Dan's Take

Microsoft's About Face

In 2017, Microsoft has moved to embrace new approaches to computing.

For a great deal of its history, Microsoft has focused on putting forward its view of computing. That view was a Windows-based device in your hand, one in your briefcase, one on your desk and a veritable herd of them in the enterprise datacenter. Everything it developed was designed to live in an all-Microsoft computing environment. Where the company did reach out to support another computing environment, it appeared to be done in such a way as to encourage the use of the Microsoft computing environment rather than fully support or promote that other platform. As the company focused on "Microsoft everywhere, for every purpose, for every person," it grew to be a leading or dominant player in many markets. That's history; let's look at recent times.

The company saw its grip on enterprises and consumers start to slip in the 2010s as more and more individuals adopted smartphones and tablets as their local computing device and cloud computing services. As individuals became enamored with their smartphones and tablets, those customers saw less need for Windows, Windows-based applications or services being offered by Windows-based enterprise workloads. iOS and Android soon became the typical entry point into computing for students and consumers. Windows and its ecosystem weren't being abandoned; they just had slipped from being the first choice for every application. However, it still was a mainstay of business computing.

By 2010, Open source Web servers, application servers, development frameworks, databases and other new workload components began to be considered more frequently by some developers and enterprises. The primary consideration was the low initial cost of the software. Another point was that major enterprises that had special requirements could join in the development process and help the community build special features into the code. They also found that the licensing terms and conditions were flexible enough to allow enterprises to use technology in new ways.

These factors made it clear to Microsoft that its old ways of doing business needed to be examined. The "my way or the highway" approach the company had used in the past was starting to drive enterprises to get out their maps and take to the highway. (It's important to note that these companies didn't leave Microsoft behind; they just chose other vendors for new Web-based workloads, high-performance computing workloads and more agile, more mobile computing.)

Dan's Take: A Continuing Transformation
It's now 2017, and over the years Microsoft has moved to embrace these new approaches to computing. Consider, for example, Office, Microsoft's way to maintain a personal relationship with businesses and consumers. Starting in 2010, Office was offered as a cloud service and as software that executed on iOS, Android, macOS and, of course, Windows.

An even bigger shift was when Microsoft's systems services were extracted from Windows Server and began to be offered in the form of a cloud service platform—Microsoft Azure—in 2008.

Microsoft has also updated its approach to sales, and its licensing was changed to better support cloud computing environments. If we consider the company's growing revenues and increasing share of the cloud services market, and the fact that it has found a way to ride on top of iOS and Android into the hands and homes of customers, it's clear that its shift is having a positive impact.

A close examination reveals that the "Windows everywhere, for everyone, always" thinking remains just below the service. Still, the company has done well in its attempts to pivot to address new approaches and new ways of solving technical challenges. It's a good thing, too, as competitors like Amazon Web Services, Apple, Google, Oracle and others aren't slacking off. Because of this, Microsoft will be forced to continue innovating, or risk being left behind.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.


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