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What should Microsoft's new CEO do to make Windows a true competitor to Android?
In this edition of the Friday Debate, we take a look to the other side of the fence towards Microsoft, the company that has put a Windows computer on every desk, but is now struggling to make Windows Phone worthy of its name. With Steve Ballmer out and Satya Nadella in, now it’s the best time for Microsoft to reinvent itself, or at least, to fix some of the problems that have turned it from a mobile leader into a mobile also-ran.
Like it or not, a strong Microsoft would benefit the entire mobile world, us Android users included. So, tell us, what do you think Microsoft should focus on to turn Windows Phone into a true third option? What should be Satya Nadella’s priorities? Where should he start?
Join us in the discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments!
Picking its new CEO must have been tough for Microsoft, the company is clearly in need of something a little more “out there”, but a complete departure from its business goals would alienate its core customer. Nadella seems like a safe option to me, he’s been at the company a while and has helped turn Microsoft’s server and business tools into a success. Although, he has also been involved with less successful consumer grade projects like Bing, SkyDrive and Skype.
Nadella’s focus on “mobile and cloud” is certainly where the market is, but I can’t help but feel that Microsoft may have already missed the boat. It’s going to take something spectacular to release Apple’s and Android’s iron grip on this market, and I’m not convinced that Nadella quite has the vision to break this deadlock.
On the other hand, his engineering background could tie in nicely with Microsoft’s plans for Nokia. I think I’ll wait and see how this all plays out.
I have to say, I’m a little more interested in just how influential the return of Mr Gates will be. It’s possible that he might put Microsoft back on the right track. However, the world in which Gate’s Microsoft blossomed no longer exists, he could turn out to be a thorn in Nadella’s side.
It’s all too easy to be suckered in with the prospects of change now that someone else is at the helm, and as much as I want Microsoft to provide some healthy competition, I think it’s going to be tough times ahead for Microsoft in the mobile space.
In terms of mobile, Windows Phone’s flaws are pretty clear cut. They have a lack of OEM support. Even if Microsoft plans on remedying this by releasing their own phone vis-a-vis their acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, the fact is that right now, there really isn’t a really good Windows Phone that can compete with the iPhone, HTC One, Galaxy S4, Note 3, Xperia Z, etc. They should really be putting out at least one device available to most carriers that can make WP look like an attractive option alongside the competition.
The second huge weakness is lack of apps. The platform needs more games, more apps, and more tools to improve the platform. Do they even have an official YouTube app yet? I’m not saying they need a billion apps like in the App Store or the Google Play Store, but at the very least they need the baseline of tools, games, and apps that would allow someone already into smartphones to make the switch without losing functionality. Until that happens, it’s bad times for Windows Phone.
Lastly, and this is a wildcard here, WP needs better integration with platforms. Microsoft makes Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox. Why these three major league tiers can’t communicate with one another in a more effective, efficient, and useful manner utterly baffles me. Xbox Smartglass was a good start, but if you can make the phone do more with the operating system, I can see people thinking, “Well, I have a Windows PC and the Windows Phone can do these awesome things with it, maybe I should go with that.” iOS and Android have a well documented weakness in playing nice with any operating system aside from Linux and Microsoft not taking advantage of that is a huge misstep on their part. An example: many CAD users, graphic design users, etc need a digital drawing pad for their programs. Why can’t you connect a Surface to a laptop and use that as one? That would make it much better for professionals and amateurs alike. I guess the bottom line is, Windows Phone needs more functionality with other Windows products aside from things like syncing SkyDrive.
Those are their biggest weaknesses in my opinion. It’s not that their platform is bad, but it’s not mature enough to compete with the big dogs yet and, thus, their first step should be shoring up those weaknesses and bringing Windows Phone on par with the competition. Then you’ll see more adoption and with more adoption comes more developers, more apps, and a thriving ecosystem.
Microsoft might not be a major force in the mobile world, but to count them out completely would be more than a little foolish. Microsoft still has plenty of resources and is very well established in the business world, home PC market and even in gaming — though its Xbox brand isn’t exactly a huge money maker for the company.
Where Microsoft is truly at its weakest is in the mobile world, despite their efforts with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. To tackle this weakness, Microsoft needs a CEO that is willing to think out of the box and break from tradition. It still remains unseen whether Satya Nadella, a 20+ year MS veteran, will be able to do this.
Nadella has already made it clear that the company wishes to focus on mobile and continued support of the cloud, and I believe that this is wise focus area. That said, I’m not so sure that Microsoft has the ability to turn Windows Phone into a massive success, even though I will admit that it’s market share is (very) slowly creeping upwards.
If Nadella wants to really make an impact in the mobile world, Microsoft needs to focus on getting big name app developers on board. It also needs to fully integrate its Windows Store and Windows Phone store, which is something that Microsoft is already working on — at least to a certain degree.
Beyond that though, Microsoft needs to find ways to better stand out with its handsets. This means killer apps, killer phone features and killer aesthetics. While the Lumia series had some pretty big firsts including a 41MP camera and glove support on touchscreens, Microsoft needs to take things to the next level and create something that wows both iPhone and Android fans if they ever want to be more than just a third place contender.
Is a strong Microsoft good for the mobile industry? Absolutely. Competition is never a bad thing. Without competition, there would be no need to innovate. Unfortunately though, Microsoft has a long ways to go before they truly become relevant in the mobile space.
What do YOU think?