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Why Microsoft must become Apple and Google

Brad Chacos | Jan. 31, 2013
Can't beat 'em? Then join 'em. Microsoft's future may lie in stealing the strategies of its most bitter rivals.

The future is now?

Does this all sound crazy? It shouldn't: Microsoft's cloning efforts have already begun.

In addition to the device-spanning capabilities of Office 365's business offerings, Microsoft has released a slew of Xbox-branded apps for iOS and Android in recent years, along with dedicated apps for SkyDrive, PhotoSynth, Lync, OneNote, and Bing. The company even released an Android-exclusive--and excellent--app in the form of On{X} in 2012, and it plans to release native mobile apps for its business-focused CRM software later in 2013. We'll have to wait and see whether premier programs like the Office apps are truly headed for Android and Apple devices, however.

Microsoft has made no bones about its intention to continue making hardware going forward. In the company's annual shareholder's letter, CEO Steve Ballmer wrote, "There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes," as part of a continuing effort to "focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software, and services."

CFO Peter Klein put Microsoft's plans for the Surface brand even more plainly during the company's recent quarterly earnings call: "We're going to expand geographically; we're going to expand the product lineup; we're going to expand retail distribution and capacity."

Rumors of Surface phone tests and a 7-inch Xbox Surface tablet abound, and the Intel Core i5-powered Surface Pro tablet should be hitting the streets in a matter of days according to Microsoft's stated timeline. Bring 'em on, I say, and let the OEMs grumble all day long. The times are a-changin', and the very future of Microsoft may depend on Steve Ballmer and his band of merry engineers following trails blazed by their nemeses.


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