In April of 2015, I said that Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, wasn’t waging a war. I was wrong. Armed with two new Surface devices and three new phones, Nadella looks to reclaim Microsoft lost land.
That is my take-away after getting a preview of the devices and the strategy behinds today’s Microsoft hardware event.
Microsoft new hardware portfolio includes;
– new phones (950/950XL on the high end, the Lumia 550 on the low end),
– the new Surface Pro 4,
– a new wireless version of HoloLens,
– an upgraded Microsoft Band
– new laptop called the Surface Book
So what does it all mean?
Nadella’s strategy is to bookend Apple on two sides.
On one side it is about devices, on the other it is about infrastructure and solutions.
First let’s talk about hardware. Microsoft is challenging Apple on the nomadic’s that define the modern desktop. Surface Pro 4 (50% faster, 9hrs of battery life) challenges MacBook Air while the Surface Book takes on the MacBook Pro. In fact, I think Apple signaled its first defensive move with the release of the iPad Pro in response Surface Pro 3 success in enterprise accounts.
On the phone front, while Apple seems preoccupied with keeping Samsung at bay. If not on volumes, certainly on profit margins. I worry that Apple may be making the same mistakes that BlackBerry, Nokia, and Motorola made: taking a contender for granted. Now, don’t get me wrong the aesthetics of Microsoft new phones are “meh”, though at least in the 950XL’s case, very powerful under the hood. We’re not going to see lines of people at retail stores salivating to buy these phones. To date, Microsoft doesn’t hold a candle to Apple’s phone hardware. With that in mind, Microsoft’s phone strategy demonstrates the art of the possible to the industry and its commitment to phone hardware to its ISV’s – who may feel like they’ve been burnt once too often.
Of the three new phones that Microsoft is launching, CIO’s and enterprise business leaders will be most interested in 950XL. During the hands-on, we unlocked the phone using the new iris scanning feature and put the phone through some tough paces. Including; streaming full HD 60hz video to a 50″ TV, working with several office apps and surfing the Internet via Bluetooth connected keyboard and mouse, while also taking a call on the handset. While all this was going on, I swiped the home screen and scrolled up and down the app menu, finding the phone still very responsive and smooth.
Universal Apps, Azure cloud services, and Accenture make up the software flank. They counter the anemic battlefront being staged by the Apple / IBM relationship. While I give Apple lots of respect (A+) for building a solid infrastructure for its consumption and storefronts, Apple gets a D grade on productizing any useable enterprise infrastructure. And I know I am not the only one utterly confused by iCloud. While I see a lot of traction in enterprise accounts via IBM ( 7 out of 10 as of Q2) that action is all on the application development and consulting side, not product or infrastructure. In fact on the mobilizing infrastructure front, VMware, not Apple/IBM is clearly Microsoft’s biggest competitor from my observation point.
Microsoft still has a lot of work to do. A good starting place will be signing up carriers, and then get them to actually market and sell its new phones instead of leting them become dust bunnies. And Apple ( nor Google ) isn’t going to stand still. Mobile in the enterprise is just getting started. Microsoft remains the incumbent in the enterprise despite several swings and misses. This is what makes the battle between Apple and Microsoft interesting. Over the next ten years, we will rewrite all the rules of business as we redefine end-user computing – again. One thing I am certain about, Microsoft device announcements today will change the dialogue about the future of end-user computing.
(post updated 10/6/2015 @ 6:52pm)