There was a time in modern history when our wallets were the most personal objects that most people carried with them. Its highly personal nature as the vessel that contains access to our identities and finances has earned it that position. Losing a wallet provokes an all too familiar feeling of dread that is rivaled only by the loss of what is arguably an even more personal object – our smartphones.
Smartphones are the most personal objects we carry.
Smartphones have been exalted to a position in our lives as more than things that we carry to extensions of who we are. They are our portal to connecting with friends and loved ones, our address books, banking tools and the gateway to our personal photo albums.
Our phones meticulously chronicle all of our interactions in text and photos and videos. They track our locations and ease our anxiety by helping us find our way in the most unfamiliar of environments.
Smartphones are our go-to distraction in uncomfortable situations when we prefer not to interact with others or when we don't know what else do. They are our gaming system, our portal to the internet and every now and then, they are our phone.
These and many other highly personal aspects of these "extra appendages" make Microsoft's decision to focus its mobile OS, Windows 10 Mobile, entirely on the enterprise problematic.
All business Microsoft? Really?
"We have a special position in the mobile today, focusing on the company, but we are working on the next big thing…"During this time of transition, our attention will focus on the professional market."
Microsoft is seeking protection for its mobile platform solely within the boundaries of the impersonal environment of the enterprise. This strategy, which removes the OS from the consumer space and potentially a priority focus of development of more personal attributes, may see it wither under the shadow of the professional environment.
The inherently personal nature of mobile computing beckons for [duo-user](http:// /microsoft-and-duo-user-hey-consumers-microsoft-designing-phone-you) integration within a person's life. Microsoft must have a consumer play at some point, and for that to succeed visibility of the platform, I assert, is critical even now. Microsoft, it's personal.
Microsoft, it's not business as usual
Microsoft achieved 90% PC market share among consumers and businesses by employing a strategy where the firm targeted the enterprise with Windows and other Microsoft products and services. Employees loved it. Like warm air flowing out of an open door, this resulted in the dissemination of Windows PCs "from the office" to hundreds of millions of homes with the help of manufacturing partners. Unfortunately, this strategy cannot be replicated with an enterprise-focused Windows Mobile. Here's why:
The consumer-facing personal computing void that Windows PCs filled as they trickled from businesses into homes has no parallel in the current personal computing paradigm. There is no void. The smartphone consumer space is filled – literally saturated - with iPhones and Android phones.
Moreover, Google/Samsung and Apple are aggressively pushing their platforms, which have overrun the consumer space, into the enterprise. Ironically, Microsoft's broad platform approach welcomes these devices into its enterprise-entrenched IT infrastructure with device management systems like Intune. Furthermore, this migration of consumer-friendly devices into the enterprise has resulted in over 90% of Fortune 500 companies adopting the iPhone.
Rivals are pushing their consumer dominance into the enterprise.
Moreover, Apple's bold ambitions to be a dominant force in the enterprise has even resulted in the Cupertino company forging a partnership with enterprise giant IBM. This union sees Big Blue and Cupertino building custom enterprise solutions for iOS.
Furthermore, in conjunction with nearly 100% of the consumer space being dominated by iOS and Android, "81 percent of businesses have or are planning on implementing a BYOD policy". Needless to say, that means hordes of iPhone and Android phone toting consumers are also iPhone and Android phone toting professionals once they bring their phones to work.
Ironically, their iPhones and Android phones have usurped Microsoft's mantra and they are serving the duo user. (Though for some IT managers this iPhone and Android colonization of a Microsoft environment can be a headache.) Sadly, this leaves Microsoft's mobile offering, which has conceded the consumer space, barely serving any type of user.
Microsoft, it's about consumers, and it's personal
Given that Microsoft dominates the enterprise IT infrastructure one would assume that Windows Mobile would be the ideal fit for most companies and their employees. And for some it is. But as a rule, the rapid evolution of the smartphone has left little room for Windows Mobile even in the enterprise. This might not be the case if the current mobile computing paradigm had its beginning in the enterprise.
The advent of the iPhone in 2007, however, as a consumer product introduced a unique paradigm, set the tone for user's experiences and established a direction for mobile personal computing as a platform upon which both iOS and Android have capitalized. It's personal.
Microsoft must recognize that the personal computing paradigm is now in reverse.
Personal computing as part of the current smartphone paradigm began as a distinct consumer experience. As it grew in adoption and dominance, it became more integrated into users lives. The smartphone eventually became the most personal device individuals carry and ultimately evolved into an indispensable extension of most users. It became essential as it helped and continues to help people get things done in their personal lives.
Microsoft, our smartphones are making business personal
This "extra appendage" eventually accompanied users to their professional environments and became a tool that helps them get things done there as well. The smartphone, as "part of the person", is helping them do things as professionals (often with Microsoft apps). These professionals are people or consumers first. They are duo users.
Furthermore, Apple and Google are actively working to make these highly personal devices that are already integrated into users lives more capable enterprise tools.
