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?

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  • anthonyb

    Scott,
    very well said.
    I think that Microsoft created the problem all by themselves.
    Every software platform (desktop or mobile) is absolutely in the need od developers/engineers that will create usefull software for it. And what Microsoft has done for these people in the recent years ? They constantly change things (i really cannot count their UI “tecnologies” any more…) , they take pathetic decisions (e.x. the infamous .NET 4.5 “in-place upgrade” that breaks XP .NET 4 software), they create uncertainity about their dev -platforms (internal group-war about “managed vs native” code and all that) etc.
    So, from the moment that iOS/Android are out there and with tools that works and are stable so many years now (especially in the Apple land), why an engineer will rush and adopt Microsoft mobile platform when all above problems are still in place ?
    Why will he run to invest in something that is too risky, non-mature and so new ? Just because he can use .NET expertise ?
    Personally, i do not think so. Surely, some will do but not that many that Microsoft expects. There are other interesting dev-stuff out there so we can rely upon and i do not trust Microsoft any more. As i can infuence such decisions in the company i work for, i persuaded management that iPad is the way to go.
    And to answer your question: I think that developers/engineers will wait and see and not rush into it. And this is bad for Microsoft because they are already late to the (mobile) party. But they, really, deserve it.

  • David Elyk

    The Emperor has no clothes.

    The Metro UI push has been dictated from some high ranking person at Microsoft and it’s being pushed to consumers without any regard to the damage it will do.

    Every Microsoft blog and forum has been swamped with devs complaining about the new UI and it’s funny (in a weird way) to see how the rank and file microsofties just totally ignore everything being said.

    Coupled with the lack of direction regarding the new developer technologies and this is shaping up to be the biggest series of blunders they have ever made.

    The only recommendation I can make for my people is to stand pat and wait. No Windows 8 upgrades, no Visual Studio 2012 upgrades, no Office 2012 upgrades.

    Batten the hatches and hunker down, wait for this thing to
    blow over.

    The silence from Microsoft is deafening….

  • QSECOFR

    Go with MS for mobility?
    Let’s see….
    2002 – Winforms launched – orphaned in 2005
    2005 – WFP – Orphaned at the 2006 version as of 2010
    2010 – More technoogy orphaned in the .Net world
    2012 – Silverlight, WPF, and Winforms all orphaned — the oldest of which is 10 years old.
    2012 – Orphaned WP7, WP7.5. Users with WP7 phones are hosed and have to buy new devices.
    Why in the world would I commit to MS Mobility when the track record is pulling the rug out from from under developers and users every 2-3 years?
    We looked at WinRT and we are going with iOS and Android.
    the only way we will even consider MS again is if Ballmer is fired. Simply put, he is the worst CEO ever.