Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference 2012
I’m coming off a week in Toronto where I attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. It’s me and 16,000 of Microsoft’s best friends. In fact, it’s the largest turnout for this event ever. It is undeniably an epic scene.
Some may be surprised to learn of a turnout like this for a Microsoft gathering. For years Microsoft has taken a backseat to companies like Apple, Google, Facebook in the press and most certainly in the public markets. In some cases for good reason; the competition was delivering a better product. And the company has had its missteps as most recently demonstrated with the 6.3 Billion dollar write off of aQuantive and the pending, scathing Vanity Fair article announcing Microsoft’s “Lost Decade”.
But over the years Microsoft has placed a lot of bets and has won its share of big money battles, often in places that the public doesn’t clearly see. For SWC these victories are right in our sweet spot. Everyday our mid-market clients leverage Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint, Unified Communications, CRM and Office to run efficient and innovative organizations. In many ways Microsoft “owns” the technology stack that runs business in the 21st Century. They dominate the back-office in much the same way they used to dominate the PC space.
What has plagued Microsoft over the last 10 years has been the consumerization of IT – the touch screen user experience and the online store, the Cloud and the ability for a browser and any device to provide the productivity value that was once reserved to the PC. Microsoft has known for years that in order to regain the dominance it once had it would need to dramatically address this issue. It would need to own the consumer experience as much as it has continued to own the back-office.
This was the sub-text to the week’s events here in Toronto. In some subtle and other not-so-subtle ways Steve Ballmer and his lieutenants announced that the time had come for Microsoft to attack. The message is this:
- Microsoft Windows 8 (released to manufacturing in August and available to the market in October) will provide the touch-screen user experience that will finally give Apple something to worry about.
- The Surface Tablet running Windows 8 will be manufactured by Microsoft so that they can control the entire experience. Gone should be the configuration mishaps and clunky form factors that result from a channel handoff to organizations like HP, Dell and Samsung. It’s a very dramatic move that will alienate some very big, powerful partners, but in the end, Microsoft had no choice. This decision speaks volumes in terms of Ballmer’s commitment towards this strategy.
- The XBOX is a dominate gaming and entertainment appliance in today’s household. We know it for Halo and Call of Duty and other interactive experiences but don’t forget it’s also a media unit for video and audio as well as a communications hub for instant messaging and VOIP. With Skype it’s also a video chatting portal.
- During this conference, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Performance Pixel. It’s this company that has perfected the technology that allows for the touch screen experience on large screens (when I say large, I mean 80 inch screens). Imagine the XBOX or Windows 8 experience on something like this…
- The Windows Stores will be everywhere come the holiday shopping season. There are nearly two dozen today but Microsoft plans on producing a number of “pop-up” stores to fill the gaps come the fall. Imagine crowds at Microsoft stores like we see today at Apple. If Microsoft’s plans come true it may happen.
The announcements aren’t over. We are told to stay tuned over the coming days as more of Ballmer’s plans unfold.
I have to admit, as a business person it’s intriguing to watch this play out. I have no doubt that Microsoft and Ballmer are going to achieve their goals and recapture dominance in the technology sector. It’s a matter of time and frankly a reality of cash (60 Billion of cash). What remains to be figured out is when will the money pay off? When will the investments create the promised value and when will the consumer and the public market reward Microsoft for its strategy?
As of July 12th at 2:05 Microsoft is trading at 28.77 per share. Any takers for Microsoft at 40 per share by January 1, 2013?
SWC is a full-service IT consulting firm that services mid-sized businesses in Chicago and the Chicagoland area.