What is Microsoft’s mobile strategy?

Answer these three simple questions:

  1. What is Apple’s mobile strategy?

    To boost their hardware sales by making the worlds best mobile devices and software.

  2. What is Google’s mobile strategy?

    To boost their advertising revenue by featuring their services on as many mobile devices as possible.

  3. What is Microsoft’s mobile strategy?

    Um…

Not so easy, is it?

I’ll make it a bit easier.  Microsoft does so many things that it’s hard to describe their motivations in one succinct statement.  Let’s break the company in to pieces:

What is Microsoft’s Mobile Cloud strategy?

To provide the best backend computing platform for mobile developers.

This was fairly easy.  By most accounts, Windows Azure is a solid platform for supporting mobile developers.  It has strong support for Android and iOS, and it leverages open source software like Linux, PHP and NodeJS.  In other words, it’s not a typical Microsoft “.NET or get out” approach.  Well done.

What is Microsoft’s Mobile Office strategy?

To create the best office productivity software for every most a few mobile platforms devices.

Ugh.  This should be the easiest question to answer, but it’s not.  The Office division of Microsoft should operate like an independent company.  Their goal should be to create the best productivity suite available anywhere.  On Windows.  On Mac.  On Linux.  On iOS.  On Android.  On Windows Phone 7 Mobile .NET Enterprise SP4.  On every platform with a significant marketshare.

Office Everywhere.

Instead, their motto seems to be “Support Windows, and then make a half-hearted attempt at anything else”.  Office on the  Mac?  It’s a pale imitation of the full office suite.  Office for iPhone.  A joke.  Office for Linux?  Android?  *crickets*

The Office division clearly places Microsoft’s interests ahead of consumers.  They’re starting to dabble with Office on the web – which may be a long-term solution to cross-platform support – but it certainly has the feel of a revenue play (“our existing customers will pay every month forever!”) more than a way to support millions of new customers using Android.

What is Microsoft’s Mobile Windows strategy?

To create the best phone operating system for our mobile partners to leverage.

To create the best phone operating system for Nokia to leverage.

To create the best tablet operating system for our desktop partners to leverage.

To create a whole new version of Windows specifically designed for the tablet environment.

To see if we can cram our desktop operating system on to a slim PC that kind-of looks like a tablet.

Ouch.

Microsoft’s “strategy” for Windows in the mobile space feels like a ship without a rudder.  They can’t seem to decide where the industry is headed or what their customers actually want.  Instead they’ve released a slew of reactionary products, changing their focus from mobile device makers to desktop device makers to doing it all in-house.  Refining your strategy over time is a wise business approach, but Microsoft seems to change theirs every time the wind blows.

The Microsoft of 2013 looks like a company that can’t believe how quickly things got away from them, and aren’t really sure what to do about it.  Without strong leadership and a cohesive plan for the road ahead, they seem unable to decide on a course of action that will keep their brand relevant in the mobile age.

One thing is clear:  What they’re doing is not working.

Posted in Mobile