Microsoft unveils Windows 8, the next weapon in its mobile arsenal – Frost & Sullivan’s Craig Cartier comments from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
Bill Gates is one of the most recognized names in the technology industry.
His name brings up many associations: Microsoft, PC, Windows, philanthropy, and certainly, wealth. Gates’ Microsoft empire has made him one of the richest men in the world for much of the last two decades. This is not surprising considering there are over 1 billion PCs in use today worldwide, with the many incarnations of the Microsoft Windows OS powering the lion’s share among them.
But the world is changing.
While over 1 billion machines is nothing to scoff at, PC numbers pale in comparison to mobile devices, in both absolute terms and in growth. There are already over 5 billion mobile devices in use today, and Cisco predicts that by 2016 there will be more mobile devices than people.
And phones are getting smarter. In developed economies, smartphones comprise almost half the devices in use today and growing, particularly as prices drop. In his keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Eric Schmidt commented that within a year, smartphones will be as cheap as a basic feature phones today, which will turbocharge smartphone growth.
Herein lies Microsoft’s problem. While Microsoft dominates market share in PC operating systems, it has struggled in the smartphone sphere, never surpassing the low single-digits in market share in the mass-market smartphone era. Windows needs a foothold in the mobile space if it is to continue to be one of the world premiere technology brands, and it is desperately grasping for one. We saw Microsoft announce their partnership with also-struggling Nokia last year. This relationship has potential, but has not been a success story as of yet. However, Microsoft announced the next weapon in their mobile arsenal at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; the next version of its Windows OS – Windows 8 – was released for consumer preview earlier this week.
It is reflective of Microsoft’s strategy that this announcement of its historically-PC software would come at the largest mobile conference in the world. Microsoft recognizes the future of its business will be hugely affected by mobile, and that’s why Windows 8 is built to be a cross-platform
OS: delivering the same experience on the PC, laptop and tablets.
Tablets are an important and growing part of the mobile world, and while they have found their initial niche as multimedia-centric devices, the jury is still out on what role they will play in the future device ecosystem. It has been argued that tablets will be a laptop replacement, and yet, the tablet OS has historically been more closely related to a mobile OS than to PCs/laptops. What the future will hold for the tablet is an open question, but Microsoft is showing it will fight for this important and growing piece of the mobile space from its platform of historical strength – the Microsoft Windows OS family and Windows 8.
Craig Cartier is an Analyst for ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, global consultancy.