Editorial

For Microsoft, going backwards is the new forwards, but that's ok

Over the past several years, we have seen Microsoft hit the reset button on several of its major platforms including Windows Phone, Windows and now Xbox. The first big reset came when the company decided to abandon Windows Mobile and push forward with Windows Phone.

In the mobile segment, this made a lot of sense. Their Windows Mobile platform was becoming stagnant and they were heading the way of Blackberry in terms of market share and user perception. So what did they do? They cleaned the slate, started from scratch and are now in the ‘challenger’ mindset with Windows Phone and are making strategic acquisitions to bolster up their bottom line.

Windows Phone was a necessary move and the company had to take a few steps back so that they could get a running start at the new mobile first landscape. While the growth has been slow, there is no doubt that manufactures are warming up to the platform and Microsoft lowered the cost to entry too. With these moves, Microsoft is setting the framework for Windows Phone to successfully compete against the entrenched Android and iOS.

What was even more odd during this transition was the move from Windows Phone 7 to 8 where the platform was again split, meaning that Windows Phone 7 users were left in the cold because they could not update to Windows Phone 8 which created a small rift within the community. But, seeing that the market share was so small at that time,Microsoft was a bit too aggressive with Windows 8 they once again parted ways with the old in favor of the new and so far, it is working out well. Of course, more changes are on the horizon as Windows RT and Windows Phone will be moving closer together in the near future.

But some of the bigger backwards steps have come with Windows 8. When the platform launched, it was a dramatic change from what consumers were accustomed too and it has caused backlash. So much so that senior leadership at Microsoft has been removed and the company is now de-modernizing the emphasis of Windows 8 with Windows 8.1 and future updates.

For starters, the company’s first big step backwards from the transition of a start-button less UI was to bring back the start button but apparently that wasn’t enough either. The leadership change in Redmond is already starting to pay dividends The company is now going full-circle and bringing back a proper Start menu to make Windows 8 feel more like the classic Windows that users have grown to love over the past three decades of its existence.

Make no mistake about it, Microsoft was trying to blend touch and traditional computing into one platform and went in too aggressively. Rather than easing in the transition, they attempted to force the modern UI on all users and with a lack of proper mouse and keyboard support (up until the recent update) it was a frustrating experience for those without touchscreen monitors.

More recently, Microsoft has taken steps backwards with it’s Xbox console by unbundling the Kinect to lower the price of the console down to $399.It’s likely better to say that these steps were a ‘course correction’ You can read more here about some of the other steps the company has taken to go backwards here but know that the Xbox received several modifications from its initial launch plans that were announced at E3.

Reading that Microsoft is backpedaling may seem like slam against Microsoft, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The company knows where the future is heading and took large steps to help get its platforms ready for the next generation of computing, but it seems that the leaps were too great and instead, baby steps were needed.

It’s likely better to say that these steps were a ‘course correction’ rather than backpedaling because the fundamentals have not changed much, only the auxiliary components are shifting. But, for a company as large as Microsoft, making these moves could not have come easily and that’s why the leadership change in Redmond is already starting to pay dividends because we suspect under the old regime, these changes would have not occurred.

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