For the past two and a half years I’ve been studying at EDHEC Business School in France, while working at Microsoft. Although I’ve been studying Corporate Finance there, I had the chance to do my Master Thesis on whatever field I wanted and I chose something around strategy.
Working at Microsoft during the launch of Windows 8, I saw the expectations of the employees and of the outer world and I just couldn’t choose any other subject than the future of Windows!
As a matter of fact, I’ve started really late to work on the thesis so I had to urge the writing. It only took me 4 days + 1 day of review to complete it. This means that it is not a good thesis (but sufficient for me to pass) and it’s definitely not as good as I wanted it to be but still, I thought it might help others to publish it on the Internet.
So, what is this thesis about?
Well, it begins with the empirical observation that the way people consume their digital life has changed a lot these past ten years and even more since the touch revolution started with the iPhone. Thus, even if Windows still remains the one and only operating system being sold on PCs keeping its margins, market share and even market size, it misses (before Windows 8) the most important thing: this is not anymore how people want to consume their digital life, or at least, it is not anymore the only way to do so.
Actually, Windows suffers from one of its strength – its universality: it has been designed both for productivity and entertainment, for homes and enterprises. For years it has been the universal way to discover the new era of information technology. Having a product used for every need and everybody was the essence of Microsoft and Windows.
With new ways to consume information that the industry has known these past few years with the emergence of smartphones and tablets, Microsoft has lost the drift and was not up to date to compete in this era, until Windows 8.
But is it sufficient? Will Microsoft need to disrupt Windows to adapt to new markets?
And.. What’s my answer?
After 60 pages of really interesting stuff about the strategic backwardness of Windows, its history, the industry trends it had to answer with Windows 8, and the next years strategy, I eventually give my answer:
We can conclude that no, Microsoft will not be able to disrupt Windows before one of its competitors does. Windows will stay on the foundations it has built for 20 years. But this doesn’t mean Windows will not be successful. Windows has tremendous strengths (enterprise penetration, vertical offer across consumer needs, …) that it can leverage to address every screen and device from top to bottom with one solution. This can really be appealing for consumers and enterprises to have the same software and solution across every device. The link between all of these devices is the Cloud that allows data to be stored on every connected device. With the Cloud, you externalize the matter of storage and data and Microsoft has been a precursor on these technologies and has one of the best solutions (it is so good that Apple is using a part of it for one of its cloud services).
Microsoft might not be able to disrupt Windows, but it can definitely integrate some disruptive innovations into it. On longer terms, Microsoft can count on its power of Research & Development to innovate on the global trend that new technologies era brings: externalization. People are evolving toward externalization of the information, their skills and memory to store them virtually. To interact with data, the suggested ways are pointing device or finger, which are not efficient enough and we are moving toward Natural User Interfaces (NUI) to interact with digital. Microsoft has a great card to play with Windows on this matter and regain a competitive advantage and not being substituted by new usages or devices.
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