Ballmer recently criticized Microsoft approach to apps and the mobile space and pointed out that the universal apps philosophy “won’t work“. Matt Weinberger at Business Insider makes us think that Ballmer could be really wrong:
On Wednesday, driver-on-demand app Uber comes to Microsoft Windows 10 — making it the first time ever that Uber has been available from a desktop PC. […] Getting Uber on Windows 10, as an official universal app, is a huge coup for Microsoft and Nadella. It means that Uber, at least, thinks that Windows 10 is worth the time and energy to support.
Maybe he should take a look at the new Uber app for Windows 10, that works indistinctly on a PC and on mobile phones with Microsoft’s new OS and that lets developers discover how a universal app can really transform itself to adapt the interface and its features to each device conveniently.
IDC released estimates for Windows Phone market in the next few years, and that data is not nice. According to them, Windows Phone / Windows 10 Mobile will have a 2.1% share in the mobile space, and that number will not change much in the next 3 to 4 years.
Universal apps “won’t work”, like Ballmer said, and IDC seems to agree. They’re not the only ones, and Jean-Louis Gassée writes about this on Monday Note:
There are well-understood reasons why this slam-dunk idea has never paid off in practice. At one end of the spectrum, we have lowest common denominator mediocrity: Compromises must be made to ensure that a single Write Once code base will work on the smallest, least powerful Run Anywhere device. Imagine music that’s written so that it can be played, without rearrangement, on a flute or by an orchestra. You’re not going to hear many orchestral performances.
To solve the problem, we can go to the other end of the spectrum and devise modules that are tailored for each supported device and bundled inside a universal app. When an app is launched, it determines which device it’s running on and activates the appropriate module.
I certainly see problems for Microsoft in the future, but I also consider this was the boldest of their options in the mobile space right now:
Universal apps: that’s the only way to become themselves a hardware/software ecosystem to compete against Apple and Google. Microsoft is late to the party, yes, but it was late too with the Xbox, and their entertainment business is doing well.
Fork Android: Nokia showed us what an Android fork could work on their phones -remember Nokia X?- and Microsoft seems to have a plan B in mind: talks with Cyanogen suggest a possible Android fork based on Cyanogen OS populated with Microsoft apps and services instead of Google ones. I predict Microsoft will take this road when if Windows 10 Mobile and the universal app strategy fails.
Goodbye, mobile: I really don’t see Microsoft leaving this gigantic market to its rivals, but others have surrendered. Microsoft should focus on apps and services, and would abandon it’s convergent OS strategy.
I want to be optimistic here. I think Microsoft has a chance, but it’s not a big one. Yes, Android and iOS seem to be invincibles, but it felt the same way with IBM in the 80s, Microsoft in the 90s, Google in the 2000s an so many others along the way.
Ballmer has never been the shy CEO, but I thought that at times it was just a role he had to play in order to represent Microsoft. His public/business image never worked for me. I can only think of him shouting, and his business decissions were debatable to say the least.
It seems Ballmer was just Ballmer, and the recent critics against Nadella and its strategy are harsh, inelegant and not necessarily smart.
When he says the new universal apps approach “won’t work” and he points out that users must be able to run Android apps on their Windows mobile devices he is making the same mistake BlackBerry did.
Getting other platform apps on yours is not the solution, and it’s not the solution because if I want to take advantage of a platform software and services, I will buy a device that runs these software and services natively.
Your ideas won’t work, Steve. Your ideas won’t work.
The Post-PC is more of a PC-Reborn era. And it is so because the PC isn’t that big box under the table anymore. Or even that laptop, Ultrabook or convertible you’ve spent some money on lately.
No. Your PC is your smartphone. And if it’s not yet, it will be that soon enough.
That’s what Canonical envisioned almost four years ago. On October 31st, 2011 Mark Shuttleworth published this on his personal blog:
By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud.
The idea was clear: your smartphone would become your PC, and the experience on that device would adapt to your needs and resources. But Canonical wasn’t able to deliver that promise. It even tried to launch Ubuntu Edge, the “convergent phone” that would provide all the necessary to get a responsive experience. That project had to be cancelled due to insufficient funding on Indiegogo, where nevertheless it was a record project.
Thankfully, Microsoft stole the idea
Microsoft took up the torch, and the company led now by Satya Nadella is finally delivering that idea. We saw the result with the new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, the first phones that thanks to Continuum, the Microsoft Display Dock and that ‘One Windows’ paradigm are able to transform that experience.
You can finally use those smartphones as a smartphones or as PCs. It depends on what you need, and on what your resources are. A display, a keyboard and a mouse are enough to provide that desktop experience running from a smartphone.
Convergence is here, and it seems unstoppable.
Google agrees: this is the future
Google has been pretty clear in the past about the relevance of Android and Chrome OS. Both made sense for the company, and both covered different users. That was the official message.
There was other goals inside the company, of course. As many predicted, maintaining two code bases when one of them is clearly not getting much traction seems not a good idea. Yesterday The Wall Street Journal revealed how Google would ‘fold’ Chrome OS into Android. There has been some updates on that report, and it seems Chrome OS will continue to exist after the release of that combination of both projects.
Chrome OS, tells The Verge, is not being “killed” and Re/code explains how “Starting next year, the company will work with partners to build personal computers that run on Android“. It seems the path to Google’s convergence will be a little slower, with two products coexisting -Android with Chrome OS features, and the traditional Chrome OS-, but the end seems clear: only Android (maybe with a different name) will survive.
Apple: merging iOS with OS X seems mandatory now
The discourse about convergence has also been unequivocal at Apple. Tim Cook recently explained how iOS and OS X had both sense for different scenarios:
We don’t believe in having one operating system for PC and mobile. These operating systems do different things,” said Cook. “We have no intention to blend them.
But again, this is the official discourse. There are to many hints to dismiss a possible merger between iOS and OS X:
OS X has received minimal updates on the last two years, and in most cases there has been an ‘ios-ification of OS X‘. Continuity and Handoff were nice, but not specially ambitious.
Apple’s ARM SoCs are incredibly powerful: they even beat the new MacBook, and that could led to that promising Apple laptop based on on an ARM processor (Apple A10?) and, of course, iOS.
The new iPad Pro proves that Microsoft’s idea with their Surface is the one that can really save tablets. And it’s based in iOS. Not OS X. iOS.
The Mac division is still important, but the iPhone is what makes Apple successful. Compare 63% revenue from iPhones to 13% revenue from Macs. If you add the iPads (another iOS product), you get a whopping 71% of revenue based on that products. That’s what work.
I have no doubts about this. Apple wants your smartphone to be your PC too. I’m absolutely sure they’re working on it, so stay tuned. Google’s decision won’t be the last on this front.