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Josh Greenbaum
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Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right

Microsoft has innovated well on the tech side of Win 8/Metro, but it has a huge problem on the commerce side.

I've spent the last few days test-driving a Samsung Slate PC running Windows 8. It's quite similar to the Surface Pro tablet that Microsoft announced this week, and it's clear to me that the concept of a tablet that can run both the new Metro interface and older Windows 7-style applications is a winner.

But concept and reality don't always come together according to plan, and Microsoft definitely has some major challenges making its new platform a contender in the same weight class as Apple and Android. It's not technology that promises to make things complicated for Microsoft: That part of the equation seems to be relatively solid. It's the non-technical side that needs serious help.

The equation I'm referring to is what I call the three rules of success in the mobile/cloud commerce world. The rules are based in part on what has made Apple, the Apple Store, and iOS such a success, with a nod to how Amazon has been able to rule its increasing large corner of the e-commerce market. When Microsoft gets these three rules right, the market will have a new contender for Apple's vaunted position as the premier mobile/cloud commerce company. Right now, Microsoft has gotten one requirement right and has a fighting chance at acing number two. But number three, perhaps the most important of all, needs a major reset.

[ Want to read more from Josh Greenbaum on Windows 8? See The Windows 8/Metro Challenge. ]

My first requirement for mobile/cloud success is a great user experience. Microsoft has successfully nailed this one with Metro. It isn't just another touch interface, but one that's designed in ways that iOS users might even be jealous of. For example, you operate many important applications and system controls by swiping the left and right screen edges, with a finger if the tablet is on a stand and with the left and right thumbs if it's being held. Navigation is simple and intuitive, and remarkably different from the more simplistic swiping iOS affords.

And then there's the fact that Windows 8 with Metro supports all the functionality of the Windows apps world. It's very much an OS for creating content as well consuming it. From a usability standpoint, this is a winning combo.

The second requirement is to have a great choice of apps to deploy on the new platform. Microsoft has a long, long way to go to match the countless apps available to iOS and Android users. While this isn't a trivial issue in the least, I believe Microsoft has more than a fighting chance to build out a large portfolio. It plans to harness millions of existing Windows and Java developers, so at a minimum many developers will be able to target the Windows 8 environment using the dev tools they already use. This apps question will remain an issue for some time, but the stage is set for a large number of developers to build a lot of apps for Windows 8/Metro, and hence for nailing mobile/cloud requirement two.

My final requirement is one that Microsoft has gotten half right and half wrong. And getting one half without the other is a guaranteed failure. The requirement is relatively straightforward--provide an easy, relatively pain-free and lucrative way for developers to sell their apps, and a concomitantly easy, pain-free, and simple way for customers to buy and deploy these apps on their devices.

The plans for the Win 8 app store appear to favor developers, making it easier to get apps approved compared with the Apple Store, as well as giving developers a larger slice of the revenue pie. That's a good start, as both Amazon and the Apple App store have proven, the commerce model may be the most important of the three: It don't mean a thing if it's hard to go ca-ching. It's as simple as that.

But the customer side of the Microsoft commerce experience has a long way to go if my recent experience with the Slate is representative of how things can go wrong, particularly in terms of how Microsoft wants to integrate its different online commerce systems. In a nutshell, three unforgiveable errors happened in the course of doing something as simple as buying a movie to watch during a recent business trip. And those three errors added up to a big fat fail for the commerce side of the Microsoft experience.

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User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2012 | 5:49:52 AM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
I think you are nitpicking. You need look only as far as Windows 8 to see what problems Microsoft is facing. They decided a phone interface was a good idea for a PC. Do you need more evidence that something is wrong? I used to adore Microsoft but whatever mojo they once had has long faded.
They used to at least borrow ideas and make them better. Windows 8? They borrowed tiles and made it the default UI for computers? It is a joke. A PHONE UI ON A PC. Try and grasp the logic here. There is none. CLUE: Did Apple decide to use tiles for their Mac's interface? Perhaps Microsoft should stay a follower since when they try to take the lead they make dramatically poor choices.
Does anyone remember they had a touch interface on a phone in 2002 that could surf the web, get email, listen to music, text message, take pictures, do GPS, and which had voice control???? And they sat on it for 6 years doing absolutely nothing to it to make it better. Then came the iPhone. It is almost like they are trying so hard not to miss another technology wave ... so they dumped their tried and true desktop for Tiles.
Windows 8 didn't prompt me for my time zone during installation so when it was loaded I was on west coast time despite being on the east coast. The weather tile showed me the weather from where my IP address was thought to be from - 100 miles away. I tried to find where to change this for no less than 30 minutes. After changing it, selecting my town's name, it reverted back to Orlando again.
I can almost hear Mom and Dad: Now Martha it says here that you need to type in ReggieEdit and find the H Key on our local machine. I guess they mean this computer, right? Then change the D Word (must be damn word) to a 0. And then we will get to see the Desktop we so badly would like to use as our interface. But Tom dear I don't see a tile called ReggieEdit.
I'm sorry. I have used every version of Wndows since 1.0 and Windows 8 will be Microsoft's final demise - and Apple's gain. Folks are not so stupid about technology any longer that they will accept stupidy. It is a new age Microsoft - and your age is showing. You don't look so good any more. The facelift has not helped. Too little to late as they say : (
Goodbye good friend. I hate to see you go!
User Rank: Ninja
6/26/2012 | 1:25:04 AM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
I'm curious as to why the Windows Desktop is expected to run better on these tablets than it did before. The problem isn't so much hardware as it is UI issues. So far, I've read a few articles saying how great Win 8 is on these x86 machines. But I haven't read anything that they've actually done on them. Most just discuss Metro.

