Regardless of how you feel about Microsoft, the awkward Windows 8.1 OS that’s probably installed on your laptop or their flailing Windows Phone platform, Microsoft still matters. Sure, most of us have moved on to Google services, like Drive and Docs for instance, but there aren’t all that many of us that can say they avoid Microsoft altogether. At least not the way I see it. In some small way, the company that (along with Apple) helped create the era of modern computing has an effect on at least some small part of our lives.
At the very least, Xbox fans interact with something from Microsoft every day they switch on to play Halo, and those who work with a computer of some sort for a living will be familiar with their services. Taking myself as an example, I use a Chromebook all day for my job here, and I have a gaming PC that – shockingly – runs Windows 8.1. While I have a PS4 for my modern console fix, I still have an Xbox 360 hooked up and I constantly need to use Microsoft Word and the docx format. My point is that Microsoft still matters, and if they had paid the attention they should have done to Android and iOS years ago, we’d all be talking about Microsoft a lot more.
Recently, Microsoft has introduced more apps and services to Android than they ever have done and while the company was never dead set against developing for Android, it’s clear that something has changed. I’ve no doubt that the changing of CEOs at Microsoft has had a lot to do with things. Satya Nadella is a man that clearly sees things very differently than Mr Ballmer did. Steve Ballmer was famously chanting that it was “Developers! Developers! Developers!” that mattered more than anything. While he was of course right, he should have had another chant that went “Platforms! Platforms! Platforms!”. You can have the best developers, the best services and programs in the world, but if I can’t use them on my platform of choice, then that’s no good.
Microsoft is arguably more of a services company than they have ever been before, with Office 365 continually tempting me, despite how happy I am with Google Docs. The giant also has Xbox for gaming, Xbox Music, Outlook, Skype and a whole bunch of business-focused services like Azure. The problem with these services – many of which were taking off while Ballmer was still at the helm – is that people expect to be able to access these services no matter what. Finally, Microsoft is waking up to this.
The launch of MSN apps for Android this week was yet another sign that Microsoft is quickly turning into a company that wants to be on your smartphone or tablet, no matter what logo is on the back of it. That’s a smart move, and it should have happened years ago. I know a few people that used to refuse to use anything other than Microsoft office, but they don’t like Windows 8.1 and would love to get a Chromebook for the ease of use while on the go. They can now do that and still use familiar software thanks to Office 365. While Microsoft and HP’s new Stream laptops are here to challenge Chromebooks, at least with Office 365 Microsoft isn’t bleeding users like they would be if the service didn’t exist.
I rely a lot on Google services, in fact I use them for pretty much everything, and I’m not afraid to admit that. However, there are some things that other services do better. Take Dropbox for example, I would be lost without Dropbox, and apps like Todoist. I gravitate towards these services – and freely recommend them to friends and family – because they just work, with whatever I’m using at the moment. Now, with more services and apps becoming available for Android – and iOS as well – Microsoft is becoming a company that I can start recommending to others, again. Microsoft Office on a PC is great, but taking those files on the move used to be really difficult. Now, Office on Android is a pretty decent (it doesn’t go anywhere near as far as it should, but it’s a start) option for Microsoft users, and they no longer have to buy an expensive Surface tablet to do it. If Microsoft keep on targeting Android and iOS like this, I can see the company growing again, and finally tackling the online world like they’ve been trying to do for so long. Microsoft has a lot of value to offer customers, and some great products that some can’t really live without, but it’s time to stop trying to force people to use Windows – be it a phone, tablet or laptop – and it sure seems like Microsoft is waking up to that idea.