It is no question that I, the Single-Editor of Design That’s IT, have a particular liking for almost all things dealing with Microsoft. I am not afraid to admit to this because it comes with a reason that reaches much deeper then the following: I love their products, I like their services, I like Bill Gates, Windows rocks. Although these are all real statements that I would make, these are not substantial enough to almost monopolize my interests in a tech company. Why? Because I could do the same with Google: I love their products, I like their services, I like Sergio, Android rocks! Again, I would make these statements about Google, and indeed I do love Google to some extent, but I have less interest in what they are doing in the realm of consumer technology in comparison to Microsoft.
Well what about Apple? Well Apple is still living off of Steve Job’s vision which was a great vision. Steve Jobs saw a world where the things that people love to do (socialize, create, collaborate, entertain) could all be done with a touchscreen on an incredibly thin form factor. The iPad, iPhone and MacBook are all examples of the fruit’s of Apple’s labor (no pun intended) when they brought this vision to life. And I must say, this was a super important step in the realm of consumer technology.
However, ever sense that last Apple revolution, they have not innovated upon that vision. This is why each and every Apple press event just seems like the unveiling of a slimmer iPhone, slimmer iPad, slimmer MacBook and flashier interfaces. They are still stuck in the past. Don’t get me wrong, slimming down devices is great for a lot of usability mobility reasons, but in no way are these breakthrough innovations that literally bring new experiences and use cases to the consumer. This is why although I love Apple’s design team, I am continually loosing interest in the guys and gals and man at the head that refuse to explore new computing avenues.
iOS, of course, is an incredibly reliable experience that will and can only be found on Apple’s mobile touch screen devices. Steve Jobs very passionately believed in a monolithic type of consumer business. He believed that Apple things should be made for Apple things and only for Apple things. He feared (rightfully) that giving other manufactures a license to produce products for Apple’s platforms would confuse the consumer. He also believed that some manufactures simply would produce crappy products, and it would put a bad rep on Apple’s brand recognition. In fact, Steve Jobs wasn’t initially going to let third party developers develop apps for the iPhone and iPod. He was afraid (again rightfully) that developers would create bad experiences for the consumer that in turn would make Apple look bad. He thought that developers would just make web apps, and Apple would make built in apps, and that was just how it was going to be. But amazingly he was convinced otherwise, and gave in. the compromise was that Apple would make a iOS API for developers so that it would be easy for developers to create apps that followed Apple’s design language by default. This model was later picked up by Google and Microsoft when they dove into the mobile market. But its a new day, and Apple is not moving towards it in my view. They are afraid to get it wrong. Hesitant, really. Of course this has little correlation to their success because after all, they are Apple, and their products just…. ‘work’. But so do a lot of other things, so that argument is quickly loosing value as people try new things.
Android is one of those ‘things’. Android is an open source operating system. This means that not only can anyone make an Android phone, but its completely free to do so. Its completely hackable. Any developer from a twelve-year-old computer genius to Samsung Inc. can at any point download the Android API and start developing an app either for recreational use or for the public for the Google Play store. This type of freedom is what gets techies going. We love it when a company like Google gives us a free tool box to do whatever creating and exploring that our minds fathom. Hardware manufactures have the freedom to boot millions of copies of Android onto their phones and sell and ship them with the stock Android version virtually without the need to pay any OS software developers. This is why there are so many Android devices on the market. This is why there are Android phones that cost less then $100 dollars off contract and there are Android phones that cost well over $600 dollars. Because the operating system is open source, the hardware manufacturer can add more and more features to Android, or even go as far as to redesign the whole operating system. This is why one Android experience may be almost unrecognizable to another.
This is something that I both love and frown upon with Google. The freedom given to developers is great because it allows experiences from the most unexpected places to form and inspire people to create without limits. I also love how Android reaches the masses in cheap prices so that even people in very low economic environments can experience advanced technological tools. My frustration is due to the fact that not all Android experiences are equal. In fact, there are some Android phones that are incredibly slow, glitchy, or just plain poor build quality. I always frown upon companies that would much rather cut corners then give people the best experience possible at a reasonable price. Am I saying Google is cutting corners? Not at all, but they are allowing OEM’s to cut corners in the name of their product, which to me is a huge no-no. But still, why Microsoft?
Why? Vision. Out of every major tech company (which includes Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung, Facebook, Amazon, LG ect…) Microsoft seems to have the most clear cut vision of where they see consumer/people technology going. And on top of that, they are by far the most persistent when it comes to bringing that vision to life even if it means going through constant revisions. With Microsoft new CEO Satya Nadella, their vision has taken a few twists and bends into a slightly tangential direction, but I still feel the vision is still the same. The CEO position is a unique because there is little to no direct decision making being made. The decision making for CEO’s are decisions for how their vice presidents and general managers should conduct their individual groups, and even those decisions are arbitrary. But the CEO’s most important role is to establish an overall vision and work hard with the leaders and partners to bring that vision to fruition. In doing that, the CEO often times represents the face of the company. Every company, especially tech company, has a distinct personality. That personality is usually shaped by the founder of the company, but it can change over time depending on the future leaders. Bill Gates was the above average passionate computer geek, and so that is how Microsoft established itself in its early stages. However, once Steve Ballmer took over (a Harvard applied mathematics and economics major) things took for a turn. Don’t get me wrong, Steve is a super smart guy, loves Microsoft, and is very ambitious, but he was incompatible with the culture at Microsoft. Steve Ballmer may be a logistics nerd or mathematician at heart, but a computer software nerd is a far different breed, and so Ballmer slowly began to infuse his more business suit and ties culture into the framework of Microsoft’s leadership and culture. This of course effected decision making. I do not want to harp on Steve Ballmer because he worked really hard and I actually think that eventually got things together and put Microsoft back on track towards a very bright future. Not only did he fix his own mess, but he pushed Microsoft into the mobile avenue in a compelling way before his resignation.
Mobility is the next frontier. Cloud computing and infrastructures are the next frontier as well. Both of these factors working in tandem take the best advantage of BIG DATA. And Satya knows this. Much like Bill Gates, Satya has a technical background with an undergrad in engineering and a masters in computer science. This is quite promising for Microsoft as they need a nerd at heart as the face of the company again. He is quite ambitious as well as he’s demonstrated in the past few months as CEO, almost frightening so. There have been numerous scares in which he alluded to a possible obliteration of key product likes like Xbox, Xbox Music, and Surface. But they were apparently words that were taken out of context, hopefully. But I am quite impressed by his fearlessness and his willingness to get things done. One of the most recent and controversial things he’s done is cut over 12+ thousand positions out of Microsoft’s 100 thousand people workforce. I do personally feel Microsoft didn’t need to be so abrupt in doing so, but I can definitely see how Microsoft may be overstaffed, and it makes complete sense to me that as a incoming CEO Satya is trying to narrow Microsoft’s focus in every crescent of its structure. But needless to say, I think that Microsoft is on the right path. Satya’s vision of cloud first mobile first makes sense to me. Its super forward thinking, but that’s exactly where Microsoft strives.
I’ve realized that this post is quite long, lol, and so I purposefully stopped early for the sake of your eyes. I’ve actually been writing this post for the last month of so on and off, and I’m just more eager on getting it done to put it candidly. Stay on the lookout for a continuation. To be continued….