Windows 8, Windows Phone, Bing, Xbox Music and Video, SmartGlass, Kinect, Surface: can Microsoft put the pieces together?

By Kip Kniskern | In Opinion | Posted June 18, 2012 12 comments

surface_02Microsoft has made a number of impressive announcements in the past few months (with hopefully more to come as early as Wednesday, when we’ll begin to hear more about Windows Phone 8), all beginning last October when we caught our first glimpses of Windows 8.  Since then, we’ve had promises of more to come from Kinect, a move toward generic branded apps to somehow replace their Windows Live Essentials big brothers, the death of Zune and a seeming but only partially revealed rebirth as Xbox Music, something called SmartGlass, which will augment gameplay and entertainment watching on Xbox (but really only if content providers write directly for the app), and now the Surface, a bedazzling but somewhat bewildering new set of tablets coming directly from Microsoft.

All of these pieces, while impressive sounding on their own, seemingly imply a “better together” ecosystem of finely meshed parts.  But surprisingly, putting them all together as one seamless whole doesn’t seem to be part of the marketing plan, or at least that hasn’t come out yet in the numerous demos and presentations we’ve seen so far.

Nothing was said today in the debut of the new Surface tablets about software (other than a few obligatory mentions of Windows 8 itself).  No mention of music or video streaming on the Surface, of Xbox game play or integration with the many content provider partnerships that Xbox Live has been rolling out in recent weeks.  In presenting Xbox SmartGlass at E3 two weeks ago, Microsoft in fact played up the ability to use it just as easily on iOS or Android as on Windows devices, and there weren’t even any hints today about SmartGlass running on Surface (we did get a glimpse at new logos for SkyDrive and the Windows Store, but that was it).

A post on the Bing Facebook page yesterday hinted that Bing would have big news today, too, and we were half hoping to hear about the Bing part of the ecosystem prominently displayed on Surface (as it’s built in to Windows Phone), but nothing came of that, either.

skydrive surfaceApple has made a point of making iCloud a prominent and necessary part of iOS, or they’re trying to, anyway.  But aside from that logo, Microsoft didn’t play up the connected cloud features of SkyDrive, and again have positioned SkyDrive as a somewhat ecosystem agnostic service, just as easily accessed from your iPhone as a new Surface tablet.

Now we’re not saying that there’s anything wrong with embracing a full spectrum of devices to work with Xbox, or that Microsoft should be developing a proprietary ecosystem, but shouldn’t it be selling a “Microsoft first” philosophy, where Xbox and Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Surface are shown to be not only cool devices on their own, but all part of the same big picture?

And while we understand that today’s announcements were about hardware, that’s precisely the point: it’s not just about hardware, anymore, or just apps, (although, in a way, it IS all about apps, and another part of this whole equation, again as yet unaddressed, is what about the apps?  Can Microsoft pull a complete app ecoystem out of its hat in time to compete with iOS and Android before Windows 8 goes dead in the water?), or just partners.  It’s about putting all the pieces together in a way that makes believing in Microsoft the best choice, in buying a Windows Phone because you use Office, and buying a Surface because you have an Xbox.  We think there are some compelling pieces in play, or about to become in play.  We just hope they all fit together, as Bill Gates used to like to say, seamlessly.

Posted June 18th, 2012 at 10:45 pm
Category: Opinion
Tags: Tablet, Windows 8
  • Omen1337

    I don’t know about you, but I would have hated it if Microsoft spent an hour going over the MS eco-system at this conference.  Microsoft already went over all of taht stuff at Computex and E3.  I honestly groaned when Ballmer came on and explained why Windows 8 is so great.  We know all about Windows 8 already.  I was really glad that they started talking about the hardware quickly.

  • Omen1337

    I don’t know about you, but I would have hated it if Microsoft spent an hour going over the MS eco-system at this conference.  Microsoft already went over all of taht stuff at Computex and E3.  I honestly groaned when Ballmer came on and explained why Windows 8 is so great.  We know all about Windows 8 already.  I was really glad that they started talking about the hardware quickly.

