Microsoft on Mobility: It's Complicated

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — April 22, 2013

In one of the last earnings calls as CFO of Microsoft, Peter Klein gave insight into Microsoft’s’ struggling approach to mobility. He briefly addressed his resignation which is effective at the end of the company’s fiscal year next quarter, and then shared results that beat expectations.

Microsoft clearly owns the software space in the four walls, but even founder Bill Gates said they missed a chance for leadership in mobility. Klein addressed the evolving device market and acknowledged that consumers and businesses are shifting their focus to touch and mobility and a demand for touch-enabled computing devices. Admitting that the PC decline has effected Windows revenue, he referred to the “new era of computing devices.”
It’s Complicated
Windows 8 was built with touch and mobility at its core, according to Klein who believes the company is well positioned with it for the “new era.” But he also said, “the transition is complicated, given the size of our hardware and software ecosystem.” There’s still a lot of work to do, he noted, but feels that the foundation is set for the long- term success of Windows.
Windows 8 has already been updated for a “richer and better” experience, but that’s almost moot considering there is another system is in the works. “Looking ahead, we will release the next version of Windows, code named Windows Blue, which further advances the vision of Windows 8 as well as responds to customer feedback.”
Shrinking Surface?
The assortment of touch-enabled devices that are built for Windows 8, however are improving according to Klein, but the Surface Pro which was released last quarter, has not received much acclaim.
Price point of that device being a point of contention, Klein noted, “…we expect to see more devices across more attractive price points over the coming months. As part of this, we are also working closely with OEMs on a new suite of small touch devices powered by Windows.”
Analyst Phil Winslow of Credit Suisse asked about the market penetration of the Surface along with the expanding product portfolio.
Distribution of Surface is up to 22 countries, 70 retailers and Microsoft plans to grow that reach. “Not only just expanding, but improving the experience. And that’s true not just for Surface, but for broadly Windows 8 devices. And so we’ll be investing against that for both Surface and a broader array of Windows 8 devices at multiple price points, including lower price points going forward,” said Klein.
Tablet Dimensions
Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs kept the tablet discussion going and asked about the plan to grow Microsoft’s share, and, in turn, its mobile presence.
“In improving our position in tablets, and generally in devices, there’s five or six dimensions ranging from what we’re doing with OEMs on the range and price points of the devices; what the chips can do; improvements on both first-party and third-party apps; innovation across the user experience; and distribution.”
Essentially, Microsoft is working on the entire lifecycle and ecosystem of the device in order, as Klein put it, “to take Windows 8 and show it off in all its glory, across different form factors.”
In the face of the always ongoing replacement of mobile devices, Klein said “what’s more interesting” is the long-term evolution, which he thinks is “going to be more of a driver than any temporal upgrade cycle.”
He believes that Windows 8 was designed to take advantage of innovation. “I think about the opportunity around new capabilities and services, and the experience that people can get on their devices, than is about an upgrade cycle.”
Part of that experience comes from the apps, and he said that there are six times more apps in the Windows Store since launch. He expects more as Windows 8 adoption grows and as Microsoft hosts its developer’s conference in June. Visitors to the store should note that it does not seem to work without the latest platform.
Cloud Coverage
The major advantage Microsoft has now in the enterprise, of course, is that most businesses literally can’t run without some iterance of its software. Klein pointed this out by “switching gears to productivity” referring to the latest version of Office, which, he said, “brings mobility, social and cloud features to the world’s most popular productivity app. Importantly, the new Office represents a fundamental shift in our model.”
This shift is a clear move toward the services aspect of mobility and Microsoft’s vision of the cloud speaks to a new way of working. “Cloud computing is a way to take a key step toward better business agility, economics, and user experiences. For many modern CIOs and technology leaders, the cloud presents an opportunity to redefine the role IT plays in implementing a business’ strategy.”
So with what he considers a solid foundation of products and services, Klein said to expect to hear more about specific actions in the next few months. He closed out, “In summary, Windows is transforming to the new era of computing… growth in Windows depends on our ability to give customers the exciting hardware they want at the price points they demand, and a wider range of apps and services to meet their diverse need.”
This language, however, is familiar talk in the mobile space, and as another company vying for similar share is finding out, it’s a long road back.


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