Windows 10 and Microsoft's Reasons to Be Cheerful

Satya Nadella could take a tip from Daniel Defoe

This is one of the great practical lessons English Literature has to offer the reader: having found himself shipwrecked on a desert island, Robinson Crusoe does a very sensible thing and writes a list of the positives and negatives pertaining to his situation.

Now, as Microsoft embarks on its voyage to the promised land of Windows 10, CEO Satya Nadella could do a lot worse.

Microsoft is often dismissed for not being as fashionable and zeitgeist-y as Google, Apple, Amazon and others but, like Defoe’s hero, it is still capable of finding many “good” items to combat the “evils” in its condition. In July, Nadella was mocked for his wordy, worthy email to staff calling for “bold ambition” but the poetry loving boss might think of a more pithy form to represent a true “state of the nation” and remind himself that even seemingly difficult situations can be made better.


The Bad

Competition. This has never been tougher. Google and Apple in particular have made remarkable progress on many fronts, creating big headaches for Microsoft in terms of productivity applications, operating systems and devices.

Architecture. As the world moves to cloud computing, Microsoft has made most of its money in the client/server era.

Bad bets. Microsoft’s efforts in phones and tablets remain problematic. Most notably, its attempts to build a market for apps have been a dismal failure and buying Nokia smacked of chasing its losses.

Perceptions. Microsoft is not currently much loved by the media or analysts. This has led to some fairly one-eyed reporting, dismissiveness and (most unthinkably 10 years ago) a stock value that now lags behind those of its biggest rivals.


The Good

Foundations. Microsoft’s core business remains as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. While Google has had significant successes with Apps, Office remains the gold standard and Windows a bulwark of personal computing. This gives a company famous for getting it right eventually in other segments a fighting chance as the R&D and M&A coffers retain vast reserves.

Focus. Despite its forays into gaming, devices, phones and so on, Windows and Office remain the core of the company. By doubling down on those investments, Microsoft arguably has a better focus than Google or Amazon with their scattergun approaches.

The PC. Rumours of its death have been overstated and sales even appear to be inching north. The personal computer remains the hub device for users everywhere and its surviving relevance is hugely important for Microsoft.

Precedent. Companies such as IBM and Oracle have been dismissed as relics but have gone on to add new dimensions, most notably through mergers and acquisitions. This is an area that is relatively virgin turf for Microsoft and it has the aforementioned assets to become a serial acquirer.

Partners. Microsoft has the channel and ISV friends and family that any company would love. Having made many people’s careers and riches it still has a powerful ecosystem and is easily distinguishable from companies that leave little but scraps for their partners.

Fast Follower. Despite being forever associated with the client/server generation, Microsoft has moved quickly on the cloud and has rich assets from Azure down. No matter how fast or slow companies move to the cloud. Microsoft can remain competitive.


Blasted by sceptics, cynics, watchers and other hangers-on, I do hope that the cerebral Satya Nadella can find some time to himself for an hour or so of quiet contemplation with a pen and paper to hand. He may realise that the outlook is rather more prosperous than he had assumed, and that the list of positives easily outweighs the negatives.