The future for Microsoft (predications)

Nearly two years ago, I wrote a post called The future for Microsoft. This was a “predications” post based on what I was seeing in the industry and in Microsoft, with a some judicious “reading between the lines” and speculation on my part.

To quickly recap those predications, I said:

  • Microsoft will change how it reports financially.
  • Microsoft will become a “consumer-focused enterprise company.”
  • Windows will converge into a single code base capable of running on any platform.
  • Application development will converge into allowing developers to maintain a single code base for an app that will run on any device capable of running Windows.
  • Release frequency will dramatically increase.
  • The “modern” user interface is here to stay.

Since that was a predications post, let’s take a look at where Microsoft is just two years later. From my perspective, I was right on 5 out of 6 predications.

In September 2015, Microsoft officially announced that they were changing their financial reporting structure, saying that beginning in fiscal year 2016, revenue and operating income will be reported based on three new operating segments. While I was wrong about the actual structure, I was right about the fact that Microsoft would change how it reports. This structure, and the announcements since Satya Nadella became CEO, also reflects how Microsoft is becoming a “consumer-focused enterprise company”. This mean then, and still does mean, that Microsoft is an enterprise company trying to make a larger consumer presence. This has played out numerous different ways, most most predominantly in the Surface and Lumia lines. Both of these devices are very enterprise-friendly, and leverage Microsoft’s strength in that space, but are also making huge in-roads into the consumer space. Granted, the Lumia line has been very slow to gain traction in the United States, but it seems with Windows 10 that’s starting to change.

Speaking of Windows 10, it’s Microsoft’s first operating system that is truly universal. Windows 10 will run on phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, Xbox One, IoT devices (like Raspberry Pi), and potentially a whole host of other devices (like HoloLens and Band). This takes the mess of different operating system code bases and consolidates them into a single code base. It allows Microsoft to leverage the best talent and ideas from these different products into a single operating system. It also gives the end user a consistent and familiar experience across all of their devices. Windows 10 is a game changer for Microsoft and already has a lot of traction.

Windows 10 application development has also converged with the notion of Windows Universal Apps. While this hasn’t played out completely, it is showing huge promise. As an app developer, you no longer target devices you target “families”, which effectively allow you to easily specify entire groups of devices that your app supports. It’s one code base and “intelligent” user interface controls that allow your application to scale up or down across devices.

Although the user interface for Windows 10 has shifted into a different version of the modern user interface introduced by Windows Phone, it’s still very much alive and expanding onto all the different devices Windows 10 supports. For as much ridicule as Microsoft received for the Windows Phone UI, it’s now ben copied by Apple and Google. It’s found it’s way onto ATM machines, cash registers, and many other places. It’s definitely here to stay.

The one prediction I made that I’m not sure of is a faster release frequency. While Microsoft has increased release frequency for some products, it hasn’t happened across the board and it’s inconsistent, both across products and even within some product lines. The Windows 10 previews, with a “fast” and “slow” ring partially support this but it’s also inconsistent between Windows 10 desktop and Windows 10 phone releases. That may change once both products are released, but for now they are on different release schedules and frequencies.

Overall, I think my predications were pretty accurate and things have played out pretty much like I anticipated. The future for Microsoft is exciting. I predicated that it will be the end of 2016 until we’re completely there. I think that’s still an accurate predication. By the end of 2015, we’ll have Windows 10 running on phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and the Xbox One. We’ll have Windows Universal apps that can run on any (or all) of those devices. We’ll still have devices that aren’t running Windows 10 yet, like the Microsoft Band 2, but by the end of 2016 I think all of these devices will be running Windows 10.