One of our biggest complaints with Microsoft in recent years has been their tendency to persistently start over, generally leaving users and developers stranded on newly created dead ends such as Windows Phone 7 or Silverlight.
This has prevented Microsoft from gaining any real momentum with consumers over the years, which tends to eventually lead to the cancellation of the whole venture eventually. Examples come easily to mind, the most high profile of those being Windows Phone, but also the Microsoft Band, Zune, Silverlight and more.
Now Tim Snead, a 17-year veteran Microsoft developer and eventually Principal Program Manager, has revealed the reason for Microsoft’s chaotic random walk from framework to framework, and the answer is not surprising – infighting.
But then came the missteps. Distracted by the engineering challenges of delivering “Longhorn” (Windows Vista), Microsoft failed to adjust rapidly to the new competitive threats posed by the rise of the standards-based web and the resurgence of Apple and the iPhone. Its rapid growth left it with the defender’s dilemma of being attacked by all sides, while also being unwilling to sacrifice existing businesses for new opportunities.
Meanwhile, infighting between different divisions left client developers in the Microsoft ecosystem caught in the crossfire, with little clarity for those who wanted to bet on something that would endure. Customers started to look elsewhere, attracted both by the new monetization opportunities of iPhone and the exploding ecosystem around the web. And so when “Metro” (UWP) was introduced as a reset for the Windows API, leaving behind the massive existing Windows XP and Windows 7 user base in pursuit of an unproven new touch-centric UI, developers largely shrugged and continued down the paths they had already chosen.
Being abandoned by developers and the so-called “app gap” has been the main reason Microsoft has become an increasingly weak platform company. From a company that has been best known for their stability and backwards compatibility, Microsoft is now seen as an unreliable partner not worth betting on.
Of course, ultimately the issue is a lack of strong leadership in Microsoft over the course over many, many years, with the leadership itself being embattled by the board and shareholders.
We are rapidly approaching 2018, and my main wish for Microsoft is that they maintain consistent support for their platforms that both users and developers can rely on, with Microsoft working as one, maintaining a consistent and predictable direction.
Do our readers agree?