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Microsoft's alt-OS strategy strikes loyalists as class warfare

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 9, 2014
But the emphasis on rival OSes, making Windows seem second fiddle, will be temporary, say analysts.


For some analysts, the push beyond Windows was not only smart but a sign that Microsoft had sniffed some reality smelling salts. "They have to face market trends," said Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft. "People on iOS pay money for apps, there are lots of Android devices, and then there's Windows Phone. It's Microsoft's [financial] responsibility to go where the users are on mobile, and that's not Windows Phone."

Others echoed Miller's necessary-evil take but also delved into the why.

"Products for its own platforms were far more advanced than for alternative platforms, so Microsoft has a lot more to do on other platforms than on Windows," said Gartner analyst Michael Silver in an email. "This also means that Windows platforms are likely evolving more slowly anyway. [And] Microsoft has a lot of internal expertise on Windows platforms and less on others, so acquisitions, which are more visible, are more likely to be done for supporting alternative platforms."

Analysts agreed, more or less, that the emphasis on everything but Windows was more a result of timing, resources and the rethink of strategy at Redmond than a deliberate snub. But some saw it as exactly that nonetheless.

"When the biggest base is pushed back in a queue, you're now a second-class citizen," said Dawson.

Microsoft was simply between the proverbial rock and a hard place, said Silver. "Microsoft is damned if they do and damned if they don't, aren't they? How many articles were there over the past few years about how far behind Microsoft was in addressing other platform?" Silver noted. "Now, they're addressing other platforms and they're being faulted for it."

But while loyalists' resentment is real, it will probably be temporary, the experts argued. As Microsoft rolls out, for instance, the next version of Office on Windows, including a long-awaited touch-centric edition, the sniping there should stop.

"This will correct in 2015," predicted Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Once you get to Windows 10, which looks like a very, very high-quality platform, [a touch-centric] Office will scale not only to ARM but also x86 tablets and PCs."

Miller chimed in, too. "What we're seeing is that the next version of Office and Windows 10 will go out at the same time. And the new Office will be the best experience when you're using that platform," he said. He also called this in-between moment "awkward," and blamed at least part of Microsoft's problem with its boosters on an inability to make its own smartphones compelling.

But the world will never be what it once was for Windows' proponents -- something they'll have to learn to accept no matter how cockamamie they think it is.

"Most favored nation status is over," said Miller.


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