In my personal life, I make it clear that I am a huge fan of Open Source Technology and often use Ubuntu GNOME as my daily driver. Over the past few years, I have taken a front row seat in watching Microsoft fall from it’s once mighty pedestal with the flop that was Windows 8. Granted Windows 8.1 did fix a lot of the issues reported by Windows user, it still feels like an operating system with an identity crisis. This comes at a time where Android and ChomeOS have both overtook the Tablet, Low Power and Educational Markets and could have been a serious death blow to the once mighty king.
After a CEO change, Microsoft has made several significant changes that may allow them to survive and possibly recover some of their former glory. Microsoft has made a subtle change by focusing on Microsoft Services rather than Microsoft Products. None of these changes should come as a surprise as CEO, Satya Nadella was previously the head of Microsoft’s Cloud Services Division and this influence is clearly shown.
These changes were set on hyperdrive with the launch of Office 365 as a direct competitor to Google Drive and other web based collaboration platforms. Microsoft has also made several investments and changes to One Drive, XBox Online, Skype and Outlook.com to create a slew of online services with a monthly subscription. In many ways, Windows has taken a back seat while this transformation happened.
This move on Microsoft’s part was genius, allowing it to embrace operating systems and platforms that they were once in heated competition with. Microsoft once took direct aim at Google’s ChromeOS with several derogatory marketing campaigns that were full of half baked lies in order to sway customers over to Windows. Office 365’s web based system allows the platform to be used on ChromeOS without issue and actually benefits Microsoft in several ways. Android and iOS currently dominate the tablet market and Microsoft is already releasing mobile versions of Office 365 to allow for a seamless experience on these once completing platforms as well. They are essentially transforming once alienated users into customers.
Microsoft did also transform Windows 8.1 by subsidizing or even releasing it free to several manufacturers to push their operating system onto smaller devices such as 7 inch tablets. Windows 8.1 “with Bing” was almost identical to the standard consumer release of Windows 8.1 except that the manufacturer would be forced to set all default services to Microsoft’s in lieu of other services.
Windows 8.1 “with Bing” also normally includes a free year of Office 365 personal to allow users to get hooked on Microsoft’s subscription services after the year has expired. Along with this, we have seen the market saturated with hundreds of inexpensive laptops, tablets and netbooks that were designed to be an alternative to ChromeBooks and ChromeBoxes.
Microsoft also decided to embrace the concept of a “family” by offering a simple $10.00 per month household subscription of Office which allows 5 installs of Office and access to all of Microsoft’s services for up to 5 users. This includes 1 TB of One Drive Storage for each user.
Microsoft seems to be continuing this trend by releasing Windows 8 as a free upgrade to all users running Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. I have been running an Evaluation Version of Windows 10 on one of my laptops for around 6 months and can already see the deep integration with Microsoft Services that were not as prevalent in previous versions of Windows.
Aside from finally giving the axe to the horrible “Modern UI”, Microsoft has fixed a lot of the inherit problems with Windows 8. On Windows 10, using Microsoft’s OneDrive is almost compulsory as it offers seamless integration with the Operating System and Microsoft’s other services.
In conclusion, not only do these changes mean that Microsoft’s change in direction could prove to be more lucrative for Microsoft but it also essentially destroys the Software Piracy problem that Microsoft has been complaining on since the beginning of time. Microsoft has finally re-discovered their identity as a consumer SaaS/PaaS solution.
Before anyone asks, I am still going to be using Ubuntu GNOME as my primary operating system, I have no intentions of making the transition fully but do plan to use some Microsoft Services more then I normally would.