Microsoft [MSFT] is failing in the mobile space -- Surface is skin deep -- but it's looking in the wrong direction if it really wants to make a difference, you see, it's not Apple [AAPL] it should be emulating, but Google [GOOG], specifically, Google Glass.
Glass is not a consumer product
I'll make no secret whatsoever that I think Google Glass will be an abject failure in consumer markets. The world's already full of enough people the rest of us see as 'Glassholes' who don't wear these things, and I think the majority of consumers will be utterly disinterested in the devices, which will quickly fade from fad to fail.
That's not the case in every market. Microsoft should be looking to those markets in which Glass might make sense -- and these aren't the consumer markets.
Think about it.
Glass is not a consumer product. It really isn't. Most of us don't need ads flashed to our eyeballs along with recent Tweets and privacy-eroding video capture casting our personal moments into the cloud. Most of us want to give our complete attention to those we speak with, rather than muttering incantations into our digital device while committing a series of gestures designed to make us look like some 21st Century cultural reflection of the failed wizards of this age. Most of us just think the whole idea sucks.
There's life beyond consumer markets. Glass will be a pretty good accessory for those of us who need to move around collecting and sharing information fast; it's for people who need fast and accurate access to facts about what they see in front of them; it's for people who need information on their retinas way before they think to use their fingers to grab it. Who might these people be?
Glass is an enterprise product
A few ideas:
All these people will benefit from Google Glass, but Google is aiming at consumer markets (I think, though I suspect its developers are aiming at the same verticals I mention above).
So, who already has assets in place that could be exploited by people in those markets? Is it Apple, or is it Microsoft? My answer is Microsoft. All those legacy PC systems are still busily involved in doing something, in addition to which the people making existing software for some of the markets above (and a few others you might imagine) are in general unlikely to be using Macs.
Get real, Ballmer
If Microsoft seriously wants to capitalize on its power base in the enterprise markets, its executives (those that remain) should probably think about giving Google a taste of its own medicine, and, through a free software introduction and a gathering of deals with OEMs, flooding the market with devices that look dreadfully like Glass.
Unless, that is, with a spirit of cosmic mirth, Apple beats the company to the punch and announces its own video-enabled headsets on September 10. Which you have to admit would be pretty funny. Apple has been working on these things for far longer than Google, after all.
We're in a Post-PC age -- that's becoming increasingly inarguable, beyond semantic pontificating concerning what constitutes a computer. Within that era, Microsoft is chasing other people, when it should be branching out from its most powerful sector. It shouldn't be asking itself how to stay relevant by competing in the smartphone and tablet markets, it should be questioning what sort of Post-PC devices its enterprise customers might need.
These could include Google Glass competing headsets for us in the offices and at desks all across the lands; these could include intelligent connected pens that write letters on paper and on a computer while also storing what's written somewhere in the cloud, for sharing across platforms and devices; Microsoft might also make hay by looking to develop subscription-based, platform-agnostic SaaS provision across its producitivity tools (including free tools to see off the Google Docs trade).
Unfortunately it appears the Microsoft we have today has lost its flair, which is why Glass will be on your doctor's, postal operative and delivery guy's face in a few year's time; while the rest of us pose around town wearing our iWatch.
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