Pluralsight blog Where devs, IT admins & creative pros go for news, tips, videos and more.
Pluralsight + Digital-Tutors - 3,000 tech & creative courses - starting at $29/month Get it now →
October 29, 2013

How Microsoft is shifting towards devices and services

By

shutterstock_56409145With recent structural changes and new product announcements on the horizon, it has become clear that Microsoft is moving in the direction of becoming a devices and services company. But what exactly does that mean?

It was all about the software

Looking back on the past, Microsoft has always been a software-oriented company, ever since its foundation in 1975. It all started with MS-DOS, the base operating system for PCs at that time. A few years later, Windows as graphical OS became the de facto operating system on 95% of all home and business PCs between the mid-80s and the late 90s.

Next to its Windows platform, Microsoft was famous for Office, a suite of business and home-usage applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, Publisher, OneNote, etc.) Just like with Windows, during the last 25 years about 90% of all PCs worldwide had a copy of Office running. And on the enterprise side, Microsoft was releasing and continuously updating its range of Server products, with Exchange, SQL, Sharepoint and Lync as flagship releases. In so far, it had only been about the software. 

Into the cloud

Somewhere around 2005, IT organizations and IT vendors started talking about “cloud computing.” Private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, PAAS, SAAS, IAAS… these were common acronyms in every CEO’s speech. Companies like Amazon, Google and Salesforce, to name just a few, became very famous for internet-based services (as that is what cloud computing basically is), and Microsoft couldn’t stay behind.

Microsoft became a very important player in the cloud space by taking a big step and launching its Office 365 and Windows Azure platforms. Office 365 is a cloud-based solution, delivering the latest editions of Exchange Server, Sharepoint Server, Lync Server and Office (both desktop install and webapps) as a hosted service. Windows Azure allows you to run SQL services, web server and web applications or full virtual machines. In the past Microsoft had only provided the software, but now it offers the same software with a service-oriented approach.

Another major step was taken with the release of Windows Phone 7 about two and a half years ago. Apple’s iPhone was ruling the smartphone world at that time, so Microsoft started investing in its Windows Phone Marketplace by offering customers a whole set of applications called Store Apps. There were about 10,000 apps when it launched in 2010, and that has since exploded to over 100,000 in just three short years. The apps are easily downloadable from the phone for just a few dollar and cents per app, or completely free.

The same business idea was used with the release of Windows 8 (and continued with Windows 8.1). Microsoft implemented a tiles-oriented user interface which maintains similarity between Windows phones, Windows desktops and Windows tablets, and extended it with the ease of installing apps from the Windows Store.

So basically, instead of offering the software, it is offering the service. A service that tens of thousands developers worldwide are using for making their app available to the market. Microsoft invests millions of dollars annually in training programs for students at colleges, universities and evening classes, making people aware of this great opportunities of “easy app development.”

Betting on mobile

The launch of the Surface and Surface RT tablets last year set another important path for the company. Where it had previously relied on its OEM partners, Microsoft was now creating and selling devices in a direct business model from within Microsoft brick and mortar stores and through its web stores. While the first wave of Surface devices were not as well-accepted by the market as Microsoft had hoped, it still announced the release of Surface 2, promising faster devices, more powerful resources, longer battery life and (finally) a full range of accessories. Whatever the market might think, Surface is here and is here to stay.

One of the latest moves, the take-over of Nokia’s mobile division for $7.4 billion, prepares Microsoft for yet another leap in the devices and services oriented approach. Imagine the strength and quality of Nokia devices, both phones and probably tablets in the near future, maybe even newer devices coming out of their R&D departments, all running the latest edition of Windows 8.x operating system, all sharing a similar interface, having all user-related data begin synchronized with the cloud.

Great times are upon us, greater times even for Microsoft.

Peter De Tender As an IT professional with over 15 years of experience, Peter has a strong focus on Microsoft technologies, with an expertise in Exchange Server and Forefront TMG. Besides those, he works frequently on general Microsoft Core IO platform integration and consultancy projects as an Infrastructure Architect. He’s been teaching several Microsoft Official Courses for the last 6 years – of which the last 3 as MCT, and became country lead for the Belgian Chapter of MCT Europe in Feb 2011. He’s a regular speaker at Microsoft technology related events including local User Group activities, TechDays, MCT Summit Stockholm 2011, MCT Summit NA – San Francisco 2011 and more. Since 2009, Peter has been the managing partner of ICTinus, a Belgian IT company with a strong focus on Microsoft infrastructure technologies. Peter is happily married to his lovely wife Els Lowie, and proud father of two lovely girls Kaylee & Kitana. Without those three, none of his work, passion and what he’s achieved so far would ever have been possible.

About the Author

As an IT professional with over 15 years of experience, Peter has a strong focus on Microsoft technologies, with an expertise in Exchange Server and Forefront TMG. Besides those, he works frequently on general Microsoft Core IO platform integration and consultancy projects as an Infrastructure Architect. He's been teaching several Microsoft Official Courses for the last 6 years – of which the last 3 as MCT, and became country lead for the Belgian Chapter of MCT Europe in Feb 2011. He's a regular speaker at Microsoft technology related events including local User Group activities, TechDays, MCT Summit Stockholm 2011, MCT Summit NA – San Francisco 2011 and more. Since 2009, Peter has been the managing partner of ICTinus, a Belgian IT company with a strong focus on Microsoft infrastructure technologies. Peter is happily married to his lovely wife Els Lowie, and proud father of two lovely girls Kaylee & Kitana. Without those three, none of his work, passion and what he's achieved so far would ever have been possible.


Discussion