No longer having to look into Windows and Office on PCs for all it can offer, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has found other necessary components that if pieced together, can be used to assemble the future computing systems of mobile and cloud. From Azure to Microsoft Cloud, from Microsoft Dynamic CRM to other enterprise and industry solutions, from Microsoft virtualization technology to its System Configuration Manager, and lastly from Windows phone to Surface tablet, Microsoft has eyed for many areas of the mobile and cloud computing. Essentially, its services and products are a broad and solid representation in cloud hardware infrastructure, business management applications, IT computing software and mobile devices used to access a self-built mobile cloud.
Microsoft has made some right moves over the years to help ensure continued future success as a software provider. Building on its storied Windows operating system and Office productivity applications, Microsoft has kept expanding its software offerings in both IT computing and business management for the enterprise market. As the PC use evolves and computing hardware diversifies, Microsoft, the software maker, has also taken steps towards hardware making, with products now including servers and particularly mobile devices for the post-PC era. Back when Microsoft dominated the PC software market, and every piece of the PC hardware was assembled uniformly using its Windows and Office software, there would be little benefit for Microsoft to try to produce any of the hardware itself.
But enterprise software and applications can be very broad and are offered by many competing providers, and no single software maker can be sure that its business solutions are the ones that customers will run on the cloud or mobile devices that are supplied by someone else. More importantly, nowadays mobile and cloud computing increasingly calls for software and hardware to work seamlessly together, much more than what traditional PC configuration required. With mobile devices, the role of hardware is more visible than in the case of PC as to having a real part in promoting the overall user experience. For the cloud, mobile or otherwise, having one's own cloud infrastructure may help a software provider offer more effective deliveries of the over-the-Web services. In response, Microsoft now makes and owns both types of hardware, mobile device and cloud infrastructure.
Unlike IBM or any of its major software competitors, Microsoft doesn't need a hardware maker like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to team up with to offer through mobile devices end-to-end, cloud-based business solutions and services. The IBM-Apple partnership, surely a challenge to Microsoft, should serve as a reminder that Microsoft has the potential to achieve by itself what IBM and Apple hope to do together. Windows phone and Surface tablet may be not as popular as Apple and Android devices among both consumers and business customers, but by making its better perceived productivity software and other business applications accessible on its own mobile devices, backed by its Enterprise Mobility Suite for device management, Microsoft's stronger software performance may continue to carry through with enough support of its additional hardware capability.
While Microsoft has gathered all the needed operating pieces, it has yet to figure out the business puzzle to dominate the business software market this time again. The company has rightly identified its strategic goal as centering on "productivity and platforms," with all other divisions, including mobile-device making, playing supportive roles. Its online Office 365, also made accessible across competitors' platforms, is just another official note on its renewed mission statement. In their supportive capacity, Windows phone and Surface tablet may not be measured by only the devices' sales numbers, but also how the devices have aided in wider adoptions of Microsoft's productivity software offerings. As much as future computing is software driven over the cloud and through mobile, it is to be powered by the hardware of cloud infrastructure and mobile devices, something that Microsoft has yet to make the best use of.
If Microsoft fails to connect its hardware availability with its software offerings, it won't have the kind of success worthy of its software-making potential, even if the company is able to, say, rent out much of the capacity of its Azure cloud hosting platform and sell a lot of Windows phones and Surface tablets. In comparison, those types of operations would be the sole goals for Amazon Web Services and Apple's mobile devices, which business customers use to pair up with business applications provided by other software providers. For Microsoft, the goal is to leverage its cloud and mobile platforms to get more of its business applications delivered to the hands of business customers. While Microsoft has got the right plan, it's been lacking a killer execution.
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