The retreat from consumer products

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My nephew started university last year and his parents bought him a laptop that came with Microsoft WIndows. They didn’t buy a Surface Laptop or a Surface Book because they were way out of their budget. Instead they were directed to the HP and Lenovo devices.

For my brother and nephew Windows comes “free” with the laptop. Rather like 4 wheels and an engine come as standard with a car purchase. He bought a student version of Office on the university website. I advised him to do this when he asked me how to get Word and Excel. From his perspective he bought a 4 year license from the university. His iPhone uses Spotify for music at a student discount. His student discount app is only available on iPhone and android. 

As a normal consumer the Microsoft brand barely exists. 

While it is true that Wall Street loves Microsoft’s strategy on enterprise, cloud, AI, etc it is also true that none of these things is very visible. Abandoning consumer products and mobile results in lack of visibility. There is nothing wrong with that. Oracle are a huge business invisible to consumers. IBM is a business service company. 

Back in the 1980s Bill Gates’ vision was a PC on every desk. That was business and consumer. With 90%+ of the PC market you could say the vision statement worked. Ballmer’s “cloud first, mobile first” less so. Nadella says “intelligent cloud, intelligent edge” and no one has a clue what “success” looks like even if it happens. 

For those of us that consumed Microsoft services over the years we are now consuming less. However the companies we work for are probably consuming more. 

What is going to be interesting is watching how Microsoft is being followed in the media. The year 2017 is probably the year that Microsoft will have abandoned consumer products – with the single exception of gamers. The year 2018 will be the year that websites covering the Microsoft space will either change to more general consumer technology or alternatively become enterprise news websites. Neither is a bad thing.  It will just be interesting to observe.

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