  • http://twitter.com/lucapettini Luca Pettini

    Microsoft has the most complete ecosystem at moment: Apple has perfect mobile devices, and good Mac line, but missing Games and their Mac has no marketshare comparing with Windows. Google from the other side have perfect web service, good mobile, but missing in Games and OS for computers (Chromebook is a joke). Microsoft is the only one with a strong presence in all field (exept for mobile devices.. but i think that Surface and Nokia are going to help)…

    Up to now yes, they missing apps.. but when Windows 8 will be on each new laptop sold, im sure developers will follow with Metro apps… Waiting to see Adobe suite in Metro…. :)

  • http://twitter.com/lucapettini Luca Pettini

    Microsoft has the most complete ecosystem at moment: Apple has perfect mobile devices, and good Mac line, but missing Games and their Mac has no marketshare comparing with Windows. Google from the other side have perfect web service, good mobile, but missing in Games and OS for computers (Chromebook is a joke). Microsoft is the only one with a strong presence in all field (exept for mobile devices.. but i think that Surface and Nokia are going to help)…

    Up to now yes, they missing apps.. but when Windows 8 will be on each new laptop sold, im sure developers will follow with Metro apps… Waiting to see Adobe suite in Metro…. :)

  • Rikikrik

    Who wrote this article?? MS has the most integrated, seemless and unified ecosystem of all compared to it’s rivals Apple and Google. That’s why enterprises choose Windows above Apple and Google products. Windows products are unified, work seemlessly, are integrated and work between devices and across platforms. That’s the power of Microsoft. The writer of this article does not know what he is talking about. 

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      While I agree that Microsoft has elements of a compelling ecosystem, for consumers, without a music and video component (yes they had one in Zune that they allowed to flounder, and yes a new one is coming with Xbox Music, but why is that going to be any different?), there’s a big piece missing, and I was disappointed not to hear more about it yesterday.
      Microsoft also doesn’t appear to be marketing a “Microsoft first” approach, which makes some sense as Apple and Android have run away with the mobile market, leaving Microsoft far behind.  What good does it do for Microsoft’s products to work seamlessly together if no one uses their mobile devices?
      It is about the ecosystem, that’s my  point.  With no music and video, less than 2% of the phone market, and no compelling reason to go “all in” with Microsoft, I have to disagree that “MS has the most integrated, seemless and unified ecosystem of all”.  Maybe Windows 8 will change all that.  Microsoft certainly hopes so. 

  • Rikikrik

    Who wrote this article?? MS has the most integrated, seemless and unified ecosystem of all compared to it’s rivals Apple and Google. That’s why enterprises choose Windows above Apple and Google products. Windows products are unified, work seemlessly, are integrated and work between devices and across platforms. That’s the power of Microsoft. The writer of this article does not know what he is talking about. 

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      While I agree that Microsoft has elements of a compelling ecosystem, for consumers, without a music and video component (yes they had one in Zune that they allowed to flounder, and yes a new one is coming with Xbox Music, but why is that going to be any different?), there’s a big piece missing, and I was disappointed not to hear more about it yesterday.
      Microsoft also doesn’t appear to be marketing a “Microsoft first” approach, which makes some sense as Apple and Android have run away with the mobile market, leaving Microsoft far behind.  What good does it do for Microsoft’s products to work seamlessly together if no one uses their mobile devices?
      It is about the ecosystem, that’s my  point.  With no music and video, less than 2% of the phone market, and no compelling reason to go “all in” with Microsoft, I have to disagree that “MS has the most integrated, seemless and unified ecosystem of all”.  Maybe Windows 8 will change all that.  Microsoft certainly hopes so. 

  • #TeamCortana

    The Bing announcement was their “Summer of DoING”, some kind of new promotion of Bing they will have going on all summer.

  • jakebraca

    The Bing announcement was their “Summer of DoING”, some kind of new promotion of Bing they will have going on all summer.

  • Fred A.

    One can only hope that with Win8, the Surface family of products just announced, and great marketing behind it, we will get to see MS stand tall and succeed in what we are all hoping for-a real unification and seamless integration of products and services…
    All the pieces of the puzzle are there, all MS has to do now, is put it all together-that is where the real challenge lies…
    More power to you MS and company.

  • Fred A.

    One can only hope that with Win8, the Surface family of products just announced, and great marketing behind it, we will get to see MS stand tall and succeed in what we are all hoping for-a real unification and seamless integration of products and services…
    All the pieces of the puzzle are there, all MS has to do now, is put it all together-that is where the real challenge lies…
    More power to you MS and company.