It seems that over the past couple weeks, I’ve run into the same idea a couple times now: one about Microsoft, the direction that technology is going and the desire that people have for devices that “just work”.
It can be found in this article by Farhad Manjoo, where he talks about why no PC notebook computer comes close to the quality and excellent design of the Macbook Air when it comes to something simple like the touchpad. The argument is that because a PC (meaning a Windows computer) is often built from some many manufacturers and suppliers, each with their own driver that has to interface with the common operating system, the arrangement never comes close to the happy marriage you see with an Apple product, where Apple controls both the hardware and the operating system. Even in the closest of partnerships between OS and hardware, the relationship just isn’t the same as having everything in-house the way Apple does it.
Manjoo ties this into the newly announced Microsoft Surface, which has gathered plenty of buzz, because it’s a piece of hardware that Microsoft has developed internally. Like Apple’s model of success, Microsoft is focusing on something that “just works”. The Surface has already gathered a lot of positive reviews and optimism, something that I observed recently at work. I also noted that a company like RIM, in desperate need of a shot of good news, must look at this announcement and the favourable reaction with some jealousy, especially as their own tablet, which has been available for over a year now, continues to receive a “meh” reaction from consumers and critics alike.
One of my co-workers called me out on this observation and basically said that there’s plenty of reason why Microsoft taking this step (and obviously planning out this step in advance to make sure it was a good move) is such a positive thing for the technology world. His reasoning takes us back to that same idea of “it just works”.
We live in a Microsoft Windows world. At this point, there’s no use arguing it. Sure, people have Macs, some people might run a Unix distro, but by and large, the world of computers runs on Windows. The only reason why the iPod was successful was because iTunes was released for Windows, most computers you’re going to use at work at Windows machines and despite Apple’s wicked growth in consumer sectors, the vast majority of all computers sold run Windows.
That allows Microsoft to be in a pretty special position to release something that “just works”.
The next version of Windows 8 will work on Microsoft Surface, work on desktop PCs, work on notebook PCs and work on mobile devices (aka phones). This single move could very well revolutionize the future path of technology as we know it.
Microsoft is a big player and their decision to even dip their toe into controlling the hardware that their software operates on could have sweeping effects on a lot of hardware suppliers. Basically taking Apple’s approach and super-sizing it. A lot of suppliers depend on Windows to move product and make profit, and while I am unsure how this works with any sort of antitrust laws, such a move by Microsoft has to have companies like RIM and Google wondering about the future of Blackberry and Android. Already it’s making me wonder if my next phone should be a Windows phone.
But for consumers, it appears we’ll benefit. After all, no one wants to use things like Documents to Go on their phone or tablet. No one really wants to deal with apps, no matter how cool they are. People want to be free to use their information as they like. They want the same software to work as expected on every piece of technology they can get their hands on.
A MS Word file should open and be editable wherever. No need to worry about file formats or converters.
A program should run in a similarly expected way on a desktop, a laptop, a tablet and even a phone. No need for an app.
That appears to be the end goal for Microsoft and Windows 8: a solution that just works. Wherever, whenever.
If this is realized properly, it could change everything.