App Ecosystem Weekly for 10/19/12: The New Microsoft Ecosystem, And It’s Not Windows 8
It’s October 19th, 2012, and welcome to this week’s issue of The App Ecosystem Weekly. This week, let’s review some recent product announcements from Redmond, as Microsoft positions itself to release Office 2013 with a broad app ecosystem built into its most famous application suite. If you’re new to Kinvey’s App Ecosystem Weekly, you can follow us on Twitter here or subscribe via RSS here. We publish weekly roundups of the most interesting and thought provoking stories around the app ecosystem, app development, and the rest of the mobile world. Let’s examine why and how Microsoft is pushing themselves into the forefront of the app world.
Microsoft is taking some cues from their competition recently, and understanding how to foster and create a real app ecosystem around their products. While they’ve made some questionable moves recently, the unit that is developing the next version of Office, Office 2013, has developed a much stronger strategy on how to encourage app developers to build on their platform and for their customers. If you’re trying to establish a strong app ecosystem, the first thing you need to establish is consumers. This is the critical mistake that RIM has been making in trying to restart the Blackberry app ecosystem; as their market share has crashed from 50% to 5% over the last four years, the hardest part about attracting developers into their new platforms has been convincing them that users exist who will buy and use their apps.
Why It Will Succeed: It’s The Locked-In Userbase
Their strategy with Office 2013 is superior to their Windows 8 strategy from that point alone – an enormous, locked-in userbase already exists for the Office product and is expected to upgrade to the new version by the millions. Apple accomplished this by selling the iPhone for months before opening it up to developers – proving the community would exist. RIM had this previously through major market share. Google accomplished it for Android by making sure that every single carrier would be using Android for free on their handsets, guaranteeing massive adoption of the OS in a very short time.
1) All apps are immediately cross-platform. Users can move between Windows and OS X without losing their favorite applications. This is key to the Office experience – it doesn’t matter what OS you consume Office on, because you are inside of the Office platform.
2) No local installation is required to use applications. This removes many security headaches, and allows Office to sandbox applications inside of the document environment, severely limiting the damage or interference an app can cause.
3) Your apps follow you to wherever you consume your Office docs. If you use their online docs editor, your apps that you used to create the docs will still be available. If you contrast this to, for example, Chrome Sync, it’s a guarantee that you’ll have the same experience no matter where or how you access your information.
Microsoft has other divisions that are helping position themselves very well for this change – the launch of their Azure PaaS provides a home for all of these apps to live inside of the Microsoft cloud and be served to their customers. Ivan Stoyanov, Kinvey’s VP Engineering, also examined this issue when Microsoft released their own Backend as a Service product as an extension of their PaaS for developers writing apps for Windows 8 Desktop and Phone. Now that the platform is becoming more mature with every passing month, the placement of Azure as a central element of Microsoft’s new products for the future is becoming more clear. While a little late to the party, they are showing up in style by showing Azure as the tie-in that brings many of their products together in a coherent and trusted fashion.
Whatever is happening across Microsoft’s different divisions, this looks like a divison that has figured out a solid cloud strategy and how to cleanly execute on it. Look for more details coming from Microsoft soon about pricing, how the store will work, and other delivery options. Given the guaranteed userbase, the fact that every app is immediately available for every platform, an integrated PaaS to build apps on, and a provided store and transaction mechanisms that can work for both individual users and the enterprise, the Office app ecosystem looks to be a very strong environment.
That’s this week’s App Ecosystem Update, covering mobile technologies, app development, and trends & events in the space. Please follow us on Twitter, subscribe via RSS, and stay tuned for future updates from the Kinvey team! If you’re interested in developing for this new platform when it’s available, we’d love to hear your thoughts about this as well in the comments!