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Microsoft is standing on quicksand and may not even know it

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Let me begin by saying that I am a Microsoft fan. With the exception of an Apple iPad and a Nexus 5 (both of which I use sparingly), I’ve always stuck to MS. I’ve paid for 3 Lumia devices and show it off wherever I go. I’ve always believed that Windows Phone is far superior to Android or iOS as a complete experience.

When it comes to big screens, I’ve never enjoyed any OS other than Windows due to the amount of work I can get accomplished. I am even typing this article out on my newest acquisition the Surface Pro 3.

Truth be told, I sometimes wonder why kids spend a lot more on a Macbook Air when this is such a brilliant alternative with touch interface, a pen input and a quality keyboard that types surprisingly well given its sleek frame. And it guarantees a jaw-dropping reaction from almost anyone who sees me work with it.

Also, many of my friends are surprisingly MS fans in an Apple-crazy city called Dubai. And we have always won the Apple vs Microsoft argument every single time. Still do.

The looming problem is Google.

While Apple will always have a niche market to itself and perhaps also hold on to the cool tag for a while, the people that Microsoft really needs to watch out for are those working tirelessly at Google.
This is because unlike Apple, Microsoft creates products that is not just for the rich. In that respect, Google is no different.

Let me give you an example of how all three approach a very basic requirement such as creating a to-do list.

It is the one thing most people around me still do using traditional pen and paper. Apple Store is filled with clean and gorgeous apps to attract people away from the pen and paper. Microsoft tried something niche with ‘Shopping’ that allows an entire family to tailor one to-do shopping list using multiple devices. And then there is Google with ‘Keep’.

The Apple apps look good but using it daily is as promising as sticking to your diet plan. Microsoft Shopping is great functionality but opening and closing it regularly in a supermarket is unintuitive and cumbersome. ‘Keep’ to be honest is as exciting as the sanitised interiors of a hospital. Yet, it is probably the most used to-do app in mobile history. It for sure is the easiest and fastest, and makes a compelling case for doing away with the pen and paper; even for an avid design freak like me.

So what’s the lesson here? It is the priority that each of these three companies accord to design, function and speed. There is no doubt that all three companies care about design (tile/flat/material) and that all three companies care about functionality and speed. What matters is, if each company had to sacrifice one over the other, what would they choose as the highest priority?

I believe that Apple gives highest priority to simple design and gorgeous fonts, with speed coming a close second. I also believe that Microsoft gives highest priority to robust functionality with design coming a close second as they are bent on proving a point to Apple. And this is my biggest grouse with Microsoft.

What Microsoft should actually be doing is learning from Google. For Google, speed is the highest priority followed by functionality. Design comes a distant third. Try opening any app in Microsoft and the “speed” at which it opens makes you want to fling the brick at someone. Even their own apps such as the camera app isn’t as fast as iOS or Android when it comes to capturing images. What use is the world’s best camera phone if you cannot captures images before the moment is lost?

Okay, so you may ask if Microsoft is losing the mobile OS space, why fret? Aren’t they doing the right thing by creating a platform for universal apps? One single app and one single OS for any screen size is their solution.

In theory that is absolutely brilliant. But there are two issues I foresee.

Firstly, a jack of all trades is never a master of one. And one can’t help but get a feeling that these all-in-one apps running on an all-in-one OS, will be comparatively slow and laggy.

Secondly, with devices like Chromebit that changes any screen into a computer and Anrdoid running successfully on a standalone watch for the fraction of the cost of MS operating systems, is Microsoft far from being an innovative leader?

Then there are the obvious things that Microsoft has surprisingly gotten wrong. Their first wearable device was heavy and clunky. Their voice recognition in Cortana is eons away from Google Voice. Their online and offline support is the worst of the three companies. I could go on and on.

That said, there is still hope. If Windows 10 is successful in doing what I mentioned above and if the app developer community builds apps with seriousness rather than as an after thought, things could turn around. After all, I just typed this out on the most brilliant consumer computing device out there. And it is built by Microsoft.

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Taurus is a technology and automotive enthusiast

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