Microsoft and Adobe casual gaming partnership– Casual love or just gaming each other?

I often get many theories floated past me from staffers, usually it is a case of mind candy, and ways to figure out the chaos within Microsoft – kind of like reverse detective work?

Today, I got a great piece to a puzzle I have been trying to put together for quite some time. It comes mainly from a meeting that Microsoft and Adobe CEO’s had a couple of years ago – in secret kind of.

The two meeting for a catch-up was always unlikely, and when those two get in a room there is an agenda, now the question was always – what was that agenda

The working theory is that Silverlights death was confirmed in that meeting, that in order to regain favor with the Adobe crowd you had to basically show your intent has been to knife the baby – get rid of your competitive threat and at the same time work out a strategy into getting the hordes of design audiences at Adobe’s disposal to give Microsoft another look – despite the brand fail of internet explorer / office clippie and many many many more.

The inside gossip I got today was that Microsoft are working together with Adobe to close the gap on the casual gaming market, in that Adobe’s always owned this market online via Flash for many years and to go after it, despite the XBOX brand’s success would simply take a lot of investment.

Instead, Windows team getting into bed with Adobe to produce a tooling story that compliments their future platform strategies around casual gaming makes more sense as it wins on two fronts. The first being is Windows team aren’t keen to own the tooling strategy for this area, its basically to hard and requires a separate war chest to dominate. Adobe is keen to shift away from being the platform story (notice why Adobe is less platform focused these days and gone back to basics on tooling?) and more about owning the tooling that goes with platform(s).

Adobe working with Microsoft also provides a partnership elsewhere; they both get to cross-pollinate with the developer and designer adoptions. If you can get developers to buy, your tools to work with designers both parties win. As Microsoft is desperate to win hearts and minds on the design bloodlines, it is why metro is the default look as despite its marketing fluff; it is simply a case of ascii art meets public toilet signage – idiot proof.

It is not enough and despite the proactive technical audiences raising glasses in favor of the solid color screens known as metro, it still is not sustaining the creative momentum it desperately needs to retain the interruption required to seed a bigger customer base.

Looking back on BUILD conference, I also found it interesting that XNA was not mentioned as much is it could or probably should have been. It like Silverlight was left with a lot of ambiguity around its futures specifically how casual gaming audiences could benefit from Windows 8 in the future.

In fact, sitting down to play with the current scraps of beta that was given to us via this conference and focusing on Window 8, under the hood it’s still murky as to how the overall new platform is going to work with regards to games.

Not only that, but the reality that plug-ins as we know it aren’t going to be friendly within Windows 8 Browser(s) it’s also a bit of a question mark around how Adobe can retain success here going forward. In fact, if Windows 8 does go ahead, it’s basically a case of Flash being shut down the moment that platform gets traction and before you throw the anti-trust argument on the table, remember that no longer applies – the Windows team can push out Silverlight over night to every machine world wide if they wanted to (not as optional either) as legally speaking, nothing is preventing this today?

That was also our intent in the Silverlight team, when the consent decree sunset kicked in we had strategies around how we would get ubiquity worldwide in quite a rapid way – I mean in nine months we pushed Silverlight out to half a billion people under a lot of tight constraints. Today, nothing …despite constraints gone?

Silverlight had to be knifed but why, and WinRT is not enough there has to be a better story on the horizon.

The windows teams are not really interested in tooling or mini platforms, they typically want a locked in way of life in that you buy Windows and THEN the free market opens up.

If the Windows team have any chance of success of having an AppStore model much like the iTunes/Apple story they need to provide a lot of free market opportunities to folks who aren’t already exclusively tied down to Apple (content wise as well as other categories).

Apple have made it clear Adobe has no future on their future platform stories other than tooling for designers to create Objective-C experiences and also they can install such tooling on the Operating System – but that’s it, beyond that Steve Jobs was quite open about his dislike for Flash.

Flash and HTML5 are also becoming quite a topical conversation in the Adobe communities, specifically the FUD around the future of Flash – Yes more Flash is dead posts arriving to an RSS feed near you.

Adobe have to figure out a strategy here around retaining control as in the end despite them spending a lot of time and energy now on tooling vs. their vision of the platform dominance for mobile devices (CTO Kevin Lynch used to always beat that war drum, today, not so much? He was ahead of his time in thinking and cunning strategies to position Flash but in the end, it never stuck).

