Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO is a fascinating man! It is rare and refreshing to see a major tech executive who just cannot do charisma. The negative charisma he exudes when speaking at events is beyond the ability of any instrument to measure. I hope the Samaritans put up tents outside the conference venue, and that they get in extra staff to man their phone lines. But charisma is not essential to being a great business leader, despite every ‘business guru’ asserting it ad nauseam in all their ‘best-sellers’. Adolf Hitler was very charismatic, but a fairly dismal leader.
These days I positively ooze with charisma, and whilst I am certainly not a Master of the Universe, a member of the Illumnati, or even the local Rotary Club, my charisma still makes every day full of immensely satisfying personal interactions. Being charismatic also gets us discounts at The Cheese Stall and from most of the sellers at the Hampshire Farmers’ Market. And every Wednesday we get an extra helping of the Falafel boys’ best balls. Crispy and freshly fried!
By contrast, Vladimir Putin is one of the least charismatic and most delusional people on the planet. In his mind he thinks his ‘great’ country is under existential threat by a single cross-dressing Austrian ‘singer’, hordes of gays and lesbians, CIA agents masquerading as NGO workers, not to mention pesky Russians and other ex-Soviet peoples who would like to be able to vote for a party that is not a proxy for Putin, however loony they may be!. His strategy, which is subtle, cunning and humane by Russian standards has certainly effectively neutralised the (largely imaginary) threat.
Satya Nadella is far more charismatic than Putin, and he is not delusional: Every CEO is under constant threat from real enemies who will take his job and livelihood if they mess up. Forbes magazine estimated that in November 2014, Google (the relative young upstart in computing terms) had a brand value pretty much identical to the of Microsoft’s (who have been powering the PCs of all but rare outliers for decades). Google’s Android operating system accounted for 81% of new smartphone (although how ‘smart’ most of them were will be the subject of a future article) sales last year compared to Microsoft’s Windows Phone sales proportion of 3.5%. The enemies appear well and truly at the gates! Plans are needed, and judging by news as recent as that which came from the Mobile World Congress that started today, they are in place and working.
For a start, Nadella has turned his weaknesses into his strengths. One such way is by getting into bed with the enemy. It was announced today that Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones, would be dumping their usual load of bloatware on their new flagship Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge in favour of preloading them with Microsoft’s brilliant offerings OneNote, OneDrive and Skype. S6/S6 Edge users will also be offered 115GB of free OneDrive storage. Samsung sold 12 million Galaxy S5’s during its first three months of sales (apparently 40% less than expected, which is thought to be caused partly by negative reviews criticising its hideously ugly, plastic-y construction and partly by a generally saturated market at launch time). Even if the shiny new metal and glass look of the S6, and the fancy curviness of the of S6 Edge, do not increase sales in a similar period, Microsoft will be giving away 1.38 yottabytes of free cloud storage to customers of a competitor, the biggest smartphone maker in world, who use a competitor’s operating system.
I am sure this deal will not materially affect Microsoft’s bottom line, Samsung would have made some donation, out of the goodness of their hearts. But it is far more important than that. It introduces an awful lot of users of a highly popular rival flagship device to Microsoft services. Most of these users will probably be impressed by how good these services are, and that they get 100 GB more cloud storage than Google will offer. As OneDrive is equally great on any device, it is a far more attractive a proposition for users than Google Drive. Moreover, they will be ready to go with the video-calling – free video-calling and conferencing, come to that – free and cheap international telephone call-making, live text-chatting app that is Skype, which again is likely to be more appealing to users than Google Hangouts. This is a brilliant win for Microsoft, as well as brilliant for Samsung users.
Historically, Microsoft’s two big cash cows were Windows and Office. We have already detailed how Microsoft have released Office for Android and iOS, but there was another heartening bit of news from the start of the Mobile World Congress this morning. The Sony Tablet Z4, the tablet for the smart set in the second half of this year, will come preinstalled with all Office apps (see picture below of a Z4 Tablet that was snapped this morning):
This is not a statement that Office is only for those who can afford pricy tablets, but that it is the essential suite of apps for those of us who actually have to work for a living, rather than just play games that their parents have paid for. Some Apple users use the grossly inferior iWork suite simply because they worship the most valuable company on Earth and feel they should give that, namely Apple, their money just as they should hate Microsoft, presumably because most people, who simply must be vastly less clever, cool and hip than them (because they pay over the odds for less capable kit, is that why they are so cool?), failing to notice that those lowly masses who use Microsoft products do most of the work in the computer using world. I have heard of Open Office, I even visited its website once to look at some sheetshots that I found rather crude-looking, but I do not know of a single person who uses it. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are extremely crude, confusing and devoid of many even slightly advances features that I use every day in Word. This is doubly true of the Google (and Apple) cloud productivity apps, whilst it is not of Microsoft’s Office Online offerings.
No, simply put, Microsoft Office is the gold standard of productivity suites, and is essential to anyone who does almost any form of work on computers (we wrote about how to get it cheap with oodles of cloud storage here), now it is available for Android it is appears, at least (so far) in Sony’s case, that it is required for those who have to work on their Android devices – Sony’s Tablet Z4 people with money who still have to work is the most like’y tablet they will buy, it is true (it weighs less than 390g and is thinner than 6.1mm – that’s like having a 10.1″ sheet of glass to work on!)
Poaching customers in the enemy’s camp is a great tactic, but you always have to keep fresh crops of customers coming into the system. That is why it is great that Microsoft have made Office 365 free to students from all qualifying establishments (in the USA to start with but soon the rest of the world). After of a few years of dashing through their essays in Word or doing their statistics in Excel are these students going to really balk at the idea of sticking with such class and comfort for a few notes a month, or are they likely to think, “Are yes, being a graduate on a graduate’s salary I cannot afford such luxury! I must fight my way with Google Docs and Sheets and suffer indignity every time I work(see pictures below):
Finally, a quick word about Windows 10. Microsoft have stated it will be a free upgrade for users of Windows7/8/8.1 for their first year of use. And after that are they going to say goodbye to all their programs, files and people who want to speak to them and install Knoppix? Of course not, they… we will pay to keep using Windows, keep it updating, keep it supporting the latest standards, keep it secure, keep it fast and so on. Microsoft have said they will be pitching Windows 10 (and upwards) as a service more than just an operating system. That, together with the low, low prices they charge for Office 365, makes me think Microsoft will be far keener to retain, rather than gouge, customers, so I imagine the future monthly Windows fee will be extremely affordable.
Furthermore, Microsoft have said that the Windows 10 upgrade will not be free for enterprise customers, who never like to upgrade at the best of times, do they? Her Majesty’s Government is still using 13 year old Windows XP (and being charged so much for support by Microsoft you would have thought the solution would be obvious…), and they deserve every cyber attack, loss of data, and bit of hardware incompatibility they get for doing so. However, with the ever increasing cyber threat to companies and the increasingly tough laws being implemented for keeping userdata secure (and fines being handed out if it is not), the focus put on security and stability across all types of device in Windows 10 makes upgrading a no-brainer. As the operating system will continually have its components updated (without doing a full OS upgrade) it should remain more secure more of the time. More secure than bloody Windows XP, at any rate!
As Satya Nadella might well be putting it now, “I love it when a plan comes together!”