Apple and Android have established themselves in the personal business space and they have taken advantage of killer alps being developed by all sorts of people. Even this post, written from 30,000 feet above West Virginia on my Android phone is the result of a well written WordPress App. Microsoft tried to be just another maker of phones that do exactly what Apple and Android do (provide an OS for app makers to go crazy) and they’re quickly finding out that people (especially the ones that write the apps and already whine about producing two different versions) don’t need a third option.
So, should Microsoft just get out of mobile? Absolutely not. Its simply too big a part of the future to not have a horse in the race. Its probably as simple as if Office 365 and Windows Mobile don’t work out, Microsoft is a much much smaller company, possibly even an acquisition target in 10-15 years. Microsoft has no choice but to try to find a play here.
To me, that play is a simple one. Buy Blackberry, make a kick-ass mobile version of Office (available only on windows phones/tablets) and invest heavily in HTML5. I think such a play, executed properly could result in being in a position to acquire Android in 10 to 15 years instead of being irrelevant. Here’s how:
First, I will tell you a secret. As nerds, most enterprise IT guys love their smart phones. As professional security worriers, productivity enhancers and support personnel they are less than thrilled. Even people who know how to use Android and Apple well struggle with using them effectively for work. Sure email is reasonably good (though less secure than your IT staff would like) on either platform, but have you tried editing an excel sheet or visio? What about note taking in something like OneNote that syncs well to your laptop? Even on tablets with larger screens this is tricky. So what productivity gains incent your IT staff to put ups with the security and user experience/support nightmares that rolling out either of these platforms entails? In most cases the answer is “not enough.” Some IT shops begrudgingly support one or both if you already have the hardware, others force you to have a blackberry for security reasons and almost no one is actively encouraging an android or apple phone or tablet. If Microsoft began producing phones and tablets with greater potential productivity (from better versions of office) and better security (from a RIM acquisition) and the simple user interface they’ve already achieved in Windows Mobile then they wouldn’t need a marketing department; enterprise it shops the world over would actively push all of their users on to the phones as best they could and clamp down on apple and android at the same time (since they now have a viable alternative).
This would give them a firm foothold without even having to worry about attracting apps to the platform. A large user base would attract some. Especially productivity-based apps like dropbox. However I have said on this blog before that HTML5 will eventually replace apps, and I think a third viable smartphone would likely be the straw that breaks the camels back there. Many companies just don’t have the resources to support three platforms and will move to browser based apps.
If/when that happens Microsoft goes from the weakest player in the game to the strongest because they are the only ones with a natural customer base (unless you argue apple’s tunes customers… but that’s another discussion)
What do you guys think? Did I miss something or did Microsoft?