OK, so maybe I’ve been reading too much science fiction lately, and perhaps I’m seeing patterns where they don’t exist. But please: ponder these data points and tell me if you can’t agree that Microsoft appears more poised than it has for a long, long time to break out of its corner of the market and start busting folding chairs over the heads of Android, Chrome OS, and Google Play?
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1. Microsoft has made Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone available at no cost to OEMs on devices with screens 9″ or smaller (see Thurrott’s “Microsoft’s Master Plan for Winning Back Market Share” 9/28/14 over at WindowsITPro). Likewise, a low-cost version of Windows 8.1 called “Windows 8.1 with Bing” is also available to OEMs at a price carefully calculated to be cheaper to license than Android or Chrome OS.
2. MS has removed impediments on Android device makers designed to make it hard to run either Windows Phone or Android on the same device, so that device makers in search of better margins can easily switch from Android to Windows without making hardware changes to current designs (also discussed in the aforelinked Thurrott story).
3. Starting with Windows 8.1 Update 1 and going forward, MS has lowered the hardware bar on devices that can run Windows or Windows Phone. 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of flash is all it takes now, and that’s well within the purview of all but the cheapest Android devices out there. Thurrott observes that 15 new hardware partners showed up for Windows phone right after the changes were instituted, and that now Chrome PC makers are releasing Windows versions running on the same hardware (see also Thurrott’s 9/27/14 story “Better than Chromebook? A $250 PC Gets It Done” which explains pretty nicely how Windows PCs at the traditional Chrome PC price points might just represent a better bang for a relatively small number of bucks).
4. Today’s hot rumor on Neowin.net from Brad Sams indicated that the president of Microsoft Indonesia has said that “…for users upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 9, the upgrade will be free” (Windows 9 said to be free…). Sams goes on to speculate that should MS do likewise for Vista and Windows 7 users, MS could stimulate more likely upgrades to the entire user base, especially if the company’s “…business model has changed from upfront payments to recovering revenue through its app stores” as he opines in that story.
Tell me, please: Am I adding 1+1+1+1 and coming up with more for the total resulting import than I should be? I don’t think so, but I could always be wrong. So tell me, readers, what do YOU think? I’m starting to believe that MS may be trying some creative disruption of its own, and that the apparent future of computing may not be quite as clear-cut, or as settled, as many pundits have considered it to be of late, with the ascendance of Google and Android assured, and MS gradually slinking off into the mist. Of course, MS won’t go gentle, but perhaps they won’t go anywhere at all. That’s what remains to be determined, and it should be interesting to watch…