been equally reserved with its messaging about holographic computing which will potentially affect the consumer and enterprise spaces. Windows Holographic API's are part of Windows 10, but relatively few developers have created WIndows holographic apps. Now with Apple's and Google's smartphone-focused ARKit and ARCore respectively, the stories around Microsoft's AR efforts are more often than not, about how they will be overshadowed by the competition in the consumer space.
Even without a consumer-focused HoloLens, Microsoft must market AR sooner than later
Far too often Microsoft sleeps its lead away
This is a familiar story. Microsoft was present on tablets and smartphones long before Apple and Google entered the fray. The current state of mobile doesn't reflect that head start, however. AI, machine learning, natural language procession and deep neural networks are also areas Microsoft has a strong history.
But other digital assistants built on that, and similar tech have established mindshare in the consumer space that Microsoft, even with 500 million Cortana-equipped Window 10 PCs is still struggling to achieve.
Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, Apple's Siri and Samsung's Bixby's (with its leap to consumer appliances via Viv technology) will all likely overshadow Microsoft's Cortana in the consumer space long into the future. The Cortana-powered Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker follows Microsoft's Johnny-come-lately tradition which brought Cortana to smartphones after Siri and Google Now were established and familiar stalwarts on mobile.
Bill Gate's and Steve Ballmer paved the way for Nadella's AI and bots
Marketing, marketing, marketing
As a company valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars, Microsoft has enough capital to push any of its consumer efforts for the long haul. Consistent Windows 10 television ads are encouraging evidence that Microsoft can commit to aggressive marketing akin to what rivals Apple and Samsung execute. The company is more espoused to a marketing strategy that leans on marketing one product via the use of another per Corporate Marketing Officer Chris Capossela, however.
Capossela acknowledges that as one of the world's most recognized brands focusing marketing dollars on acquiring customers is not Microsoft's strategy. He supported this argument with the fact that a simple announcement of the availability of Office for iOS and Android resulted in millions of downloads. That works for a known Microsoft branded product, but what about less visible products like Windows phones, HoloLens and augmented reality (AR) or Mixed Reality headsets?
Even without consumer-focused HoloLens, Microsoft must market AR sooner than later
With Mixed Reality is Microsoft changing its ways?
Under the leadership of Elizabeth Hamren, Microsoft has invested in an aggressive marketing strategy to promote its partners Mixed Reality headsets, and the company's mixed reality vision. It will be interesting to see just how aggressive and persistent these marketing efforts will be given Microsoft's history.
Will Microsoft have the stamina to push the products and technology long enough to establish mindshare and demand? Or will it abandon its efforts if results are not as immediate as desired? Sadly, Nadella has confessed to abandoning committed customers to pursue "the new shiny object." Let's hope nothing shines brighter than the still unproven area of Mixed Reality.
Fortunately, Microsoft has the partnership infrastructure to help it succeed. Though different products, like smartphones via carriers, face different distribution challenges, phone hardware requirements, lateness to the consumer space and limited marketing support contributed to Microsoft's failure in phones. Hopefully, Microsoft has learned from its mistakes.
So busy providing tools, Microsoft isn't using its resources
Ambient computing among consumers supported by AI, IoT and smart appliances are the future and Microsoft is virtually absent in that space. The company has failed to apply the required drive to consumer-facing products to establish its brand.
Microsoft's vision to provide the tools others use to create technology may be a double-edged sword severing it from the consumer market. Because the company's focus is "being a platform" it invests insufficient resources in its consumer products.
Sadly the company repeatedly steps into a consumer space with great products that excite core users, like Zune and Groove for music, Microsoft Band for wearables and Windows phone for mobile, but ultimately fails to deliver marketing to truly hit the mainstream. Those who embrace Microsoft products often love them. Microsoft doesn't have the fire, focus or passion for making these products more than a great mix of technology for a niche market, however. As insufficiently supported products they eventually die as self-fulfilling prophecies that achieved little consumer notoriety.
Rather than a hyper-focus on providing the tools others use to create technology, Microsoft should lead by example through demonstrating its use of its resources to develop, position, market and deliver on excellent consumer technology.
Microsoft has what it takes to be the platform company it strives to be and the consumer company it needs to be if it would only follow-through.
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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!
With Ballmer still in office noone would've suspected them to leave core or marquee product. Windows Mobile might have lost them money, but sometimes you gotta lose money to keep a relationship alive. I think it's almost impossible to quantify the loss in trust among consumers and developers Microsoft imbued upon themselves by abandoning Windows Mobile in money. More and more often I read that the current CEO has been pressured to these actions by activist shareholder groups. If that's right, he's an unbelievably weak CEO.
