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Part II, Microsoft's aggressive push to rule personal computing: cross-platform clouds and alternate realities

If you're anything like me, that quote is familiar to you. It's the ominous warning of Star Trek's cybernetic hive mind-connected Borg, meant to communicate the hopelessness of escape to those the unrelenting race has determined to assimilate.

As I shared in in the first part of this extended editorial, though Microsoft is not a species-devouring cybernetic antagonist, the company ambition, and aggression equals that of the fictional Borg. In their passionate pursuit to rule personal computing the business has grown beyond the founding dream of putting a PC on every desk as Satya Nadella states here:

"When I joined the company in '92, it was about the PC in every home and on every desk. Guess what: We achieved that. And a company has to outlast any given technology paradigm and any ambitious goal."

The company's current manifestation is a firm pursuing the dominant position in the new of age personal computing. Microsoft has now become an aggressive advocate of Windows 10 as an all-encompassing form-factor agnostic platform as discussed in part one of this series. The firm is also positioned as an ever-growing provider of a cloud-based platform for individual and enterprise digital experiences. These shifts combined with Redmond's position as an aggressive provisioner of cross-platform mobile apps is Microsoft's ambitious positioning of itself as the "platform for platforms" upon which personal computing will occur.

About the company's pursuit to rule personal computing, Microsoft is making clear it's intent: Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

Windows and Beyond

Microsoft's goal with Windows 10 is to leverage its 1.5 billion PC install base to grow beyond the PC and to position Windows as a unified platform for every personal computing venue of the modern age. As such Windows 10 is Microsoft's tool to move the industry's dominant perception of personal computing from the "smartphone" to the unified platform that facilitates a user's digital experiences between devices.

Microsoft's aggressive efforts with Windows 10 are just a part of the company's strategy to position itself as the industry leader in personal computing. As a sponge submerged beneath the water is both surrounded by and filled with water, Microsoft via the cloud and pervasive cross-platform app development is seeking to engulf and fill rival platforms with Microsoft-branded cloud and work/personal productivity solutions.

From an individual user's personal computing needs to the breadth of a corporation's diverse processes, the cloud is the new frontier and Microsoft is staking its claim. Nadella had this to say{.nofollow} about Microsoft's cloud strategy:

"The combination of Azure and Windows Server makes us the only company with a public, private and hybrid cloud platform that can power modern business."

Microsoft's efforts to position itself as the complete cloud solution has seen the company partner with app makers such as John Gruber and Brent Simmons. They used Microsoft Azure as the backend for their mobile app Vesper on iOS. Redmond has also pushed commercial business (opens in new tab) customers to embrace Microsoft's cloud across Azure, Office 365 and CRM online.

Microsoft, through its cloud efforts, is steadily assimilating businesses and individuals into its personal computing ecosystem.

Silver lining

As the only company with a public, private and hybrid cloud platform, Microsoft has a strategic advantage over rivals like Google (ranked fourth in the cloud business after #3 IBM and #1 Amazon). As the number two player in the industry, Microsoft has seen tremendous growth in its cloud business thanks to its unique combination of offerings. Following is an excerpt of some highlights from Microsoft's Q2 results (opens in new tab):

Revenue in Intelligent Cloud grew 5% (up 11% in constant currency) to $6.3 billion.

  • Server products and cloud services revenue grew 10%
  • Azure revenue grew 140%, with revenue from Azure premium services growing nearly 3x year-over-year
  • Over one-third of the Fortune 500 have chosen our (Microsoft's) Enterprise Mobility solutions, up nearly 3x year-over-year.

Microsoft's cloud offerings encompass a range of services{.nofollow} such as cross-platform management of mobile devices, combining existing data centers with Microsoft's public cloud, third-party extensibility and much more. As Microsoft's cloud offerings continue to offer such diversity and value, the industry may concede that resistance is indeed futile.

Hitting the road

Microsoft's goal to be the platform wherever personal computing is taking place includes our vehicles. Consequently, as the automotive industry continues its trek to build connected, intelligent vehicles Microsoft has forged partnerships to ensure a unique and comprehensive presence. The following excerpt shares some highlights about Microsoft's partnerships with automakers (opens in new tab):

  • Volvo: Integrate Microsoft Band 2 with a Windows 10 smartphone and the Volvo on Call Universal App.
  • Harman: Integrate Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite capabilities into Harman infotainment systems. Drivers will be able to access Office 365 services and interact with them through intelligent personal assistant software to schedule meetings, hear and respond to important emails, and make Skype calls when in park, or when on the road in autonomous vehicles.
  • IAV: will use Windows 10 Continuum to stream Windows 10 via a mobile device directly to a car's dashboard, giving drivers access to Windows 10 features and apps such as Cortana, Skype for Business, Calendar, Outlook and Groove Music while the vehicle is in autonomous driving mode or parked.
  • Nissan Motor Company and Microsoft will announce that all Nissan LEAF and Infiniti models in Europe will have Connect Telematics Systems (CTS) powered by Microsoft Azure

Our strategy is to be the ultimate platform for all intelligent cars.

