Not Magical Hot AIr Fan in Windows 8 Tablet

At Daring Fireball, there’s this whole discussion about how Microsoft has given Windows 8 tablets to developers, and how this is something that would never have happened at Apple.

Apple, you see, is this company that never releases anything that’s unfinished to the world. No, it all has to be perfect, beautiful, and dare I steal the word back, “Magical”.

Apparently, this developer tablet is quite a bit short of “magical”. It has, apparently, a fan which blows hot air all over the place.

The whole discussion misses the point completely, of course.

Microsoft is doing what it always does: it uses business strategies to win whilst avoiding being forced into technical and design excellence.

Now, I don’t for a moment suggest that Microsoft has no technical and design excellence. Only that it is not its core competency.

In this case, by pre-releasing Windows 8 on a prototype tablet Microsoft is saying to the enterprise: “look, we have an alternative. It is coming. It is real. You should wait so you don’t have to chance anything”.

Lots of large Enterprise customers will wait too, because if it is just another version of Windows, it will be preferable to having to create infrastructures for something completely new, like iOS or Android.

The business strategy of pre-announcement was what allowed MS-DOS to prevail of CP/M-86 back in the day. Was MS-DOS technically superior? Of course not: it was an out-and-out clone.

What other business strategies has Microsoft used to ensure it wins?

Windows was technical inferior in every way to Macintosh OS for almost a decade. Microsoft won, though, by adopting another business strategy: bundling.

It already had big hits prior to the days of Office with Word and Excel. So when the next version of Windows was ready, it made both programmes dependent on it, and gave it away on the same disk.

if you wanted Word or Excel, you had to install the technically inferior Windows 2.0. Lots of people did just that.

IE? Set the price at zero, and bundle with another product which by then, had huge demand: Windows.

There are lots of other examples.

I would not bet against Windows 8 Tablet’s success, even if right now I can’t see any reason why I’d give up my iPad.

For the same reason, I would not bet against Windows Phone. The Nokia and Skype thing is genius.

I really do think we’re moving into a post-pc world. But, as I’ve said before, Microsoft knows what it is good at.

Note to Microsofties who read this: I know every time I suggest you’re not technically brilliant, or not genius innovators,  or say something that’s equally inconsistent with the internal image of Microsoft, you’re annoyed. But look what you all built without those things.

That, by itself, is remarkable.

6 Responses to“Not Magical Hot AIr Fan in Windows 8 Tablet”

  1. Stephen
    September 14, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    James, you are too polite, are you saying Microsoft made a load of cash selling crap?

    Look on the bright side though; those who made all the cash are being very philanthropic.

    I think the new more intelligent competitor landscape could well force Microsoft into further maturity/decline and a more intelligent strategy or new ‘S’ curve will be needed.

    • James Gardner
      September 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm #


      Not everything that MS does is crap. I have to say I’m impressed with WP7, and I think their Dev tools are really unmatched.

      I also think it is a mistake to conclude that technical and design competence is the most IMPORTANT competence. Microsoft, in my view, have proved that ably.

      On the other hand, I agree with you that there is a tipping point at Microsoft right now. They will either make the old strategy work, or they will be done. I don’t think that an incumbent organisational dynamic will permit a radical change.

  2. Stephen
    September 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    My use of language was probably a bit flippant. I agree the development tools are very good and I take your point that a blend of competencies is needed to achieve success. A degree of excellence and magic can be a strong differentiator especially in the current, highly competitive market, where it appears that new challengers can appear very quickly.

  3. September 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm #


    Sorry but I have to chime in re MS Dev Tools: they are an unmitigated disaster. The only saving grace is that “enterprise” competitors have chosen to embrace tools that are deliberately worse ( Eclipse ).

    The huge, and continuing, flight of developers away from MS Dev Tools to OSX has happened for good reason. Do a quick Google on “hate Team Foundation Server” if you have any doubts.


  4. James Gardner
    September 22, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    Joe, that’s a very interesting perspective… I always thought they were so well integrated and executed. I shall do the search you suggest.

  5. October 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

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