Not another "Let's overhaul Windows 8" post: What MSFT can start today to make Windows products essential and unforgettable
Yay, first post and all that...
I've been a long time lurker and I always see about 2 to 3 articles per day on "remaking" or "reimagining" Windows 8. There have been some really cool concepts put forward and some really great ideas explored, but everything hinges on this idea that Windows 8 is the worst thing for users and that Microsoft has completely lost it and is going to die and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, Windows 8 is (slowly) picking up, especially amongst tablets. A quick look at Amazon shows that the Dell Venue 8 Pro has almost as many reviews as the Surface RT, despite it only being three months old. Clearly the system is slowly becoming more understandable, and I think it's really, really close to being perceived as a solid product.
So, in keeping with this week's theme of what should the new leadership at Microsoft do, right now: Windows 8 isn't broken, they just don't know how to sell it well. Here's a few things they can do with minimal (for Microsoft) effort:
1. The Killer 50. Okay, so this one is easy to start off with. Lots of reviewers of Windows tablets and laptops complain that the Windows store is "barren" because it doesn't have 1,000,000 apps yet. Everyone who owns an Android phone or tablet (including me) knows that having 1,000,000 apps doesn't mean you have quality apps...in fact, usually it means that you have to sift through 900,000 absolutely horrible apps in order to browse through the 100,000 or so apps that might actually be compelling. You don't need quantity.
Microsoft's first order of business, next week really, should be to hire developers and create 50 killer apps in the next two months. 50 incredibly well-designed apps (like all the Bing apps) that work well, maybe take their basic cues from the best iOS apps, and are completely exclusive to Windows and WP. Get people talking about those apps, trot out the developers at BUILD and get people excited about developing for Windows. This leads right into the next step:
2. Incentivize. Get the devs from the killer 50 apps out at BUILD lauding the plaudits of developing for RT and Modern, get them to mingle with other devs and get those devs interested and excited about the possibility of working with a familiar coding language and a cohesive design language. The ease and familiarity of developing for Windows is a huge leg up they have on Android, and they should be exploiting it for all it's worth! Developers stay away from Java and Android, even if they have a great iOS app...get them to develop for Windows.
The simple (and correct) decision at this stage is to pay mobile developers to develop for Windows. Hey, great! You ported over your incredibly popular iOS app to Windows and it looks awesome! Here, have a bit of stock and keep developing your apps for our ecosystem. Make it a no-brainer for people to develop for you, whether they're ports of iOS apps or exclusive apps.
3. Exploit XBOX. It has been arguably the most popular game system for a decade, and they're not using it to it's full potential. Outside of Microsoft Studios, not a single major game dev works with Windows. They should exploit their relationships with big-name game devs to get their games to Windows, ASAP. EA Games, Rockstar, Eidos...they should all be incentivized to create great games for Windows. No one but Windows has Halo, that's a great place to start! Port over a special mobile edition of Combat Evolved and see how many devices they sell. If they're selling Windows as the best of both worlds (productivity and fun) then they really need to build out the fun with exclusive, exotic content that only Windows can showcase. Imagine the advertising that they could run: iPad has Modern Combat 4, Surface has Halo 2. iPad has Real Racing, Surface has Forza Racing. They have some of the best games available, and they should make it a huge part of the WIndows ecosystem.
4. Stop thinking about PC-era pricing. Ostensibly, Windows 8 was specifically created for the mobile era. Make it compelling for someone to invest in building a Windows tablet and not an Android tablet and license Windows for $10-$20 max. For consumers, the price to upgrade from 7 to 8 should be no more than $20. Get people on the ecosystem and teach them how easy it is. People hate things less if they don't spend $200 on them, so even the people who end up not liking Modern UI all that much won't have too much to gripe about because they can boot to desktop and the speed and efficiency of 8 vs. 7 will more than justify the price. Crucially, it might convince Enterprise to upgrade, too.
5. Modern UI Office. Seriously guys, no later than BUILD. This should have been available at launch, this needs to come to fruition ASAP.
6. Streamline. The rumor is that 8.1.1 (or 8.2 or whatever) will have a smaller footprint than 8.1. This needs to happen, or the baseline model you sell needs to be 64GB or more. Convince people that they're getting a great deal, not that you're bait and switching on the storage available.
I welcome disagreements, but these are things that I feel could really help Windows without doing a whole lot of overhauling. Plus, they will allow the OS to sell itself. No one is really attached to the OS itself, they're attached to the ecosystem and how they can use the device. A Surface introduced running Windows 8.1.1 with the above enhancements would be a fantastic BYOD device for businesses, education tool for schools, a lounging device and most importantly, an experience that you can't get from anyone else. That's the big key...they already have some of that with Office but no one gets truly excited about Word or Excel unless they can also get access to the things that make them carry their device everywhere. They could add 1,000,000 apps to the store, but all they really need to sell Windows as it is today are 300-400 truly unforgettable apps developed specifically to take advantage of Windows, along with maybe 50-60 exclusive apps and games that they can't get via Apple or Google.
They have the money, stock options, and relationships to make this happen starting next week. The best thing about doing this little amount of work is if things don't work out 100%, then they haven't compromised their vision of the OS and the ability of the OS, and they can just move on with a few more developers on their side.
Sorry for the long-windedness of this post! What are your thoughts? What would you add?