Microsoft's partnership with automakers sees the company not only bringing front-end productivity tasks to automobiles as those outlined above but also cloud-based services that make Microsoft's solution a broad platform for all intelligent connected cars. Microsoft articulated their position this way (opens in new tab):

They (automakers) are choosing Microsoft because we uniquely deliver end-to-end solutions from the cloud, to the device, to predictive analytics...Nobody else offers this breadth and depth to the auto industry… In the near future, the car will be connected to the Internet, as well as to other cars, your mobile phone and your home computer …The car becomes a companion and an assistant to your digital life. And so our strategy is to be the ultimate platform for all intelligent cars."

The advantage of Microsoft's solution over Apple's and Google's in-car solutions is that it is a broad platform play rather than a pitch for the dashboard. Microsoft's Peggy Johnson, VP of global business development at Microsoft summed it up this way (opens in new tab):

With this partner focus, we're able to leverage our cloud-based intelligence technologies, productivity services and tools, and even personal assistant technologies like Cortana in a neutral manner.

From the inside out

No strategy seems to ignite the ire of the Windows phone faithful as much as Microsoft's cross-platform endeavors. Over the years, we've seen apps such as Office, Bing, Skype, OneNote, Groove, SmartGlass, OfficeLens, Sway, SunRise, and even Cortana (can you think of any others?) either arrive exclusively or first on rival platforms or apparently receive better development than their Windows counterparts. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore recently stated the following in reference to Microsoft's cross-platform app development:

"Consumers and business users expect their PCs and phones to work in concert— so to satisfy our customers we need to consider the devices they use AS WELL AS the devices we'd like them to use. Furthermore, there's a lot of work happening at MS which integrates Windows PCs with iOS and Android devices…"

Microsoft's Windows 10 Companion app is the firm's tool to help users integrate the Window 10 experience with their mobile devices. As the Borg inject nanoprobes into those they seek to assimilate to initiate their transformation, Microsoft is injecting Microsoft apps into the ecosystems of those users they wish to assimilate. Consequently, a consumer using Microsoft apps on a rival platform is an active participant in Microsoft's ecosystem. Resistance is futile.

A consumer using Microsoft apps on a rival platform is an active participant in Microsoft's ecosystem.

Microsoft's aggressive push at a ubiquitous mobile presence with purchases such as Accompli, SunRise, and most recently SwiftKey, is a testimony of the company's aggressive push to rule personal computing and to be wherever the user is. As to why the "best on Windows experience" promised by Nadella is yet to come to fruition is open to speculation. The incompleteness and "developing" status of Windows 10 may have hindered the development of an optimal experience on Windows. Additionally, Microsoft's efforts to stand out on rival platforms littered with enticing first- and third-party alternatives to its cross-platform apps may have motivated the firm to ensure Microsoft's solutions ranked as an engaging choice there. Whatever the reason Satya Nadella, with his Microsoft-app-laden "iPhone Pro", sees the company's cross-platform apps efforts this way:

Apps will be designed as dual use with the intelligence to partition data between work and life...All of these apps will be explicitly engineered so anybody can find, try and then buy them in friction-free ways. They will be built for other ecosystems so as people move from device to device, so will their content and the richness of their services – it's one way we keep people, not devices, at the center.

Crossing the virtual divide

As Virtual Reality moves into the mainstream by way of market leaders such as Facebook with its Oculus Rift VR headset, Microsoft's gaming ecosystem and Windows 10 is moving with it. The Oculus Rift streams Xbox games, includes a Xbox controller and runs on Windows 10. Through key partnerships such as this, Microsoft is ensuring that it is the platform for personal computing, including new venues for gaming, wherever it is happening.

Moreover, the 34.05% of Steam users on Windows 10 is a nice compliment to this expanding Windows 10 gaming ecosystem which includes the millions of Xbox One users now running Windows 10.

