Thursday, 16 March 2017

Windows Could Have Defined The Future Of Computing, But For Microsoft's Mobile Failure


Android apps on Chromebooks, Chromebooks that act like tablets or hybrids, a Touchbar on MacBook Pros, an iPad that wants to be your computer and tablet, all whilst leveraging commonality and communication with your phone.

It all sounds a bit familiar doesn't it?

This was the roadmap Microsoft outlined when it launched Windows 8, and substantially delivered on through 8.1, 10 and subsequent updates.

It was a roadmap driven by the Universal Windows Platform. A construct which would see developers able to deliver software running on the whole range of platforms, from Windows PCs, through smartphones and consoles; with future products - like HoloLens - joining the party from the get go.

The idea is sound. The software we use should be available on any device we want to use it on, and we should be able to interact with it in the most suitable way for the device and configuration at the time.

Despite offering a potential market of 400m users Microsoft just hasn't been able to get full buy in for this concept from developers.

It could come in time, but only if Microsoft had a strong and vibrant mobile platform.

Which is what it almost had, up until the time when Windows 10 launched. At which point its UWP stool, which had been balanced on one strong leg (Windows PCs), one weak leg (Windows phones) and one matchstick (Xbox) lost its weak, but critcally important Windows phone leg.

That the damage was self-inflicted was utterly irrelevant. Developers lost any reason for developing new Universal apps because they would, almost exclusively, only ever run on a Windows 10 PC.

If you're going to write and maintain an app for PC would you use the UWP to deliver Store apps which run on the 400m Windows 10 PCs only, or Win32 apps which can run on all 1.5bn PCs out there?

For Apple and Google things are the right way around already. Android is about to eclipse Windows as the biggest platform in use. Bringing Android apps and Chromebooks together is a no-brain decision. And Google will get better and better at it.

And if Google can make it work I see no way that Apple won't follow with a universal platform that brings iOS and Mac OS together into a single platform.

Having leveraged Windows 8 and Surface to gain a handy headstart - at some cost - Microsoft's failure to back its mobile platform has handed the initiative to Apple and Google.

The likely result is that the future of computing will look more like a mobile phone than a PC - and the announcement of Windows for ARM clearly acknowledges this.

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