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How Microsoft will change forever and thrive again

Serdar Yegulalp | Feb. 20, 2013
Microsoft has been in business, in one form or another, for 37 years. In the tech world, that's an eternity.

Telerik's Sells also notes, "Windows Server and Azure have become wonderful back ends for Web and mobile apps, depending whether you want to use an on-premises or off-premises cloud. As Win8 and Windows Phone 8 grow, they'll attract developers who will make use of Windows Server and/or Azure for their back ends."

Microsoft's future

Conventional wisdom casts Microsoft in the role of lumbering dinosaur, slouching off into the dusk, coasting on what little momentum it's retained from Windows and Office. The reality is that Microsoft is constantly moving in a number of areas at once: on the desktop, in the server closet, in the services market, in entertainment and mobile tech. They may not always come out ahead (Windows Me, the Kin phone, Windows Mobile 6), but they never stop evolving.

What may be new for Microsoft is the need to better cohere its strategy around an ever-widening array of services and technologies, especially as the breadth of competition it faces widens.

While Microsoft has thus far lagged Apple and Google on mobile, Microsoft would be wise not to let the mobile cart lead the company horse. Yes, mobile tech is king right now, especially as Android and iOS devices eat into PC sales. But those devices are only what they are because of the services they talk to. As the mobile field flattens out and becomes further commodified, Microsoft will be able to better see opportunities to distinguish itself on all sides of the equation: client experiences, service offerings, and infrastructure. Rushing this by forcing the desktop to be more like a mobile device would be a mistake.

Going forward, Microsoft will also have to find a better revenue model for the Surface. Microsoft's other big hardware product, the Xbox, remains a loss leader, but sales of software, auxiliary hardware, and services for the Xbox more than make up for this. The Surface needs a similar ecosystem. Otherwise, Microsoft needs to cut it loose.

RT presents an intriguing opportunity for Microsoft, but if Microsoft is to take RT seriously as a future platform for the company, it must ensure everyone else does, too. This starts with smoothing the path for software makers to port and deploy RT editions of their apps. Microsoft Office on RT isn't bad, but it's missing just enough features (say, macros) to be problematic. We should be able to get 32-bit, 64-bit, and RT-based editions of all our favorite software without feeling like we're missing out. After all, the legacy Win32 world isn't going to die that easily.

Ironic as it may seem, building an open source framework people want to use should also be a key initiative for Microsoft going forward. Microsoft has been accommodating open source products better in their proprietary offerings -- say, Linux in Hyper-V. But it needs to contribute a framework of its own -- a PHP without the cruft or a Ruby without the overhead. TypeScript is a step in the right direction, but there's no question Microsoft can do more if it wants to.


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