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One Microsoft, all the time: What Ballmer's newly unified vision could mean to you

Brad Chacos | July 12, 2013
Microsoft just overhauled its entire organizational structure to focus on a vision of ubiquity—a vision that could pay dividends to YOU down the line.

And more importantly, each of those divisions is dependent upon communicating with the others. An app needs an OS to run on, and an OS is mere bits on a disc without hardware.

Now, we won't see any major changes from this anytime soon, despite Microsoft's newfound rapid-release religion. Correcting the course of an organization as large as Microsoft takes time. (Just ask BlackBerry.) But when the fruits of these changes do blossom, they could be mighty tasty indeed.

Imagine this: It's the future. Your Xbox One, Surface tablet, Surface Watch, Surface Display and Surface Phone all sport the same sleek VaporMg styling, complete with the same physical controls in the same general area.

But more importantly than that, all those devices share the same core experience: A unified system design, with crucial elements in familiar locations no matter which device you're using. The same apps and services are available on all devices, either from the web or from the shared OS core, and thanks to the touch-friendly modern UI spanning across platforms, you can even run most apps on your Surface Watch. Behind the scenes, SkyDrive hums along quietly, syncing your apps, settings, game saves, DVR details—and heck, maybe even your chosen configurations for your Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, and headset. Shifting from device to device would be utterly seamless.

One Microsoft, all the time.

Bumps in the road
Idealistic? Sure. But even if the grand vision doesn't coalesce completely, everybody wins if Microsoft simply manages to rival Apple and Google and build out a cohesive ecosystem of apps and services with a common look and feel.

Well, almost everybody wins. This unified vision will likely have its victims.

First, I have to wonder: Where do the third-party device manufacturers stand in all this? Windows can run on a wide swathe of hardware, but "One Microsoft, all the time" carries somewhat ominous tidings for the likes of Acer, HP, and Dell. Don't be surprised to see more "experiments" with Chrome OS or $200 Android laptops in the future, as Microsoft's message skews slightly towards Apple's tone.

Or could a vision where all of Microsoft's products have the same look and feel be a vision of elegant, yet desultory sameness? And if that happens, is that where third-party hardware can shine? The service and software roots of One Microsoft, All the Time would work just fine on hardware from any OEM, after all.

The desktop is dead, long live...the Tile?
Next: This reorganization leaves no doubt about it. The desktop is the past for Microsoft; the modern UI vision is the future for the company. The desktop simply can't carry over from device to device and app to app in the same way that the modern UI and its flexible WinRT architecture can. The die is cast. The death of the desktopis coming, at least in the vanilla consumer version of Windows. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.


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