This year is make or break for Microsofts consumer and mobile division
Update: And there we have it, chairman Gates confirms the concerns we have all been having regarding Microsofts latest mobile platform and experience engineering efforts and indirectly calls them inadequate.
And the odds I must say are heavily stacked against it. It's not that Microsoft has released particularly bad products, on the contrary many exhibit great foundations with solid conception behind them. The problem lies in that Microsofts latest range of consumer offerings do not exceed or even match that of the competition on aspects that matter most today, are buggier, much heavier on resources, costlier and have less modern, consumer oriented content to offer.
As Microsoft prepares the relevant major overhaul fixes to its ecosystems flagship product (Windows) with the upcoming Windows Blue update and with it aims to release yet another significantly new SDK for the platform, going by these actions it is clear that Microsoft is still only setting the core foundations of its new mobile friendly Windows platform and trashing the things that don't work well or were rushed, similarly to how WP8 was a complete kernel and runtime revamp from WP7, now again Microsoft is significantly altering its new WinRT runtime. This is all well and nice but developers really do not wish invest time and effort into a platform that keeps changing drastically a long with tools, frame work and respective API's in such short time span, hence the rather meagre (littered with links to 3rd rate desktop apps) Windows store offering.
How long can Microsoft afford play catch up when it's still falling further behind following its most recent efforts ? I believe this is really the last year that it has a window/chance to stay relevant in the consumer space and a lot of it rests on the Windows Blue update and how Windows RT will be transformed as Ms brings Windows Phone and Windows RT closer together. I think if it does not deliver and exceed or at least match its competition throughout this year with its mobile platform oriented offerings there will be for once some significant impact on profits and this will be reflected on the balance sheet and heads will roll.
My own personal opinion of Microsoft's current consumer facing product range is as follows and judging from the many threads I have read here a lot of people would agree.
Outlook.com - WIN
SkyDrive - WIN
Office 365 and Office 2013 suite - WIN
Skype Metro - OK or not.
BING - (Does nothing Google does not do better, offers absolutely nothing exciting, enticing and unique. Sometimes I feel like I am visiting a national geographic's site due to overwhelming use of photography and lack of function and information density)
BING Video - Abysmal, again nothing exciting or enticing, extremely primitive/ under-featured, should not and is not mentioned in the same sentence as Youtube and Vimeo.
BING maps - Same as above, offers nothing special or better than its competitors.
XBOX Games - Not much of XBOX games there :(
XBOX Music - Shizer ! Downgrade from the Zune desktop app.
Windows 8 - (Do you know what it feels like to have two skype apps logged into the same account ringing at the same time from two different runtime environments ? Keep only one you say ? Well I work on the desktop and don't want everything to disappear by launching a full screen metro app. Anyhow something is wrong in Windows 8, the desktop is fine, though how Metro has been completely isolated from it and came with subpar , under baked apps is not, if blue does not address these issues Windows 8 will go down as a FAIL). The information density, feature set and quality of the included first party apps is abysmal. Almost like they have been done by first year computer sciences students and even that would be insult to said students.
Windows Phone 8 - Beautiful design, clean typography and good performance. Brought down by being oversimplified and under featured (Guess they were aiming for Apple like experience instead of doing what they do best and bring a full customisable and extendible computing platform experience like Google intends with Android). Windows Phone should be merged with Windows RT and given the many features and advancements its missing that competitors have.
Surface - Excellent design, materials and finish. Brought down by subpar specifications, lack of quality store content and Metro interfaces half baked runtime and shit first and third party metro apps.