Microsoft's Best Hope is IoT

By Doug Mohney October 09, 2014

Windows is stagnant and creeping to free.  Office has its future as a subscription and cloud service. In the browser world, Google Chrome just keeps chugging away with innovations like WebRTC, leaving Internet Explorer in the dust.  Microsoft's best hope for future booming growth is the Internet of Things (IoT), since it blew the opportunity in the mobile space, Surface Pro notwithstanding.

Once upon a time, Windows and Office ruled the world in terms of productivity.  Everybody had to have a word processor, spreadsheet, and an email program, with PowerPoint and database software added on for the business world. 

Tablets and the cloud blew that all up.  Software moved from $100 to $500 dollars for a program, it became $1.99 an app. Functionality for tablet apps might be limited when compared to Word and Excel , but it is good enough for most people needing simple tools.  If you need something heavier, you can either download an open source app or go plug into Google Docs or another cloud-based service.

Apple and Google have defined the mobile and cloud world so far, leaving Microsoft to be locked out of phones, fighting from behind in tablets, and building a big cloud to migrate software and convert software to cloud-based services.

Coming out in 2015, Windows 10 is promised to be the "One Ring" to run on all platforms from servers to tablets all the way down to small devices making up the IoT—One code base serving all, presumably with fewer IT people supporting a single operating system rather than having specialties for servers, desktop, mobile, and IoT.

IoT is an open field at this point.  Google Android already has some play in smaller and different devices, but Microsoft is offering a broader vision of seamlessly linking "things" into the cloud.  ThyssenKrupp is the company's IoT case study, connecting elevators around the world into Microsoft Azure services to capture, transmit, and monitor data in real time.

Depending on how you want to look at it, IoT feeds the cloud or the cloud drives more IoT usage.   Certainly it all falls under the headline of "Big Data," with Microsoft-wired IoT devices feeding data into Microsoft's cloud service and numerous Microsoft software packages providing high-level processing. 

Microsoft's Machine Learning software is being applied to ThyssenKrupp elevator data to provide analysis and predictive modeling to predict when elevators are likely to break down and aid technicians in more rapidly identifying what broke and how to fix it.  Greater business intelligence - in this case how and why elevators break down—delivers dramatically increased elevator uptime.

In the new Microsoft world, value is not in selling software, but getting everyone onto the cloud.  Once a business is on the cloud, Microsoft's big opportunity is putting every single thing that a business touches as a networked device feeding data back into the cloud.  Wins come from moving from basic functions such as storage and logging to moving up the value chain for monitoring in real time and machine intelligence to conduct analysis and predictive modeling, with Microsoft gaining more revenue per customer and device at each level.

If there's one weakness in Microsoft's IoT story, it's how it will be able to integrate "things" that don't natively run Microsoft Windows.  The company is providing Windows free to Phone and Surface tablet manufactures for any device with a screen less than 9 inches. The company needs hardware partners and an OEM prototype kit to make sure the OS of choice for IoT is Windows. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Editor

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