Having mentioned Microsoft's partnership in virtual reality, it is only prudent to address their pioneering efforts in augmented/mixed reality. I shared in "What HoloLens means for Microsoft and the future of personal computing" that Microsoft is making a platform play for holographic computing. Since every Windows 10 build contains APIs for Windows Holographic (Microsoft's platform for holographic computing), Microsoft's aggressive Windows 10 push is seeding the industry for what it deems to be the next stage in personal computing.

Like the Surface inspired a range of 2-in-1s, HoloLens is an aspirational device designed for OEM partners to emulate. As such, a variety of wearable Windows 10 computers may eventually become the norm.

Given the pace of technologies advancement, with enough time, what is now a relatively bulky headset may give way to a more traditional eyewear form-factor. Consequently, personal computing via a wearable platform with the full power of a traditional PC and the communication features of current smartphones places Microsoft in an optimal position for what may be the next shift in mobile.

You will be assimilated

As the decades-long hegemony of Windows PC's made Microsoft's personal computing solution ubiquitous and virtually inescapable, the combination of Redmond's cloud efforts, cross-platform app offerings, and aggressive Windows 10 push will make it virtually impossible to escape Microsoft's presence in this new age of personal computing.

Regardless of a user's ecosystem of choice, Microsoft's, Apple's or Google's, the Microsoft Cloud, cross-platform apps or Windows 10 are likely part of most users personal computing experiences. Resistance is futile; because whether you realize it or not, you've probably already been assimilated.

Part I: Microsoft's aggressive push to rule personal computing: Windows 10

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!

