I don’t think Microsoft is going to make real inroads in the mobile device market, but in other markets the company is finally making solid moves.
Last week, Nadella’s Microsoft finally demonstrated that it gets the new economics of operating systems, and like its competitors, Apple and Google, is making the upgrade to Windows 10 free for a year after release for Windows 8.1, Windows 7, and Windows Phone 8.1. This follows moves by Apple and Google, and what they did with licensing of smaller tablets last year (see Microsoft accepts the inevitable, takes first steps toward making Windows and Office free). This shift is all about charging for value added services and access to apps, and not for operating systems, per se.
I wrote about the new Microsoft Surface Hub the other day (see Microsoft introduces Surface Hub, an 84 inch “team device”), which I think could be a category-defining “team device”: that is to say, a large, immobile tablet, wall mounted, running Windows 10, teleconferencing and whiteboard apps. We’ll have to see if they can get the price point down to affordable levels, but considering Cisco and others in the telecommunications space charge like $40, 000 and up for configured “presence” rooms, if they can get it down to $5,000 they might have a winner.
The other standout from Microsoft’s impressive Windows 10 event is the HoloLens.
Unlike tablets and smartphones, Microsoft is not too late to the party for augmented reality wearables. Google fumbled a lead in this area with the Google Glass Explorer project, which is not dead, but needs to be rekindled by Nest’s Tony Fadell (see Google Glass isn’t dead, it’s going to be Nestified).
Microsoft’s strength in the enterprise means that HoloLens will be considered a work device rather than the consumer push that Google took on, and fumbled.
I believe that virtual/augmented reality is the next platform for computing, following the five earlier ones: mainframe, networked minicomputers, PC, Internet, and mobile. Michael Abrash of Oculus — the company Facebook bought for $2 billion — considers it the last platform, as laid out in this great video, because all the previous experiences can be embedded within it.
We’ll have to see if Microsoft’s reach in gaming and the enterprise will make HoloLens a winner, but are least they are not five years behind the times.