Is Microsoft mobility still a choice for business?

Mobility is fast becoming a topic, which does not seem to yield a concrete answer. The more you sit down and analyses mobility within an organization, the more you begin to notice there is a lot more choice on offer than before. That is to say, not getting an answer is not due to lack of choice. The plethora of choice available is what is causing the paralysation of selecting one or more platforms to adopt.

A company today who as adopted .NET cannot accurately answer the question around which mobile device they should target. They cannot answer this,  simply due to the uncertainty of what Microsoft’s current product line(s) look like today, let alone unsure if what they propose will fit tomorrow. A company first must contend with the idea that the .NET developers within their pod will have to be outsourced and/or up skilled in order to begin mobile development.

Choosing a platform of any kind in the mobility offerings is often times based around a few conditions such as these:

  • Ubiquity. Will the chosen mobility platform work on as many customers as possible whilst giving the maximum chance of profit and/or adoption.
  • Reduced Development Costs. Will the chosen mobility platform increase or decrease development time(s). Will the platform also enable or empower a uniform design experience across one or more platform(s) that compliment proposed ubiquity needs.
  • Workforce Ready. Will the chosen mobility platform stand up to various conditions workforce is likely to put them through in their daily work style(s). Will they be compliant for industrial work not just office work, will they have work around to employee’s wearing gloves (safety) and so on.

These three core choices often will end up dictating an outcome for adoption within an organization. Choices like these are not the only criteria for selection but they often become the core starting point, which then will branch out further into other criteria. A choice will not always just be one it typically is more than one if not all three and often more times than not ends up with compromises built-in.

The choice of platform is a bad thing for Microsoft customers in that it will hurt both Microsoft and the customer. A customer who is thinking about adopting a secondary platform will approach the subject with a sense of relaxed state, despite the anxiety of choice. The reason for the relaxed state is they will have to lower their expectations initially in order to test the notion that XYZ platform will work for them. Furthermore, security teams within an organization will not be able to guarantee or support the security policies that they have developed for Desktop in mobility. Lastly by way of seeking out alternative adoption they in turn build muscle in coping with the idea that Microsoft are not part of the adoption discussion, which results in potential harm to Microsoft itself.

Choosing a non-Microsoft platform is not bad; in fact, many companies around the world actively do this and not only survive but generate enormous profits. Today a company looking towards moving closer to a cloud-like environment may ask the question whether Windows as an operating system continues to be relevant. The rationale for most organizations around owning office is due to “Office” like software and dependency on solutions they use day in day to make their business run (e.g. Architecture firms with ACAD, Finance companies with TAX software etc.).

Mobility today, has the ability to affect the workforce in a way that goes beyond desktop. A mobile device can go from just being an “Angry Birds” casual gaming platform to now being a first-response workflow-processing tool. The device can also become a basic work tool for email, word processing, spreadsheet refinement and even presentation preparation readiness, all for significantly lower cost than desktop.

“Does the desktop software need to exclusively sit on desktop?” which is now become the question most of the vendors are asking themselves quietly.

Microsoft customers also face a secondary influence when choosing mobility, which is financial hardship. The global financial crisis sent most organizations into immediate survival mode, whereby they slashed costs as deep as they could in order to weather the financial storms. By switching into survival mode, they in turn explored options around how to keep their organization lean and agile enough to reduce its capital expense by also switching it over to operation expenses. During this switch, software and hardware leasing also normalized and it was largely due to the suppliers of these two industries also adapting to the crisis by coming up with smarter, more affordable service plans.

Today a customer within the Microsoft community simply faces uncertainty in around the mobility offering they have before them. They see failure at almost every turn, they see developer relations showing visible signs of souring whilst lastly they see Windows 8 “Start Screen” as a massive distraction that they may not desire or want.

Mobility inside the Microsoft community has more noise than signal when it comes to developer skills reuse, existing IP reuse and lastly basic hardware considerations. A seasoned .NET influencer today would find it hard if not next to impossible to predict what the next 2-3 years would look like from a company such as Microsoft. It is fair to say any industry right now cannot predict 2-3 years from now but when it comes to setting up internal discussion or position papers around purchasing, it helps to have at least a hint or clue that arrives at a confident bet. Today, you do not simply get that unless you can read between the lines of journalism or worse, you rely on blog posts like this for the answer.

In summary, Microsoft faces a massive challenge ahead. They first must bring a sense of calm back to their markets by using Surface and Windows Phone 8 in a clear & specific manner that does not involve the word “consumer” (which they will of course). They second must also reassure developers more clearly, that their C# and XAML skill reuse in mobility by providing clear and well-defined instructional-based solutions (dev. center needs work, it is a mess). Thirdly and most importantly of all they now need to convince the business community that their platform is cheap, reliable and touches on the above three points in a manner that trumps all. If Microsoft can produce answers to these few questions, they in turn can regain lost market share within the business communities.

Do you see it happening?