  • Hey everyone! Thanks for reading! Hopefully you've read part one of this 2 part series. Combined with what we see here in part 2 we can see Microsoft is making a very comprehensive assault to rule personal computing. What are your thoughts? From an all out push to virtually force Windows 10 adoption and shift the industry's perception toward a broader view of a personal computing platform to an invasive and encompassing strategy to engulf and saturate platforms with Microsoft solutions, Microsoft is both aggressive and ambitious! What's on your minds? Let's talk!
  • As always good article from Jason.
    In my view cloud computing is the way forward. Although MS is well behind AWS as of now, it will keep closing the gap.
  • You definitely made some valid points, as always. Especially liked the concept that Microsoft needs to get their products on the platforms that people use before they can start to push their own platform. It's irritating being a Windows Mobile user right now, but keeping that fact in mind makes it a bit easier to wait.
  • Uh...that first picture is very nice! =D
  • Jason, given that your article covers the MS push into the automotive arena, perhaps you might have some insight into something...
    I'm an IT Manager and Windows Phone fan.  I switched our entire company 3 years ago to Windows Phone (60 of them) and have no regrets.  Almost. The problem is that my boss (the owner of the company) is a huge Ford fan, and all he will buy is Ford F-250 deisel trucks. He also outfits three other senior staffers with those trucks.  The problem comes in with Ford Sync, which is supposedly "Powered by Microsoft."  I'm having a hard time keeping my boss and fellow managers happy with Windows Phone becuase of so many issues getting them to work correctly and consistently with Sync.  I have personally updated all of their trucks, and the issues persist.  Meanwhile, the $140 Blaupunkt stereo in my Jeep (as well as the stereo in my wife's RAV4) has worked seemlessly and flawlessly with my Lumia 920, 1020, 830, and 640 devices.  And I've never had to update teh Blaupunkt since I bought it 3 years ago.  It works well most of the time with my 950, but there are a couple of minor hiccups here and there that I have written off to needed fine tuning of the OS and firmware.  But the Ford Sync users have all manner of issues.  Constantly.  Dropped calls.  No notoifciatiosn of incoming calls or texts. Cortana crashing. Cortana not reading incoming text messages or them not being able to respond once she's read them.  Etc, etc.  It's maddening. Do you have any info of what, if anything, MS is doing with Ford and Sync?  I heard a rumor that starting in 2017 Ford will be using and Android-bases system.  Just curious if you've heard anything through the grapevine.  Thanks for your time.
  • First of all Jason, i must commend you on the series. Very well written indeed. Moving to Microsoft, while i believe that they will achieve their goal of over 1 billion devices running on windows 10, i do believe they need a similar puts in the Internet of Things(IOT) area as well, the future is a highly connected world and Microsoft needs ti stay on top of it in order to have windows 10 as a true success. This needs to be a push in all sectors, from IOT devices to smartphones and wearables and car systems, while car systems have seen progress, in the wearables area, only the Microsoft band exists as a sports/smartwatch wearable, i think we need to see more offerings that work cross platform, that is MS greatest strength, even a person on android or is can be deeply integrated with MS services whether it be his home or his profession. I don't think on the consumer front, apps will be a problem in the future, most developers will embrace windows 10 as a unified solution but then again, apps like snapchat are primarily mobile based, hence no share of desktop downloads i think are gonna persuade them to the w10 mobile platform unless market share increases. Hence, its a careful line for MS in 2016, they need to see growth on all front even if some do much better than the others. Aggressive pushes in hololens should make it more consumer friendly, in regard to field of view, size and battery life. So i think it's going to be an interesting build conference and 2016 for Microsoft.
  • Good
  • Fantastic comment.
  • It would be a great success foe Microsoft if they get salesforce. They tried to buy them for 55 billion but Salesforce demanded 70 billion. I hope Satya is still behind Salesforce. Looking st Microsoft cloud business is doing so well they are became leaders in Business behind them surpassing Tableau. If they get salesforce they become the worlds biggest CRM and Business Intelligence company too. I hope they get to sales force in future.
  • No one will use MS built into a few cars if they won't use it's phones.
  • Whatever they do in cars, it will work with iOS and Android too.  It has to...
  • The band 2 works with all mobile operating system and they have partnered with Volvo,Nissan and few more. It would surely work on all operating systems.
  • MS been in BMW since early 2000, iDrive runs CE or some flavor of it.
  • Not true. Ford owners use Sync by Microsoft. Works quite well with W10M, iOS, Blackberry and even old Symbian devices from what I hear.
  • Do your research. MS has been in cars for about 10 years now. The concept of "connected cars" is newer than MS's involvement in cars
  • Consumers aren't interested in Office in their cars. They want something like CarPlay or Android Auto. Also, what is Microsoft doing about connected home devices? Posted from my Moto X Pure Edition via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Where did you get your statement from? Atm, im not sure if you are a troll. Prove your point at least. I would love to have office services built in my car. You know that office 365 offers more than word, excel, PowerPoint, etc. do you?
  • The average person does enough work outside of working hours and isn't interested in doing more work in the car. Office is for work or school, for the most part. It isn't something that people use for commuting, such as GPS navigation, or for entertainment, such as listening to music/audio books/podcasts. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Indeed. Microsoft's efforts are currently too much focused on the business segment, with consumers left behind. I'm not an economist, but I don't think this is the correct strategy in the long run.
  • Your average working stiff may not but they're not trying to push their Capitalist agendas and grow the company they work for either, not like their Bosses who would very much like to control their worlds from wherever they are like they were James Bond and have the info they need wherever they may how cool would it be to have Connected Yachts and run your Enterprise wherever you pleased? Don't think as a henchman, think as Dr. Evil ;p
  • I beg to differ, much of Satya's push has been towards cross platform use, this is clearly evident from the impressive no. Of apps on is and android MS has built and in some cases if not all, those apps are better than the w10 mobile counterparts. So my point, it would not matter what phone you use, cause all MS services would work across all platforms.