By the way: This marks the first time I have to agree with Jason Ward. Strange things happen all the time...
All these cheap Lumia phones was a extremely big mistake. Instead they needed two high end devices, devises for enterprise and consumers.
They only needed these high end devices / a Surface phone /and this way put everything together in ONE. What people want, is a completely system, all in ONE hanging together, Surface all the way.
Believe me, they will loose a lot of customers, even they try to make the software for Android and Apple. It was a big mistake to kick all consumers away, we are all consumers, also the people in big enterprises.
The next problem for Microsoft, everything take years, and the high tech train is running fast, but Microsoft can follow the speed.
Who want buy a device from Microsoft, less and less people, we know they will drop us tomorrow, and we stay alone back with Android or Apple.
The last thing, these devices starts to be much to expensive, and when you cant trust Microsoft as a partner and stable supplier, you choose different suppliers from beginning - Android or Apple.
Monday we will order 4 new Samsung 8 Note, as a beginning.
One of them will buy Microsoft, only because of the software, just wait few years.
For our self, we will in the future change everything - Android and Samsung, it works well. Huawei could be another player, but I think Samsung is a good choice, they develop fast and make top devices. Goodbye to all Surface, Xbox and Windows devices from here.
Nadella was a huge mistake. Let us get Balmer back, quick.
And with Nadella the shares will soon go to half, it will run like a big fire when it starts, just wait and look at it. People who is a little bit smart will sell all shares - asap.
His management is on the short terms, not what they need, on the long run.
Best regards from a very loyal supporter for 20 years, but sometime enough is enough.
Yes, it's like that. The only reason I come here is to talk about MS/Windows related topics.. Your unwanted advances have nothing to do with MS, Windows, or anything most men here care to talk about.
It doesn't matter what you type, I'm not reading that BS, because it's offensive, and harassing. Just stop, dude/girl. IDK what you go by, and I don't really care. I do know that I'm not interested in your "offers" so quit offering.
Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you, Not interested in dating you....... Damn, I feel like Bart F-in Simpsons over here, and you're the one who should have to stay after class, and write "I will leave Rodney alone because he is not interested in me"...
Yes, you write that on the chalkboard 300 times until it finally sinks into your ten foot thick head. Damn kid; what's wrong with you?
Because, they won't..... They won't ever give you what we all know you want...... Are, you in denial?
Think about it. Have you gotten an argument from me? I couldn't. I have no idea what you write. I just assume it's some BS about you trying to hookup with me because you keep coming back even after I told you I'm not interested at all in your advances.... Only a "man like you" would keep trying. A desperate man... So, just save your time, and stop.. Just stop man. Nobody here likes you, or cares about what you have to say. Nobody cares. Nobody cares, poor lost boy.
As for creating new categories, I agree that they have to do it, but I think we're exaggerating - if you put the Surface brand on a product, it does not mean it will also be automatically successful. I do not know exactly what the numbers are, but did Surface Pro surpass the Macbook on sales?
They never do this then any traction drops off after the initial unveil or launch and they eventually give up.
Why do want to buy any Ms product anymore after all my favourite products have been ditched.. Zine, Ms Band, Windows Mobile/Phone ,even my Surface RT among others. Not only are they not following through to generate new customers they are pushing loyal customers away from their products and once gone they may never come back.
One thing I've found very unpleasant and not encouraging customers to start an emotional engagement with Microsoft (and its brand) its the disparity with whom it treats various markets around the globe.
I mean, in Italy Surface Book and Surface Studio never arrived in stores (and we still doesn't know if the Studio will be sold here, I suppose not).
You had to buy them imported from other countries or from Amazon Italy (Amazon surprises me every time)
There's no official italian technical support, but Microsoft offers warranty and support outside Italy (Germany for example).
This is a very bad customer experience. We feel like we're importing something illegal in our country and we have to do some tricks to get the product in our hands.
It feels like Microsoft doesn't believe in customers of a specific country, which causes in return disaffection to the brand.
Plus its marketing (almost non-existant in Italy) and commercial politics are often susceptible to sudden changes, often going in one direction (which customers doesn't like) and then they came back on their footsteps.
This causes confusion and lot of mixed feelings in customers.
And this feelings are often anger!
Of course I apreciate when a big company like Microsoft rethink about its own decision, but I'm a IT enthusiast and my patience is bigger than average customer. I really liked to have a physical Microsoft store here in my country.
Of course what I've stated above can be adapted to other countries where Microsoft decided not to be present as it should be to guarantee its success in terms of customer engagement with the brand. Actually I really like Microsoft products and I own a SB, SP1, and various desktop PCs with W10 FCU.
But my engagement as customer isn't endless and could end soon or later. Sorry for any errors, but english isn't my primary language :)