If you live within reach of Western civilization, it’s almost guaranteed that you have seen Microsoft’s latest major ad push for Windows 8 and the Surface. “Click in,” am I right? Anyways, it should be pretty obvious to every consumer by now that this is an unprecedented push on the part of Seattle’s tech giant to get in the tablet and mobile market. We all know that mobile is the future, and Microsoft needs all the little tablet computers of the future to be running on Windows for it to have a shot at survival. That’s the push behind Windows 8. I heard Steve Ballmer in an interview compare the release of Windows 8 and the Surface to Windows 95 as the next big game-changer from Microsoft. He better hope so. After a lost decade of failures and embarrassment, Microsoft needs this to work.
The company is putting their all into to it, too. Microsoft is hosting workshops around the world for developers who want to create apps for Windows 8 and advertising at every subway station I’ve been to in the last month. It’s so easy to take a look at what Microsoft is doing and think of them as Apple copy-cats (have you ever been to a Windows store? I thought Apple had started selling Xbox), but I do see an opportunity for Microsoft to pick up where Apple left off. Left off, you say? Yes, I am of the mindset that Apple’s innovative engine is running on fumes without its fearless leader. Please, someone remind me what was new and different about the iPhone 5 or the iPad mini? Bigger and smaller screens, respectively is no more ground breaking than a lazy recycling of successful products. Apple has done amazing things for the tech world by pushing the boundaries of how we interact with the digital world by making it more mobile and accessible in our daily lives. But since historically, it seems to me as though Apple’s innovations revolve around human interaction with technology, perhaps that boundary has been pushed as far as the size of the transistor will allow it for now.
This is where Microsoft, or Google, or Facebook, or any tech company with resources could step in, and they are all trying. Apple has built an infrastructure of hardware that redefined the digital realm. Now it’s time for software that harnesses that infrastructure to pull us in to the digital world and make us more productive and better connected human beings. If Microsoft is successful in moving the device-driven world to the Windows ecosystem, that is a powerful opportunity for tech to move forward with the new mobile infrastructure. Bill Gates and Microsoft understood the power of standardization of file formats and software, but what about platform? There are plenty of operating systems to choose from now, all with their respective advantages and disadvantages. I’m no fan of my PC’s sluggishness, but I prefer it to the cage of iOS. I only have faith in the future of this mobile hardware world if developers have every tool they need to make their software sing in harmony with the OS. Whichever one of the tech titans can create an open software development environment that allows as many people as possible to be as creative as possible but which functions seamlessly with the new social, local, mobile way we compute today, will win the war of the tech titans.
I think Microsoft has a shot, but they need to learn from their mistakes. The company has a good history of doing so, as we’ve seen with the acceptance of Windows 7 after Vista’s failure. Maybe Windows 9 will be a blockbuster.