At some point in early 2015, after Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft, we assume the company sat down, had one of those horrible meetings where everyone decides on a mission statement, and decided the company was about productivity, and that this would be the driving force behind most of their efforts going forward. (Their official mission statement btw is “empowering every person and organisation to achieve more”)
The result is Hololens going from an Xbox accessory to a tool for NASA, and Windows Phone going from $80 handsets directed at consumers to $800 flagships with built-in desktops.
We have not been too happy with how Microsoft’s plan has unfolded, with Windows Phone shipments falling from a high of 10 million to a low of 2.3 million, and dropping. Make no mistake about it however – this was no accident – it was fully intended.
Microsoft saw it was not winning in the smartphone arena, and decided to change the rules.
No longer was having a Windows Phone about Snapchat and Instagram, but now it is about Office and Skype for Business. Instead of going for the broad consumer market Microsoft and their OEMs are going directly for the enterprise market – an area where they were already having quite a measure of success.
Of course success in the enterprise market is very different from the consumer market. For one it is more profitable, as companies tend to pay more and care less about appearances, and for another volumes are a lot smaller, and don’t show up in consumer analyst panels like Kantar.
Under Microsoft’s new plan Windows Phones are just small Windows 10 tablets with phones radios built-in, designed to get work done either in the hand or when docked to a screen. Consumer software does not matter that much at all, largely because workers will probably have a second personal phone and because they will be given their devices by IT, rather than being free to choose it themselves.
Satya Nadella sees Continuum as the future, not of the consumer smartphone, but of the business desktop, and truth be told, it is a pretty glorious vision. Users able to seamlessly roam the corridors with all their data in hand, and then being able to wirelessly take over any desktop or laptop, and to sit and get work done.
This is not how we envisioned Windows Phones evolving, and this approach carries it own risks. While Bring Your Own Device is stalling and IT it turning more and more to buying and distributing their own handsets to employees, BYOD is still a pretty large part of the enterprise smartphone market. Microsoft will also still be challenged by the app gap as companies increasingly use consumer software, but for enterprise the gap is a lot smaller and easier to fill.
In fact as the owner of the enterprise computing space no other company can do what Microsoft is attempting – not Apple and not Google either.
But another truth however is Microsoft’s efforts to be a consumer smartphone company is dead, as Windows Phones will just not have the volume to attract the software regular users need day-to-day. This is something even Windows Phone’s most ardent fans need to acknowledge. However in the enterprise world, where IDC’s numbers do not matter, and selling 1 million phones is a great success, Microsoft may rule after all.
With that in mind, as Windows Phone pivots, so shall we. If any of our readers with appropriate experience want to write about Windows in the Enterprise contact me using the tip box.