Saturday, January 23, 2010

MSFT Still Seeking Home-Media Stride

In its latest shake-up of its internal structure, Microsoft has married the Zune group and Windows Media Center to the Entertainment Business Group (e.g., XBox and all Microsoft's Gaming development).

After declaring phone apps unimportant, one wonders what the future of MSFT's upcoming Zune Phone will be (multiple inconsistent phone OS versions, for example?); is joining Zune to the Entertainment Business Group really calculated to lead to increased focus on what will make Microsoft's handheld player an outstanding and novel experience? Is it likely to help make Microsoft's phone OS simpler, more efficient, or easier to maintain? Like its new desktop OS?

Merely understanding that Microsoft needs to do something better hasn't helped Microsoft improve much. Has its phone got a chance?

In other news, Apple is reputedly discussing with Microsoft the replacement of Google's search service with Microsoft's Bing as the default search engine in Safari and iPhone. The article discusses Apple and Google as increasing in rivalry, with the view that Microsoft has become a pawn in a growing long-term enmity between Apple and Google, who so recently shared a couple of board members.

The question is whether Microsoft is more important to Apple and Google as a common enemy, or has decreased in relevance and become part of the environment in which Apple and Google expect to divide up the future. It's an interesting question – Microsoft's ongoing effort to control APIs and server back-ends seems to offer some continued threat in light of MSFT's significant server share and browser share and its long willingness to hijack standards in order to prevent competition. Until Microsoft is believably defanged, the huge, cash-flush developer shouldn't be treated lightly. Microsoft's own consulting division, not to mention Microsoft shops like Accenture, regularly deploy new large costly database-backed enterprise applications on Microsoft's back-end tool chain, thereby enslaving huge customers to Microsoft's tools, APIs, operating systems, and supporting hardware for years to come. This isn't trivial, and however much Apple and Google might want to see a future based on standards that play to their strengths, neither Apple nor Google has anything like it at present.

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