Hello Mr. Ballmer,
This is an open letter, obviously, addressed to you in the hopes of helping guide some aspect of Microsoft that I believe will allow it to regain the luster that it recently lost in the past few years. I do want to acknowledge that under your reign, Microsoft has turned in an insane amount of profit, quarter after quarter. From a business/profit driven standpoint, you guys have it made, and the momentum created on your Windows/Office apps will continue to push your company forward for another decade easily.
The topic of discussion here is what I would call a suggestion, rather than a list of demands that needs to be met in order to gain some semblance of mind-share with the general public.
First a background to allow you quickly to assess my understanding of the current market, in respect to your phone and slate/tablet model (PST), we both know that the current 2 power houses (for ‘modern’ smart-phones) are Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android (Blackberry OS and others aren’t included). Although they both use a different business model (Apple = vertical integration (premium over market share), Google = horizon integration (market share over premium), Microsoft’s business model is more aligned with Google (horizon integration and Market Share over Premium) with the sole exception, you guys plan on charging for the OS rather than giving it away for free. That’s basically an extremely superficial view of the smart-phone market right now, but done for the sake of keeping this letter short.
I would suggest that you do not compete with iOS nor Android by playing their game, but creating your own. I do not necessarily mean “create your own mobile OS” for the PST device, that would be actually competing, using the same game plan, with iOS and Android on a battlefront that they’re heavily entrenched in, and there’s simply no way Microsoft can encroach upon their market, other than to create a separate third Mobile OS, in which your team has already done, but to leverage what you currently have by sticking to the philosophy that you will be using “Windows” for your tablet.
You have an incredibly piece of amazing OS called Windows 7 which I believe could be leveraged to fit the phone and tablet market. Now before you start saying “Well, aren’t you going to suggest the same strategy that Apple used, which is to strip the MacOS X to its bare essentials, and shoehorning it onto portable devices?” Actually no, I’m not suggesting that at all, hence that’s whereas lays the rub. I’m suggesting something radically different.
Are you ready for it?
Yup. Widgets. You see it with Yahoo Widgets, Apple Dashboard, and so forth. Now, I’m not just referring to Web Widgets (that should be taken into consideration as well) but the ones that can hook into the actual hardware itself, rather than being limited by the browser.
Pro 1: If you create an eco-system built upon the Widget system. You could easily transfer the “application” from the phone to the slate/table, and ultimately the Desktop and Xbox. It creates a huge value that even Android and iOS can’t even begin to touch. Imagine being able to purchase a software only once, and have it run on all devices that run the Windows OS. Apple iApps only works on iPhones and iPad, but not their Desktop, and Google Android apps have the same limitation.
Pro 2: Widgets are easy to develop for. Yahoo already does it. Apple already does it. Google already does it. Everybody does it. Pick a good language that leverages the current Windows SDK so the developers are already familiar with it and get off the ground running in no time flat. They’re fun and they spur creativity. They use minimum amount of power to run as opposed to a fully blown desktop application. Corporation will be allowed to create their own applications (in-house) in which can be easily transferred from their PST to Desktop for a seamless experience. Consumer Market will be able to transfer their experience to any devices that run Windows OS.
Pro 3: Transferability, as I pointed out in Pro 1, sometimes we feel like playing our game on the phone on the way to work/home, but when we’re at our desktop. We would like to continue our game that was played by simply opening the Widget. Yes, it will be smart synchronized widgets that allow you to pause games/productivity tool, and open it on another device with no loss in game play/performance/place. In fact, it could be easily attached to a main desktop application as a “side-app/plug-in” that allows you to transfer your “data/experience” while keeping with the familiar interface.
Pro 4: How do we do that? We leverage the Cloud. You purchased an extremely awesome team called Danger. Their experience with the cloud is nearly peer-less. Their excellent HipTop (or Sidekick) hardware is a testimony to how well it can be done (albeit with a few missteps along the way). It also creates the potential of an eco-system (similar to iTunes) but a cloud-version where the owner of the application can keep their data on the device PLUS the cloud (similar to MobileMe) rather than gambling one way or another.
It’s a win-win-win-win situation for you and your team. You don’t need to radically alter the Windows OS. Keep it the way it is, but emphasize Widget as the application of choice for PST systems, with the ability to port every data that’s used during the widget application through the Cloud to any device of your choosing (currently running the Windows OS model). De-emphasize programming in desktop app mind-set for PST platforms.
There you have it. Leverage your current business model, magnify it, turbo-charge it by giving it wings that it much sorely needs in the public’s eyes. I guarantee you that your developers (inside and outside Microsoft) will be absolutely thrilled by such a move, and the consumers in general will acknowledge the paradigm shift in computing platform. Apple iOS and Google Android will be scrambling to implement the same thing, but your team will be the first mover and acknowledged as one.