Seeing strange things like the inevitability of tiles in Windows 8 and Windows 2012 Server as well as a curious piggybacking of Apps on SharePoint 2010 and calling it SharePoint 2013 one has to wonder where this is going. Here is my answer to that question.
It’s the business model, stupid
I think Microsoft is finally getting rid of their 80s business model. Selling software licenses just doesn’t work in the internet age where most of Microsoft’s software has become a commodity.
And it wasn’t such a great business model to begin with: huge up front costs make it a huge risk and having to support each and every version for years doesn’t just add cost but is an incentive for customers to use that version instead of buying a new one. And from the customer’s view it isn’t any better. They get bloated software trying to be upgrade-worthy and hard to calculate value from contracts like Software Assurance.
That business model just doesn’t work for off-the-shelf software and companies trying to force it onto their customers and themselves make it even worse. For both parties. Good riddance.
One of the hints at Microsoft changing their mind is SharePoint 2013’s App model. It’s not about the idea of integrating information and functionality from various sources – you could do that all the time with HTML. It’s about selling a hosted version of SharePoint a.k.a. Software as a Service. This will create a steady flow of income, a single version to support, and make technical and legal efforts to induce upgrades unnecessary.
Without the Apps SharePoint 2013 is merely a maintenance release. Well done and worth the upgrade but just a maintenance release.
Another hint is the inevitability of tiles in Windows 8 and Windows 2012 Server. Not the tiles themselves but Microsoft’s efforts to make you use them. Microsoft is quite good at creating user friendly software. They know for shure that tiles make no sense for desktop computers.
But the success of Apple’s business model certainly made Microsoft green with envy. So getting customers used to Microsoft’s phone and tablet UI probably seemed like a good idea. Users would get interested in having those familiar tiles on their phones and tablets, too. And companies would sense that integrating Windows-based devices with their infrastructure should be easier than with Android or iOS based devices.
Listing all the reasons why this isn’t going to work would fill a post in itself. Let’s just say that Microsoft could have succeeded in mobile land with Google’s approach of creating an open eco system. But not with Apple’s walled garden. Microsoft isn’t Apple and whether Apple is successfull without Steve Jobs is yet to be seen anyway.
There we go …
So my answer is that it is going to a new business model. And if you spot a change or feature that doesn’t make sense from a technical perspective, there probably wasn’t a technical reason behind it :-).
Microsoft’s sledge hammer approach to get their way often makes them look clumsy. And they are notoriously late to the party. Like to the Internet. But this company’s ability to reinvent itself is only comparable to Madonna’s.
Trying to fix the business model under their software is a sensible first step. The pricing of Office 365 makes it questionable whether they really understood where they are going though.
The next step could be to get out of the consumer market if they cannot stop their slide to irrelevancy. That would actually be quite funny as that’s how IBM solved it’s problems in the PC market and Microsoft certainly never wanted to be like IBM.
In any case I have no doubt Microsoft will still be successfull in 2015 or 2020. And making money from working for their customers that’s all I need to know.