Taking Back Control

Microsoft's next big assault was the iPod. It chose once again to control both hardware and software, but the approach garnered few headlines because the resultant Zune was such a failure [though some of us loved it - Ed.]. In 2009 Microsoft opened its first retail store in Phoenix and subsequently many more have followed. The common response: they look just like Apple stores, but with more colours.

The Xbox, Zune and the move into retail could be passed off as coincidence, but Microsoft's actions in the last 18 months show they were actually foundations for a new business model. The unveiling of Windows Phone changed everything. Having taken a beating at the hands of Apple, Google, RIM - in fact everyone, Microsoft took its most controlling steps yet: it dictated to handset makers strict rules covering every aspect of the internal hardware and the external physical design.

To this day they remain vice-like in their specificity. A handset's display type and resolution, connectivity, camera resolution, RAM, native memory, chipset, processor, graphics, external buttons and positioning of those buttons are all locked down and updated regularly.

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"If you look at how we've built our team and the programme on Windows Phone we've really tried to focus our engineering efforts on a relatively narrow set of hardware so we can optimise it," said Microsoft's Windows Phone head Joe Belfiore on Wednesday. He went on to stress user experience is more important than cutting edge specs or bargain basement prices.

Yes it is Apple rhetoric and, should Microsoft conclude the long rumoured deal to buy Nokia's phone division this year, it will also have the business model to match. Unlike Apple, Microsoft also locks down the native search engine in Windows Phone - so unless you load up the browser or install an app you can only use Bing.

Make no bones about it: Microsoft means business. Apple may have made more headlines with its legal disputes in the last year, but Microsoft has been just as aggressive and far more successful. Following a deal this week with LG, 70 per cent of all Android phones sold in the US will see Microsoft receive royalties. And it isn’t finished yet.

The coup de grace will come in October with the launch of Windows 8: an operating system that will give Microsoft control like no other.

Again Bing is hard-locked, Bloatware will largely be a thing of the past (like Windows Phone the Metro UI cannot be customised) and like Mac OS X Lion it introduces an App Store (Windows Store) from which Microsoft will receive a cut of all developer revenue. It also introduces an approval process where Microsoft will vet all apps/programs. Yes users can still download programs from elsewhere and install them, but all apps which integrate with Windows 8's Metro UI will only be available from Windows Store. Since this will eventually encompass most if not all Windows software, it actually creates a more tightly walled garden than the one enforced by Apple.

All of which poses a big question: Why?

MGS

January 15, 2012, 2:11 am

Microsoft are roughly six years behind Apple - on any measure of innovation, business model or market position. Quite an impressive feat given their previous domination. I bet they still paid out bonuses to those charged with such great strategy work! I remember quite a few on Trusted Reviews (including the author of this item) being very cynical about Apple (remind me - an iPad was a big iPod touch which had no clear functionality and would never catch on!!). Microsoft will not be able to recover it's position. The PC market will decline very heavily over the next five years as mobile and tablet become the way to access content in the cloud. New companies will appear to take advantage of this. It was a good run Microsoft 1975 - 2015!

Gordon394

January 16, 2012, 4:32 am

Haha, I knew that point would come back to bite me! I maintain an iPad is essentially a big iPod touch, what has transformed it into a runaway success are both the quality of its apps and the failure of Android to so-far develop tablet specific apps of similar amount or quality.

I certainly don't believe it is over for Microsoft. Fees on 70% of all Android phones sold and counting, remember... and it has immense cash reserves to call upon to facilitate change. It will need them having let slip search, mobile, browsing and Cloud computing in previous years - each of which it is desperately trying to win back.

Apple's evolution under new leadership will be just as interesting once Jobs' road maps have been exhausted. It may be down, but never count out Microsoft.

gnodeb

January 16, 2012, 7:11 pm

What is a motivation for this kind of articles? Is Apple a software company? I don't think so. They are more like hardware/software re-sellers. If you write a list of MS products and list of Apple products, you should notice quite a big difference.

Zaphod85

January 18, 2012, 9:16 pm

Interesting article, but given that the title asked why Microsoft is becoming more like Apple and "why is this a good thing?", it would have been nice to hear some views on why it might NOT be a good thing. There is talk of "customer experience", which of course means a simpler, smoother experience. It also means less choice. Less choice of hardware, less choice of software, less choice of how you can use the hardware and software, less choice in the content that can be accessed. Maybe I'm just being stubborn since everyone else is prepared to ignore these concerns in favour of a shiny and convenient "experience", but it would be nice to at least address the issue.

Zaphod85

January 18, 2012, 9:32 pm

P.s. I realise I misquoted and the subtitle read "is this a good thing" rather than "why is this a good thing"? The question was not answered so my point stands.

swift11

January 22, 2012, 7:55 am

I'll switch to Kubuntu in 2013, that's for sure.

Gordon394

January 23, 2012, 2:17 am

Appreciate your correct. This aspect was dealt with in a previous editorial which you may find pertinent:
http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

Gordon394

January 23, 2012, 2:22 am

Because they're highly relevant. It sounds to me like you haven't read the article fully. You will find this relevant:
http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

"I remember when" isn't really applicable when discussing past industry opinions. It is constantly changing, as will our views toward it.

IanP

December 26, 2012, 9:42 pm

I see linux becoming a LOT more popular in the next few years

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