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Microsoft's Not Abandoning the Consumer, But Its Future is Productivity

What’s the difference between a business user and the consumer? In the large enterprise world, it’s a bit easier to distinguish this as you need more granular control over mobile hardware and you likely buy software that runs in a data center.

But at a smaller level, the end-user scenario, there are a lot of things in common. Business and consumers both want to be productive, either with spreadsheets or lists for the grocery store, they both want to browse the web safely, they both need email, Office apps, a web browser and the list goes on and on.

The difference between what you need at the workplace and what you need at home is rarely all that different. Microsoft knows this and now that Windows is fading from the limelight, the company is more forcefully making the transition away from being known as the ‘Windows’ company and more so as the ‘productivity’ company.

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There are many signs of this, including how Microsoft presented aspects of their Inspire conference last week and there is a good write-up by Mary Jo about this topic as well. There are also more obvious signs like Yusuf Mehdi’s title being changed to Corporate Vice President, Modern Life & Devices Group, instead of Windows and Devices Group.

Microsoft is on a path to make Windows a lesser-known brand and its promotional efforts will continue to put less focus on Windows and more on individual products. That may sound crazy but it’s clear that the path forward for Microsoft is not Windows, but productivity.

The company now looks at mobile devices as generic end-points. The operating system doesn’t matter and while they would have loved every smartphone to be Windows-based, that future will never be a reality. Instead, the company is focusing on making the best productivity applications for every device like OneNote, OneDrive, Teams, Skype, Edge available no matter the OS or form factor.

What I do not see Microsoft doing anytime soon is trying to be the ‘productivity and entertainment’ company that so many people want them to be. An example of this is that it feels like every week someone is suggesting they buy Spotify and Roku but considering that Microsoft made nearly $9 billion in Net Income from its current product offerings, the company doesn’t need to play deeply in the consumer arena to ramp up revenue which has historically been a low-margin segment of the market.

That doesn’t mean the company does not care about the consumer, far from it. The company’s Xbox divisions is and will continue to be a key pillar of the company’s operating model and Surface, while it certainly caters to business customers, is also resonating well with consumers too.

And productivity goes far beyond Office. This includes things like building great developer tools, a cloud that enables companies to do more with less, and device management to help companies focus more on customer needs and less on security.

As you watch Microsoft continue down its path of working to deepen its integration into the workflow of the world, pay attention to how the company is moving away from a world where Windows is the backbone of its operations. The company has already made big strides in supporting every platform and as the next generation of computing begins to materialize, Microsoft’s goal is to make sure that even if they don’t have the operating system, they still own productivity.

I don’t want this to sound like Microsoft will stop developing Windows, that couldn’t be further from the truth. For Microsoft, Windows is vital to the business as it will continue to represent a large portion of their quarterly revenue but the truth is, it’s not expected to be a growing part of their future. Windows has matured, it’s in a stable state for Microsoft and it will continue to be that way for many years to come.

But to keep the company growing, look for Microsoft to find new ways to pivot further towards being a productivity-focused company instead of an operating system developer.


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Comments (1)

One response to “Microsoft’s Not Abandoning the Consumer, But Its Future is Productivity”

  1. <p>This is fascinating, and vague, but… true. I agree that endless lists of brands and versions should be a thing of the past, but that should not leave any given user without firm bearings as to what they are working upon (OS) and with (how much of one's personal computing resources is being used by at any given moment).</p><p><br></p><p>Define Productivity. It should not equal electricity being used, even though this is productivity for an electric company. It should not equal finished task completed, because it may be that the task the user thinks is theirs actually belongs to a company and not themselves. Productivity is defined by what will be recalled for a reason at a later time. Therefore, so much of what many consider vital, will be put to the sidelines.</p><p><br></p><p>The best Operating System and the best individual use of it will be the creating of useful data that may be recalled at will and with ease. Our alphabets are the best example of this. How will Microsoft achieve such clear and vital helpfulness? I think by keeping along its best aspirations. Around Windows8.1 or so I remember checking out a tutorial for a visual design application that would allow people to code with clarity and grace. From what I remember of the details, it was egalitarian, elegant and aimed to put PC Users in the driver seat. Maybe this is impossible with sophistication of today's applications, but the spirit and sentiment and philosophy may always be championed and retained.</p><p><br></p><p>Perhaps what I find VAGUE is simply the open ended LARGESSE and beauty of a milieu whose limits recess further, daily.</p><p><br></p><p>I lament overly complex and opaque symbols and terms. If there were tutorials that took account the applicants prior experience or lack thereof, that would be nice. Sometimes I visit a website to learn and it endlessly explains basics or else dives right into high end definitions and their abbreviations. I am thinking of the average first world suburban user. This demographic is mercilessly advertised to, but tragically kept in the dark, simultaneously. A return to earlier Microsoft "we're all in this together" mentality would be SUBLIME and a REAL SMASHING SUCCESS &lt;3</p><p><br></p><p>OK thanks for letting me express! Cheers, Petri and all the best :-)</p><p>Stanley Gemmell JUNE 2020</p>

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Brad Sams has more than a decade of writing and publishing experience under his belt including helping to establish new and seasoned publications From breaking news about upcoming Microsoft products to telling the story of how a billion dollar brand was birthed in his book, Beneath a Surface, Brad is a well-rounded journalist who has established himself as a trusted name in the industry.