Monday, July 13, 2015

Decoding Microsoft's code-speak

You can go anywhere on the Internet to hear pundits expound on the travails of public figures: Cosby. Trump. Ariana Grande, the so-called singer named for a coffee cup size.

I'm not biting. Not this week.

Instead, let's  look at the technology universe, where last week, Microsoft announced 7,800 employees would lose their jobs. 

Most of those jobs were associated with the mobile phone business Microsoft acquired from Nokia. Windows Mobile-powered handsets are not selling. Last year, they laid off 18,000 employees, also tied to the mobile phone business. That's two straight years of downsizings tied to phones. 

By David1010 (Own work),
via Wikimedia Commons
Pretty soon, Microsoft's mobile unit will have all the credibility of Radio Shack.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, explained the strategic shift in an email to employees: "We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem that includes our first-party device family."

How's that again? Microsoft writes and sells software. Most of the time, it works. With the exception of the Surface tablet, however, they haven't done well in devices. Their prototype HoloLens headset looks interesting -- especially to Star Trek enthusiasts -- but I'm not saving my bitcoins to buy one.

Microsoft has a strong PR apparatus, but its communications are hobbled by a simple truth: they can't tell us what they do that adds value to our lives. Recent Windows iterations have confounded even experienced IT pros. Zunes died. And then there's the phone business.

Someone needs to decode Microsoft's communications. Maybe that "Windows ecosystem - device family" blather means they're going to add smartphone functionality to the Surface tablets. Or turn out baby Surfaces (Surfettes?) that can function like smartphones.

In other words: Microsoft may copy Apple's iPad mini strategy. (Insert yawn here.)

Hey, Satya? Want me to believe in your business and buy your product? Don't spout about "ecosystems" that have nothing to do with ecology. Don't prattle on about "sparking innovation."

Tell me what you do, and why I should care. And how it will help improve my life.