Geeks With Blogs
Confessions of an Evangelist

imageIt’s been a little over a year since I left the mother-ship, and things have been going well. I’ve started a consulting company again, and it’s good to be back in the business of building and delivering software solutions. I was worried when I left whether the economy and marketplace had room for another company like mine, but I’ve found that worry is a grave misuse for imagination. While I am open and available for most kinds of work, I have particularly enjoyed working on the connected mobile solution, where the user experience spans devices and platforms, but brings a consistent experience and view of data.

This morning I was reading thru the News360 app headlines, and came across an article which speaks to what makes companies breath, the prime directive, (http://engt.co/QuOzQS) and it makes the point that Amazon seems to be missing the point. I’m not sure if I agree or not, but it really crystalizes where Microsoft is going and where it’s been and makes some interesting points about what it’s future could and should be. Specifically around the idea that its history has been as a Software company, and with Satya Nadalla’s assumption of the reins will  they return to that focus?

Historically Apple is a hardware company that does software. They build beautiful devices that reinvent how people interact with technology. Starting with the old Apple II and the Turtle graphic system a developer could build apps that tried to realize the graphic potential of a device. They moved on to the Macintosh, unleashing a whole new paradigm of how to experience technology. Steve Jobs and his engineers at Apple moved personal computing out of the box that until then had constrained and limited the potential of peoples creativity. But their challenge was that the very close codependence of hardware and software of their devices make it harder to interact with other devices and data outside their ecosystem.

Similarly the author makes the point that Netflix has thrived by understanding that it is first and foremost a streaming company, bringing media to the consumer with an unprecedented ease of use and consistent experience. According to a report on internet traffic (http://www.tubefilter.com/2013/05/14/netflix-us-internet-traffic-percentage/) Netflix accounts for almost 33% of all bandwidth usage in 2013 (YouTube is a close second with 17%). I am not alone in changing my media consumption habits to using a service that works the way I do. Netflix has recognized that it needs it’s customers to be able to get to it’s service from anywhere on anything, and have built corresponding clients to practically every type of device available.

Coming back to Microsoft, it’s not surprising to see the broad positive response to their release of Office for iPad (and android). If you look at what made them great it was by writing software for everything. While MS/DOS was key to the meteoric rise in the 80’s to dominate the PC world, they were also in the top spots for software that runs on Apple, OS/2 and anything else that came along. As as Software company they made their bones and delivered the compelling word processing and productivity suite that is Office. Alternatives compare themselves to Office as the standard and make claims to being as good as…but it’s still the standard that must be met. The other divisions including Windows, Server, Tools and Entertainment have succeeded by delivering great software to run on Hardware. As a former evangelist I have to admit that I still admire their ability to deliver great tools and platforms for building solutions on.

imageThis week in San Francisco at //BUILD is Microsoft’s chance to flesh out it’s vision for where they are going and what developers and consumers can expect to see from the software giant. I won’t be there in person, but I plan to watch the streaming videos to see if my assumptions hold about the directions they take. I’m looking forward to learning what their vision is for Windows Phone, and what they plan for the next update to Windows, but mostly I’m curious to see if they’ve rediscovered themselves. With their new CEO decided on, it will be interesting to see where they go and answer the question, are you a Software Company or something else?

Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2014 9:23 AM | Back to top

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