Microsoft executives advocated the company's consumer products at the Worldwide Partner Conference, highlighting Windows 7, traditional PCs, personal clouds, and Windows Phone 7.
WASHINGTON, D.C.-Microsoft executives used a second day of
keynotes at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference July 13 to highlight the
supposed dominance of the traditional PC, as well as upcoming consumer
Microsoft's overarching strategy seems to center on promoting
its flagship products, such as Windows 7 or the upcoming Windows Phone 7, as
equally useful within both a business and consumer context.
"The things we use at home are the things we're being asked
for at work," Brad Brooks, corporate vice president of Windows consumer
marketing and product management, told the audience. "It's about how things fit
with both my home life and my work life that defines a great product and
"Some say a PC is not the future, that it's reached the limit,"
Brooks said, in what could be regarded as something of a backhand swipe against
Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has said on a number of occasions that mobile devices
have begun to eclipse the traditional PC. "I think those people need to have
their headbone checked out. We are just seeing an amazing breadth of innovation
and form factors from our manufacturing partners. Windows 7 takes PC to a whole
new level: the cloud: the personal cloud."
To illustrate the concept of a personal cloud, he
demonstrated how a song downloaded onto his PC would sync onto his smartphone,
or how a photo taken with a Windows Phone 7 device could be synced to the
cloud-based Microsoft Skydrive, and from there sent to friends and family.
Leveraging the cloud, media such as video or music can be delivered to multiple
screens within a household.
While Windows 7 has proven a bestseller in the months
following its October 2009 release, and many of its flagship programs remain
staples of both the enterprise and SMBs, Microsoft's consumer initiatives have
a decidedly mixed track record.
Last week, for example, the company was forced to
discontinue its Kin social-networking phones due to anemic sales; although the
devices were aimed at a fairly narrow demographic of teenagers and
social-networking-happy young adults, their much-publicized demise led to much
questioning about Microsoft's ability to execute its broader plan for Windows
Phone 7, which is due for release on select devices later in 2010.
The Kin's death took place against a broader shakeup of
Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, including the departure of
its two top executives. The group's Xbox franchise has begun to turn a profit
after several years of running in the red, but other products-such as the Zune
HD-have not attained marketplace success.
That puts Microsoft at something of a disadvantage in the
consumer IT space, notably in comparison to Apple, whose iPods dominate the
Microsoft's countermove seems to be focusing on cloud
services, and their portability across multiple pieces of hardware, as opposed
to specific devices. The other part of its consumer push continues to be
smartphones; during a keynote at the conference, Andy Lees, senior vice president
of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, insisted that, "Windows Phone 7
is very focused on delighting the end user."
"The problem is that smartphones are just app launchers;
they're a grid of icons," Lees continued. "We figured there's got to be a
better way than going app by app by app, so two years ago we fundamentally
reset our strategy."
Microsoft needs that strategy to succeed.