Lights Out… Why Underdog Microsoft Might Be The Winner After All

The Labyrinth... such a small thing causing such big issues. (c)
The Labyrinth… such a small thing causing such big issues. (c)

Last Saturday night was a weird one for me. As I usually work later in the weekends, trying to get some extra work done, this Saturday night was no exception. I was alone at home, working on the latest edits of a new photo shoot we had taken in the studio. And suddenly, around 2.30am, things got weird, then strange, and finally simply scary. As the world started spinning in front of my eyes, my balance was thrown completely off-balance, and with difficulty I was able to get from the top floor of our home to the bedroom. But laying there with my eyes close made no difference. Even laying down, the sensation of the world spinning did not stop – it got worse.

Thank goodness my wife is an MD, and although she was not here at the time, she was able to figure out what it might be, and she rushed home to see what the condition was. Since it did not get better by morning, she took me to the hospital where I was diagnosed with Vertigo; Labyrinthitis. In other words, a middle-ear infection that causes severe and long-lasting vertigo. A CT-scan indeed proved that it was not something permanent, even though that usually is the case with Labyrinthitis, but with me, it was a virus that got hold of my middle ear.

I just had, and still have, to wait it out. With some medicine that keeps the nausea away, and some medicine that makes sure I don’t feel too dizzy, even though the world keeps spinning around.

But back to the hospital. Once I received my medicine, I started to be able to notice things again. I noticed these little details that made things clear to me. It became clear why Microsoft most likely will be the winner in the tablet game after all, and although Apple might have created the playing field, that Microsoft just understand the rules a little bit better.

About 13 years ago, I started working with one of Europe’s largest IT consultancy firms. And we did a lot of government and health-care related projects and technologies. And even back then, there was a lot of talk about dealing with electronic patient files, and what the possibilities could be to migrate these. Back then, and even now, that is still a very difficult area, because when talking about patient information, we are talking about privacy information even more delicate than financial information. Doing something in those areas requires upmost security, and reliability. There are simply three different areas of expertise that make or break a platform; public security, healthcare and corporate finance. And if you gain control of any of these, you run a pretty solid game.

And I think that that is what we, as writers about the world of IT sometimes seem to forget. We like to talk about what is popular, what is beautiful, what people want. It has nothing to do with that at all. In the end, it is not about fun, it is about something that is solid. Something that has proven itself. And I think we should appreciate what Microsoft is doing a little bit more. If you like the company or not.

And this is why;

Windows has been for ages now the platform where most government, public security and healthcare systems run on. It might not always have been flawless, but at the time, costs, legacy support and support were the strong elements that influenced the decision. And Microsoft did so very well in these three elements. Let’s be honest, we all know that Apple’s support, the speed in which they can fix their bugs or patch them up, simply is not on the level of Microsoft. And we will not even mention the costs or new hardware.

Sure, here and there we have heard of moving from Windows to a Linux or Unix based environment, which may not be such a bad plan… but still, large-scale support and legacy support still often created issues.

What I am trying to say here, Microsoft did not have to change a single thing to still be the top player in the IT software world. But instead of doing that, they did decide to not just build on these corporate and government pillars. They noticed the change the public wanted, and that tablets and media consumption of the public became a bigger and bigger deal. And thus they came up with Windows 8.

Everyone who reads this blog for a while knows that I personally like Windows 8. But I always noticed it from my own perception. But being in the hospital this weekend, I noticed a whole other side, when this guy who, with his team, was auditing the hospital, came walking in with his laptop. He had a hand-band on the bottom of the laptop, so he could hold it with one hand, and type with the other. Probably, for a laptop, the easiest way to keep it mobile. A quick question about it immediately got him talking about the wish for actually the Surface Pro.

And that got the doctor in the room immediately talking about it too. Mentioning the weight of the thing or the battery life was not even an issue, since normal laptops are heavier than the Surface Pro, and the battery life is not much more or less than that of a laptop. And it hooked up to their existing legacy systems. What more was there to wish for?

Simple but true, I never thought about that in that way. Who cares about the amount of apps in an app store, if there is something that does exactly what you need it to do. The tiles or the whole Windows 8 “metro” look and feel was not even important; there was now a mobile device, that worked well with touch and with their existing systems. That alone made it a winner without competition.

Android has now surpassed the level of Windows as being the platform with the most malware going on. Apple has still the slowest response time in fixes and updates after leaks have been discovered from the three major platforms. Maybe we are simply looking at it the wrong way to see who plays the game in the most safe way.

And I think that also would lay out a perfect way for both Google and Apple to become much more powerful in this area. If Apple would invest more in their support and maintenance area, instead of yearly updates of their hardware to make it look nicer; they could easily become a powerful player in these areas that are not so consumer driven. Or picture a safe Android system, with their Augmented Reality glasses in the Operating Room in the hospital… nobody would even be able to touch that level of sophistication.

But right now, as long as these two players are ignoring the public security, healthcare and government playing fields, Microsoft will be a winner after all.

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