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Where Focus Loses You Business

October 16, 2013

A couple years ago, Microsoft started an effort to change the structure of delivering their operating systems to market.  This was an effort to make Windows more of a phone-ready OS, and it took its larger PC business along for the ride.  Of course the guy who thought this up retired before the plan really came into effect, so I wonder how it’s working out for Microsoft?  Maybe The Register knows.

…the major improvements forthcoming in Windows 8.1 Phone won’t appear percolate down to users until next summer. So until then, what you see in GDR3 will be all you get. On the other hand, Windows RT – the Win8 variant designed for ARM devices such as Redmond’s unloved Surface RT slab – seems to be receiving plenty of attention.

The irony is that Microsoft has shifted into a faster, annual release cycle in the place where a fast release cycle isn’t really wanted – on the enterprise desktop. And just where a faster release cycle is needed, it moved the Phone team into a slower, 18-month release cycle. For Windows Phone, Microsoft applies the brakes.

Enterprises, on the other hand, don’t want or need an annual Windows refresh and there’s nothing in 8.1 that couldn’t have been shipped out in a service pack. Whereas in smartphones Microsoft still has much to do to catch up: users have been crying out for search and better notifications.

Hmmm.

I have to admit, I watched Microsoft do this work up close, and this is the third or fourth time in my history working with them where I’ve seen them “turn on a dime” when they see a need to do so in the main business.  But almost every time, the turbulence has impacted the smaller units around the main OS, and they’ve been slower to move.

In this case, though, the tail was wagging the dog.  The Microsoft phone business needed a push, and the company consented to change as a result.  And now the phone business is lagging while everyone else is wondering why they turned so fast.  The ability to move if the company depends on it is admirable, as long as it’s the right strategic move for the company.  In this case, Microsoft is still scrambling to impact the right business.

But that said, I think this is actually a good move for the company.  IT has been driven for years by a regular cadence of operating system shifts.  Maybe this will set up a scenario where IT would pick and choose updates based on what their company requires, rather than lagging behind while they qualify every step.  That’s going to take some convincing, but I think it’s a change that’s long in coming.

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