Microsoft's Three Keys for IoT/M2M

By Doug Mohney October 15, 2014

As Microsoft continues to preach the virtues of Windows as the “one true operating system” spanning everything from servers down to Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the company needs to successfully do three things in order to establish itself as a market leader within in the space. It will need to have open APIs that can play well with non-Windows devices, build a new strategic relationship with Intel, and make some carefully targeted investments for a broad-spanning Windows IoT ecosystem.

Not everyone uses Windows, especially when it comes to mobile devices.  When you go past tablets and smart phones into IoT devices, there's an assortment of open source IoT operating systems kicking around, ranging from established operating systems such as Linux and Android to new offerings like Mbed.  There's also a battle for interconnection standards, with Cisco, Dell, Intel, and Samsung linking up for the Open Interconnect Consortium while LG, Panasonic, Qualcomm, and Sony have joined with Microsoft to promote the AllSeen Alliance.

Microsoft's bad habit in the past has been to promote "its" standard for better or worse—typically for worse in the recent past—regardless of what the market actually adopts.   The company needs to keep its mind, APIs, and relationships open to work with everyone, otherwise it could end up sitting on the sidelines with IoT.  Not every device needs or will have a Windows 10 OS load, due to power and design considerations. Microsoft should want every IoT device to communicate with its Azure cloud, because collecting and analyzing data is where the real money and long-term recurring revenue is at.

Intel wants to be a major player in IoT, but it has traditionally been more successful at the chip level than selling consumer devices and services. Edison is Intel's latest offering targeted at the small and wearable device market, leveraging small size, a $50 list cost, and built-in Wi-Fi/Bluetooth. Supported development for Edison include: Arduino and C/C++, with Node.JS, Python, and RTOS supported in the near future.  Its software framework supports a "cloud-based, multi-tenant, time-series analytics service."

The WinTel (Windows-Intel) alliance still dominate the server, desktop and laptop markets while emphatically missing the boat on smartphones and struggling to make a place in the tablet arena. Both companies need to swallow their respective egos and work together to establish an ecosystem of hardware and software for IoT, rather than struggle separately and against each other.

In a new IoT-WinTel alliance, Intel would continue its role as a chip and device manufacturer.  Microsoft would handle software and cloud services, providing the glue to link IoT devices to storage and analytics engines.  Consumers and businesses would benefit from one-stop shopping and an off-the-shelf integrated solution set that would be affordable and supported by a large ecosystem of developers, resellers, and other third parties.

Finally, Microsoft needs to put some money in the IoT world.   It doesn't necessarily have to buy companies whole, but can selective make choice investments in partners to round out its portfolio and expand the ecosystem.  Intel and others have cellular and Wi-Fi covered, but don't be surprised if Microsoft decides to put money into one or two satellite companies.  Iridium and Orbcomm are good candidates for deeper Microsoft IoT partnerships, giving Microsoft direct access to existing satellite-based IoT device manufacturers and their on-orbit networks. If you are going to have the ability to monitor anything on the planet, you need to have access to a network that can reach anything anywhere on the planet.   Microsoft will need a close satellite partner.


Contributing Editor

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