At Build 16 Microsoft presented a interesting view of a future where Bots replace Apps. Satya Nadella offered conversation as a platform – replacing the need to scout through dozens of apps with a natural conversation.
The concept of conversation bots is a good one. Make a request to a single controlling application on your phone and have it connect you to bots that can field your request. For example, Microsoft demonstrated searching for a hotel and then being connected to the hotels bot to book a room.
The only problem for Microsoft is that by allowing its mobile platform to wither it loses out on this potentially lucrative interaction.
Can you imagine Apple users turning to anything but Siri to manage this conversation, Google users choosing to abandon Google Now? It isn’t going to happen. Microsoft has pushed Cortana onto those platforms, yet by its very nature as an add-on app it is less well integrated into the platform.
Cortana, on the other hand, has already demonstrated the ability to interact with other applications and tools on Windows Phone / Windows 10.
The natural place for these conversation based bots is mobile and without a strong platform of its own Microsoft is going to find that bot developers go the same way as app developers – straight to Apple and then Google. Why develop for Windows 10 / Cortana / Skype?
Mobile is absolutely the most important platform now and in the future. Not being able to entice customers means a lack of interest from developers means a future as just another software company for Microsoft.
Satya Nadella’s abandonment of Steve Ballmer’s Devices and Service Strategy might have been popular for some, but the potential long-term damage to Microsoft’s business is great.
Don’t believe me then take a look at how abandoning hardware platforms is working out for IBM.