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Microsoft reorg taps hardware to 'drive Windows as a service across devices of all types'

Mark Hachman | June 18, 2015
Microsoft reorganized with a bang on Wednesday. It ousted big-name executives Stephen Elop and Mark Penn. It gave Windows leader Terry Myerson the Devices group that Elop once led. Driving these and other dramatic changes are a fundamental corporate shift that wasn't explicitly stated: At the modern Microsoft, hardware is now a very big deal.

"This is a recognition of the new market reality that the OS is part of the device and the device experience depends on the OS," said Steve Kleynhans, an analyst with Gartner, in an email. "Users no longer distinguish between the device and its operating system so there needs to be close alignment between the hardware and the OS."

In other words, Windows isn't just synonymous with Microsoft applications like Office, but with Microsoft's hardware as well.

This shouldn't come as a great surprise. Both of the first two Surface Pro generations had a sense of the prototype about them, as Microsoft took lessons it had learned in the game console business and applied them to the general productivity market. But the Surface Pro 3 launch was Microsoft's debutante ball, where its confidently strode into the hardware space.

Nadella said then that Microsoft's goal was not to compete with its OEMs, but to "create new categories and spark new demand for our entire ecosystem." According to Kleynhans, "Microsoft's hardware division is about showcasing the best user experience using Microsoft technology so combining these two makes sense to ensure the two groups leverage each other as the OS and devices evolve."

I tend to believe that Microsoft didn't set out to create the best user experience for Windows, but the best Windows devices, period, setting the pace for its hardware partners to follow. If they do, great. If not, the industry will move forward without them. It's a bold, ambitious vision, and one that's been absent from the computer industry. Hololens, the Surface Hub, and the Xbox One together move the industry forward. Can one man, Myerson, oversee all that? As Kleynhans notes, it's a tremendous vote of confidence in Myerson, in Windows 10, and in Myerson's vision for it all.

But here's the bottom line: Yes, you'll still be able to choose whatever PC you want to run Windows 10.  But now, more than ever, Microsoft cares whose name is on the box.


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