If its a Metro tablet they want, then they should get an RT device when it comes out. People wanting actual Win 8 Pro tablets will be buying them for the classic (as I suppose we're now supposed to call it) programs that run under Win7. There is no expectation that these will run any better on these small screens than they did on the larger screens on the Convertables we've seen for over a decade now.

But nothing about that. One would think that it was being avoided.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 8:03:13 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
I was not impressed with the device released by Microsoft and I am not impressed with Windows 8. My IT department has long-since moved to Mac OS X/iOS and everyone is so much happier for it from both the business and IT side.
S. Kyle Davis
S. Kyle Davis,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 4:35:25 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
I think you're missing the fact that the services aren't live yet. Microsoft is in the midst of combining Xbox Live, Zune, and their live store into one. These services won't go live until launch. Completely understandable why the situation was frustrating, but hopefully much of this will be resolved when Win 8 launches.

And one can only hope that they don't bring over the Xbox credits thing to the Live Store experience. That would be a bad move, but it may happen.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 3:43:59 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
Wow this article nails why microsoft will most likely fail.... not the hardware or the OS but the user experience. Something to think about microsoft and the #1 reason you do not make money in the consumer sector.

Microsoft reminds me of AT&T with their customer service.... every dept just wants to pass you along as fast as possible and never attempt to resolve the issue. Zero accountablility, sit on hold for an hour and then they hang up on you (I won't do business with AT&T any longer due to this)

Also the language barrier with Microsoft's technical support team doesn't help the matter any.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 2:48:09 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
Another problem with the Xbox Points system is that you can purchase the points in even numbered blocks (400, 800, 1600, 4000, etc.), but purchases are FAR from even numbered. You always end up with 13 or 15 points at the end that you can purchase NOTHING with. Even if you try to go purchase an avatar item to put a hat on your worthless little character, you'll end up with 2 points. Multiply that by millions of users, and Microsoft is making money hand over fist by literally nickel and diming everyone to death. The points need to go, or they need to be rounded off for purchases. Adopt a system of currency credit, like the Playstation Network or Apple, if you're going to use prepaid cards.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 2:46:31 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
I am not sure Microsoft is seriously trying to build an AppStore like Apple, because most of is customers are not the ones that download a guitar tuners to tune their guitars, for instance! :) Also, to cater to gamers, they already have the xbox platform (not to mention serious gamers donG«÷t play on a tablets, rather on a custom PC with multiple graphic cards that has a private GPU bus between them!) I think all Microsoft is planning with their Windows 8 is to capitalize on their business customers, who would use Windows 8 tablet/phone as a facade for their large enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM, Healthcare and so on; in other words, Microsoft is not competing with Apple on their $0.99 apps, rather simply highlighting the gap that Apple cannot conquer, i.e., serious business applications! Microsoft doesnG«÷t want their developers to start writing for iPad and iPhones to provide mobility to their applications, rather run that same application (or parts of it) on Windows phones, and on Windows tablet - Windows 8 is all about this write-once-deploy-everywhere concept, hence its more of catering to Windows-users and sustaining their loyalty for a long haul rather than a game changer or a head-on intent to compete with Apple and Android in their own turf, IMO.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 2:38:14 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
Mistake number one is comparing Microsoft to Apple. Apple left the computer industry with the launch of the iPod. Subsequently their business model is simply to provide a delivery system for for iTunes. Granted they do this very well, but it's still an unfair comparison when your talking about a Software company like Microsoft. To be honest I didn't even know you could rent movies through Xbox or Xbox live or what ever. Now knowing that it's possible I'm still baffled why anyone would even try? Microsoft builds software virtually all other software publishers depend on. They've dipped their toes into the hardware market with Surface. I think it's extremely naive to expect them to embrace the Apple model...that's just not the business MS is in. Frankly I think you would see a large scale revolt if MS went whole hog into the content delivery market. Further, the authors "rules" may apply to your average time wasting, faux productivity, entertainment device (i.e. all current tablets). But thankfully Microsoft has wisely decided to avoid this "me too" demographic. Windows 8 is at it's core an attempt by Microsoft to bring the gadget loving masses back down to earth (much to the relief of system administrators everywhere). Surface has the potential to be the first tablet device capable of doing actual work. And for that businesses will thank Microsoft in tablet hungry droves. If Microsoft can deliver a true productivity tool in the tablet format, we will see a very strong shift in momentum for Apple. Not because Microsoft built an "ipad killer", but because they've tapped a significantly ignored market. Simply put, business isn't interested in providing employees access to fart apps or Netflix. Microsoft knows this. I think the rules are about to change. My humble suggestion is rule number one: Does it run Excel? Not: does it play Angry Birds?
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 2:36:09 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
Oh man, good ol' "The Zone". I've got the itch to make my Asheron's Call yearly return...

Back on track:
The thing I'm really disliking these days is them trying to cram tiles down everyone's throat...You'd think WinMo would have shed a little lights on some of their concepts.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 1:40:00 PM
re: Microsoft Must Get The Windows 8 Commerce Model Right
Microsoft has a huge blunder on their hands. Windows 8 will become Windows Me3 (Me2 was Vista). Also, in the Support Arena, they have always been severely lacking. The last time they tried anything to do like an APP STORE, was with MSN when they were hosting games like Asheron's Call (Turbine Games) and Fighter Ace (I can't remember who wrote it). They hosted both games when 1st launched and then discarded them (only the Powers that Be at MSN know why).

But with Windows 8, I hate the METRO interface and I hate the changes they made to the Windows 7 interface (calling it WIndows 8). They never seem to talk with the END USERS before making drastic changes in the interfaces.
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