Microsoft must recognize that the personal computing paradigm is now reversed. Redmond's objective is not to appeal to consumers who want the tools they use at work in their homes like in the PC days of old. As they focus on enterprise users, Microsoft needs to figure out how to appeal to the consumer within the professional rather than the professional as a professional.
Microsoft must appeal to the consumer within the professional.
They must unravel, at least to some degree, a user's entanglement with their personal device and appeal to their "personal side" with their own mobile offering. This is a difficult feat for sure, but a necessary objective nonetheless.
This challenge is yet another reason why silence in the consumer space is not an option.
Microsoft, did you ask?
During Microsoft's Ignite 2016 conference the company identified Office 365 and OneDrive for business, Continuum, Cortana for work and apps built for the Universal Windows Platform as key to a more personal mobile experience.
These tools indeed have merit and build a foundation for a holistic personal computing experience. One is left wondering, however, if Microsoft solicited feedback from developers and consumers (in line with thier customer obsession ethos) as to what they consider to be a more personal experience. The success of Microsoft's mobile strategy rests upon them after all.
Microsoft, you can't shoehorn a personal experience
Consider this: If an employee is mandated to use a company issued Windows phone, he will likely accept it begrudgingly as he compares it to his personal phone that holds the keys to his digital life. Many users want their phones to act as a central hub to the things they do in life.
So as more things are added to their "digital turf," more often than not, they want their personal phones to incorporate those new territories. Thus, if a job requires the use of a smartphone, many users (though certainly not all) prefer to carry one device – their device.
In the scenarios where Microsoft succeeds in getting a Windows phone into the hands of professionals, there will certainly be a curiosity as to the merits of this "strange" device with dynamic Live Tiles. There may even be an appreciation of the unique UI and experience.
The enterprise is not a personal environment.
However, after that curiosity is satisfied, the ego-centric part of a user's human nature will kick in in defense of the "superior" (as they perceive it to be) and personal device that is central to that person's digital life. This will invariably lead to more pragmatic comparisons where the quality and quantity app gap will inevitably surface. With the current state of Windows Mobile and the shortage of some popular, business and transportation apps this company-issued phone will be found incapable of doing all of what the user wants it to do; which is likely virtually everything his personal phone can do.
The position of the user's personal phone will be reinforced as pride in the victory it — this extension of himself — will have won over this "other" device that dared threaten its position – even if just in the mind of the user. Without the supporting ecosystem, even the high-end HP Elite x3 3-in-1 can suffer this fate. Take note, the collaborative research that HP and Microsoft conducted to bring the Elite x3 to market was focused on the needs of businesses. It wasn't personal.
Thus, developers are essential to the ecosystem to help bring the app, and future AI and bots, experiences to a platform that make a smartphone personal. With Windows Mobile's definitive "enterprise-only" play, however, consumer-focused developers are less likely to see value in developing for the platform. The enterprise is not a personal environment. Sadly, this may inevitably impact Microsoft's future mobile ambitions.
Microsoft, even a benched player wears a jersey
In basketball, there are times when individual players "ride the pine." While benched these players are still as much a part of the team as those who are actively running the ball. Though they are not participating at the time, they still wear their uniform and are visible to the audience as players. When the coach calls them to enter or re-enter the game, onlookers see a familiar player who never left the court, rejoin the competition.
By focusing Windows Mobile on the enterprise Microsoft has effectively removed Windows Mobile from the court and sent it to the locker room where consumers can't see it. As a result, many won't even know that Microsoft has a player in the game. A more effective strategy as they await and facilitate the anticipated paradigm shift may be to keep the platform visible to consumers, but "benched." By including Windows mobile subtly in the current Windows 10 ad campaign (as strategic "product placements") Microsoft can communicate to consumers that Windows Mobile is benched but still a player. This strategy keeps Windows Mobile in the consumer consciousness and thereby maintains mindshare.
This strategy keeps Windows Mobile in consumers consciousness
When the paradigm shift occurs and Microsoft's supporting ecosystem is in place, Redmond can then present rather than introduce Windows Mobile on a category-defining device. A Surface phone perhaps. This strategy allows Redmond to forego the challenge of reintroducing itself in a space that would otherwise see it as a new platform in several years.
Rather than having to reach to consumers with a "look we have a mobile platform too" appeal in the face of a more deeply entrenched iOS and Android user base, Redmond would have the benefit of presenting a "look at our mobile platform on this form factor" appeal instead. Maintaining visibility in the consumer space allows this approach and is strategically important as the ecosystem evolves to support a potential category defining device.
What are your thoughts? Sound off in comments, forums and on Twitter! Also, if you agree that smartphones are inherently personal share this piece on Twitter @JLTechWord (and anyone else you'd like to tag) and Facebook with the hashtag #SmartPhonesArePersonal!
- Part I: Out of sight, out of mind
- Part II: The key to ecosystem success
- Part III: A phone in the hand or a phone that is planned?
- Windows phone isn't dead
- Smartphones are dead
- The untold app gap story
- AIs, Bots and Canvases
- Microsoft and the duo user
- The Surface Phone
- Help my wife wants to switch from Windows phone to Android
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