Microsoft have to bridge this gap and until you see a casual gaming story unfolding at the next BUILD something or someone has to provide the ingredients here to make that work, as in the end this is the carrot that gets you in part Windows 8 adoption with consumers – especially given the Windows 8 in its current form has no level of excitement from Enterprise or Medium Business industries.

Today, I was told a scrap of info but the more I step back and piece things together the more I begin to cast a theory, and this post is a current working model of it.

I could do with more information, care to share?

XNA, where’s that heading next? What is Microsofts casual gaming story in the new Windows 8 world? Why no Silverlight focus on Casual gaming? HTML5 can’t handle it on its own that’s for sure…

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Wife says: “Stupid Windows 7 Phone!!”

I was waiting for the train with the wife this morning and could hear her mutter a few curse words under her breathe. I stop reading my twitter stream, look over to her and am immediately greeted with a look of “Your to be blamed” for this.

I stupidly incite the upcoming verbal beating with a simple question “What seems to be the problem now?”

Wife: “Your stupid Microsoft friends have made a stupid phone!!!”

Me: “Oh? How so, like what is your beef missy?”

I soon realize that the time for joking with her and ending the sarcastic response with “missy” was not my brightest moment and definitely isn’t my great starting to a new day.

Here response is in the video below, but she has reached a point where she is over the HTC Mozart Windows Phone 7 phone. That is to say, she has made up her mind based on small bits of information around who is to blame and why.

I tweeted the saga live and saw a lot of responses with “That doesn’t happen to me” and “it must be hardware related” which is fine, I guess, yet you have to remember this is an average consumer who buys phones based on “pretty” and “angry birds” decisions only.

To her, this phone is broken and its Microsoft’s fault, end of story.

As an informed person of the whole Windows Phone 7 meets HTC hardware issues, I could easily sway her to the righteous side of things and explain how Microsoft relies on hardware vendors meeting quality bands and so on.

I did that.

Her response was simple and it was brilliantly executed in my opinion.

“Well when your iPhone smashed it screen, I didn’t see you finding the place in China or wherever it was made to figure out the solution. You took it into Apple store and you got it fixed.”

She has a point and to be fair, it is true. If iPhone has issues no matter what the case, I look at Apple and growl.

If a Windows Phone or Google Android has issues, we have three brands to look at and give a menacing growl at – Google, Hardware Vendor, and Carrier.

At some point, you have to figure out which of the three caused you the pain and then try to reconcile the problem with them and so on.

In the case of the Windows Phone 7, sure let us say it is hardware to be blamed? What do I do? Do I attempt to spend my entire lunch hour negotiating with Telstra drones who often hide behind the “look we just sell phones, we don’t do tech support, you need to contact this number…” and wait it out hoping and praying someone gets what you’re saying and either replaces the hardware or gives you some crap excuse about warranty.

In the iPhone land, I walk up to an Apple reseller like NextByte or Apple Stores direct, meet with their “Genius” (which is definitely an overloaded term in Apple Store setting) watch them attempt to figure out the issue followed by an immediate “we’ll have to send this way to get fixed for you” response.

You wait 3-5 business days and then you get an email saying your phone is ready but on closer inspection you soon realise it is not your old phone after all but a new or refurbished phone instead.

The point overall is this. The game has changed, Apple have reset a lot of the rules around not just the shape and operating system(s) of these devices and their features, they’ve also introduced us to a support workflow that despite it still having a lot of flaws and negativity attached after you meet with them, is still the one-stop shop.

My wife has seen me return iPhones due to cracked glass, she has seen me get them back brand new and has only noticed me getting angry at having to be without a phone for n-days.

To her, this is the way it should be to now encourage her to sit down at a Telstra store and figure a way around this issue is simply to hard basket thinking. She’d rather just withdrawal $799 from our back account, drive over to the Apple Store on the weekend, buy the new iPhone 4s and re-join the herd with all her other friends that own one.

You cannot argue with that either, its fair and reasonable thinking given the market conditions and aspirations being made around phones.

Thankfully though I still have an iPhone 4 without the “s” so I was able to convince her to not spend $799 but take my old iPhone4 given I now have an iPhone4s.

Now to buy an XBOX 360 Kinect with the money I saved…

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