And it lands dead on arrival. The stakes are high for the software company as it battles attacks on its home market of the desktop PC from fellow monopolist Google and their Chromebook offerings.
Having secured no share of the mobile market (less than 5% by generous estimates) Microsoft is looking to ‘universal apps’ to drive adoption of its new generation of mobile phone operating systems. Universal apps are designed to be written once and then run on desktops, tablets and smartphones. One of the key reasons blamed for Microsoft’s lack of progress in the mobile market has been a lack of compelling apps. Microsoft’s platform lacks users which means developers refuse to invest in building apps for it. Users refuse to adopt the Microsoft operating system because their favourite apps aren’t on it. It’s a viscous circle.
Microsoft’s newest offering, shown in a sneak peak to developers today, allows them the ability to write once and run on any Microsoft Windows 10 product. Which sounds like the perfect solution to all that ails the company from Redmond.
But despite technically being able to do as promised the preview shown today had two critical flaws.
First, it complicates user interaction. On each device there is a specific way users interact with apps – a keyboard on a laptop, fingers on a tablet and thumbs on a smartphone. The way each looks and responds is driven by the way you interact to it. Microsoft’s approach, shown today, combines user interaction into a one size fits all model. This means less pain for developers but more pain for users. Things, such as menus and buttons, are not where users expect them to be. Actions, like swiping and pinching, don’t work as expected either. This means its a major headache for users to, well, use the Microsoft apps.
Second, there is no getting around different screen sizes. Because of this developers must still create 3 sets of user interfaces for their apps, one for each of desktop, tablet and mobile. This still creates three times the work and so the savings in development time aren’t as significant as developers would like given the small (and shrinking) base of Microsoft devices.
Overall today’s preview can be viewed as a disappointment and does not bode well for the company in the near future. We’ll be covering this story as more previews hit in the coming months and look more into the impact this will have on Microsoft’s market position and business prospects.