I couldn’t agree more with M.G. Siegler’s post “The Slow Decay of the Microsoft Consumer” over on TechCrunch. He makes a few good points, but this point really got me thinking: “Windows 8 could be better for the company, or it could be worse. The world is drastically different than it was even just three years ago…While Microsoft is going all-in…on their tablet strategy with Windows 8, there’s no indication it will actually work. If it doesn’t that could significantly hurt the Windows Divisions’ numbers.”
Windows 8 will successfully create a “Post-PC” platform for Microsoft by merging their desktop and tablet strategies into a very functional and usable operating system. However, by doing this, Microsoft may have not considered the financial consequences and the impact this strategy will have on a $20 billion dollar per year business.
The current Windows business model is based on consumers paying for Windows on new machines as well as paying for major Windows upgrades. Microsoft also encourages customers to upgrade flavors of Windows, like moving from Windows Home to Windows Home Premium to gain access to new features and functionality. This business model will not work in a Post-PC world because the platforms of the two largest players, namely iOS and Android, are essentially free!
That’s because the platform itself is no longer the revenue generator. The platform is simply the delivery method for revenue generating services like movies, TV shows, music, books, apps and, most of all, advertising. Apple has iTunes/iCloud/iAd and Google has Google Play/Ads/AdMob which are integrated into iOS and Android and that generate billions in revenue. More importantly, if Apple or Google were to add another revenue generating service, they simply provide consumers with a free upgrade of the platform so they can consume that new service.
Microsoft is in a much different position:
- Microsoft may be able to sway consumers initially to buy into the Windows 8 platform, but Microsoft will not be able to force consumers to pay $199 for future upgrades. Microsoft will need to give more for less to gain on Apple’s 100 million iPad head start!
- Microsoft is seeing the impact from iOS and Android free upgrades on the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft initially provided Windows Phone 6 customers free upgrades to Windows Phone 7. Now, consumers are demanding those same phones be upgraded to Windows Phone 8 for free. Microsoft is stuck between a rock and a hard place: either upgrade for free and lose millions in revenue or charge for the upgrade and risk losing revenue because customers find Apple and Android a better value.
- Microsoft must build revenue generating services that Apple and Google already have today. Microsoft has struggled to provide media related services in the past and Google is finding out it’s not as easy as simply releasing a BETA service and hoping people sign up.
- The numbers below paint a pretty stark picture. Microsoft will need to continually update Windows so that it can compete against Apple and Android and have the flexibility to provide additional revenue generating services to the largest possible audience. However, forcing paid upgrades on consumers will not accomplish this as consumers will simply stay on previous versions, just as desktop consumers are sticking with Windows XP versus moving to Windows 7.
- Windows 7 – 57%
- Vista – 8%
- Windows 2003 – 1%
- Windows XP – 34%
- iOS 5 – 74%
- iOS 4 – 25%
- iOS 3 – 1%
As M.G Siegler pointed out, Microsoft is “all-in”. I believe Microsoft will succeed in building a very usable and functional post-PC platform that will make for an enjoyable experience, both on the desktop and on tablets. What has me most concerned, is Microsoft’s ability produce revenue generating services to replace the inevitable loss of Windows licensing revenues once customers demand what Apple and Android already provide– free upgrades.
That is my take, what do you think? Will Microsoft be able to charge for upgrades when others don’t? Will Microsoft be able to catch up to the leads they’ve already given to Apple and Google?