    P.s. I think phone share is very important as well.
  • Its good to build apps for other platforms but bad if u totally neglect your own platform. We aren't saying Microsoft must not make apps that for others keeping it exclusive for us. But also to make our own ecosystem filled with apps and better services. Imagine if a user uses Microsoft apps on platform and what next he would demand or expect from Microsoft? It maybe a new service or a device by them and that's what Microsoft should do. Their garage team is making experimenting with other platforms but how long on earth it would take those developers to make/port their apps on windows phone or Windows 10 mobile. As demonstrated by Microsoft it takes only 5 mins to port an app from ios and the garage team aren't even porting the apps which really belong to Microsoft.
  • Not only porting apps but using Xamarin and building apps to 3 platforms at same time.
  • Trouble is that when building Apps for other platforms, you have to compete with the other platform. And they could well hinder MS to do what they want to do, and they could well integrate own apps better, maybe even with some hardware linked things only the OEM could do (esp. in case of Apple). MS better focus at least as much on the own platforms, contrary to what they are doing now.
  • They have a split focus. Separate development teams. They should be developing apps and services for all platforms. More people in the world using MS apps and services the better. No matter what platform. This translates into more revenue for MS...which in turn turns into more great devices and services produced by MS
  • It should not be be just about revenue, making people use your platform is also important, even if they lose some money while doing this. After all, they are trying to get Windows 10 on all devices, so they should be promoting Windows 10 mobile too. Increasing the market share of Windows mobile is much more important than increasing the market share of their services.
  • It shouldn't be an excuse for them if it takes only 5 mins to port an app from ios.
  • Tell Microsoft to port their iOS apps first.
  • It takes a lot longer than 5 minutes, that video uses a cherry-picked app.
  • Lol where's skype on psn, nwf?
  • Now i understood "Why it is mobile first, cloud first"
  • Why is Microsoft's Bing app (among others) a thousand times better on Android and iOS than on WP?  Please, explain that to me.  
  • Explanation can be given only by Satya Nadella and no one else.
  • The guy is a scumbag, that's my explanation
  • I don't recall, isn't Bing baked into the OS? I think it should become an app like Groove, so that it can be updated via the store.
  • He's talking about this:
  • Yep... what a joke.  I was a diehard Microsoft fan until this.
  • What Bing app are you referring to? Does an "app" exist on WP?
  • ios/android Bing app.... courtesy of Microsoft... experts in ios/android apps, amateurs/part-time specialists of WP. 
  • Good question. All these Satya Naella sympathizers avoid answering this question.
  • Apparently we forgot how to spell "aggressive" between parts 1 and 2. But the comment widget on Windows Central is still dropping characters left and right.  I think the drops and pauses come while you are servicing the 8 billion ads on each page.  At least some things are consistent.
  • And now we are bashing on WC and how their website performs and functions lol
  • LOL I'd rather have tons of adverts and a paid app than all the "advertisments as news" that are popping up lately!
  • Let me be evil for once... if they made the calendar app reminders working properly it would be a good start :P (I know last update should have fixed it, it didn't for me...) . If you can't get a da*ned calendar app right I wonder how far you can go with all these great plans...
  • Great article Jason and look like you included Paul's cat in the photo. Hehehe. But to answer your question Microsoft has always been at the front of it all. IOS use more cloud services than you think. It was built on Microsoft Azure. Android development was built on Windows Mobile CE.x touch technology which was pioneered by Microsoft with Bill Gates on stages at the early CES events and even then Microsoft was seen as a being ahead of its time but they have never stopped. Microsoft has been everywhere for long than you think. They have already achieved what nobody else has done because everything goes back to Microsoft. Apps technologies is constantly changing. Bing app is one thing but a windows phone, Bing is the phone and don't need the app. Bing/windows mobile(phone) works together and is one so no app is needed. Look at your start screen bringing what matters to you the most with tile technology. You have Cortana that is always working to assist you in your daily life from reminders, groceries, translations, tracking, forecasts for weather, sports, finance and other things that you wanted. Believe it or not Microsoft has come a long ways to making sure that everything is constantly getting better. Now IOS and Android app developer now have tools to work with to get more apps to the ecosystem. Stop trying to bash a company that is already ahead of doing things and doing what no other company is doing and that making things happen because I can say I do see it and I like it. Talk to developer and not bashing them makes a difference. Demanding things on your terms may not work for the user in front or behind you.
  • I want that picture for my desktop
  • I want it also  
  • Here you go guys. :)!146457&authkey=!A...
  • Now to take this image to a company that can turn it into real wall paper (About$US 200 - $300 or so ..... I've done this before with other  hi-res images)! for behind my CIC (Command Information Control) center! Thanks for the Picture!
  • Yo, gaming... half the Games for Windows games I own are not working on W10 because of DRM rubbish. And a couple of no-name car makers choose MSFT, while the adults support CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • #NinjaKittyMonkeyBaby
  • You know, I'm still thinking this Borg analogy may be more liability than asset (unless you're just talking about some Swedish guy). Now may be a time to draw a good distinction between wanting Windows to be a solid, stable, established and enticing platform in all spheres.....and becoming sooooo dominant on the market that it squeezes out or even subsumes the others. I actually DON'T want Windows to become THAT kind of successful. That only sounds ever so slightly less dystopian and draconian than a world similarly ruled by "that one fruit company". I relish the tech world that has multiple platforms that are all significant, successful, with give and take advantages and disadvantages. There's a certain stage in competition where the opposition is "worth more alive than dead", where they are "frenemies" rather than just "enemies" and that's precisely where I want the industry to be. I feel that at the moment, Windows has to rise a bit before we have that perfectly.....but I don't want them to rise so far where they transcend that and become too dominant. That's it perfectly: I don't want ANYBODY to be "too dominant"... ....otherwise, I love and agree with everything else. A great article, sir - as always! Cheers!