Let's talk about Microsoft - My Interview with Wes Miller from Directions on Microsoft
Interview with Wes Miller

Let’s talk about Microsoft – My Interview with Wes Miller from Directions on Microsoft

So in light of all the Microsoft related noise happening out there, I recently got a chance to sit down with someone who does this for a living.

Wes Miller is a (highly respected) research analyst at Directions on Microsoft and has been on the Microsoft beat for a while.

PropellerAds

I met him at the first BUILD conference 100 years ago and since he’s always seemed to know which way the Microsoft wind was blowing, I wanted to get his 10 cents on some of the recent Microsoft headlines.

Note – this was before the Nokia unit acquisition.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Onuora: Hi Wes, thanks for taking the time to do this. Let’s get into it, could you tell us a bit about your background?
Wes: I’m a research analyst at Directions on Microsoft. I’ve been here for over three years, at startups and other tech companies in Austin before that, and over 7 years at Microsoft before that, primarily working on Windows.

Onuora: I assume you’ve had a chance to see and play with the Windows 8.1 Preview, what were your first impressions?
Wes: I have. It’s a good direction, and a welcome set of improvements over Windows 8.0. While I’m still having some issues with the preview on two of my systems, I’m hoping what I’m seeing are issues that are resolved before new machines are in user hands this October.

Onuora: What’s your gut feel about the consumer reaction to Windows 8 and will Windows 8.1 change that?
Wes: The consumer reaction to Windows 8 was… not favorable. The app ecosystem is not where I’d hoped it would be, and enterprises definitely took a wait and see attitude about 8.0. 8.1 will definitely prove more appealing to businesses than 8.0 did, but the question is whether it will do so in a strong enough way, and pick up enough steam with consumers, to really begin pulling in developers and leading to great platform-unique apps.

Onuora: How do you think Windows 8.1 will impact the enterprise?
Wes: 8.1 will do far better in the enterprise than 8.0 did. However some of the most interesting features in 8.1 require an investment in, and deployment of, Windows Server 2012 R2 – so it may be a while before we see large-scale deployments of 8.1 as well.

Onuora: XP support ends relatively early next year, where do you think businesses go next – 7 or 8.1?
Wes: I still expect most businesses that are refreshing PCs to move to Windows 7, and primarily put Windows 8.1 into touch-focused roles – tablets, kiosks, and the like.

Onuora: What does Microsoft need to do to make 8.1 successful?
Wes: First, more great apps (not just a high volume of apps). Second, get partners to build great devices that deliver great experiences without charging too much, and third, explain the value of the platform to developers, consumers, and businesses (where “the value of the platform” is not synonymous with “Office on Windows” or “More than one window at a time”).

Onuora: What’s your overall impression of the quality and quantity of apps available for Windows 8?
Wes: There are lots of apps. There are some great apps. There are not a lot of great apps.

Onuora: What more can Microsoft do to engage developers?
Wes: I think that Microsoft needs to seriously engage enterprise developers, and help them understand how to build great experiences, and why they should be building WinRT apps. As it is, it feels like the enterprise is stalling out, and either building legacy Windows apps or apps for other mobile device platforms.

Onuora: Any thoughts about Windows 9 yet?
Wes: Nope. There’s much talk of what comes next, and people are already saying it’s “9”. I’m not so sure.

Onuora: Let’s talk Surface – why do you think the Surface line of tablets wasn’t successful?
Wes: One word. Price. Both devices were far too expensive for what they delivered, and much like Windows 8’s own value message, I think it is unclear to consumers and businesses what exactly Surface is vs. Android or iOS tablets, and why they should invest in a family of v1 devices with such price premiums.

Onuora: What does Microsoft need to do to make the next Gen Surface line of tablets successful?
Wes: Watch the price very, very carefully, and clearly denote why Windows 8 is a better choice than an iPad – without focusing just on Office or multiple windows. Frankly I’d also like to see a Surface that ditches the 16:9 landscape-focused display in favor of a more neutral 4:3 display that works well in portrait as well.

Onuora: Surface vs Ipad – who wins and why?
Wes: This might make me unpopular, but… iPad. It wins on price, weight, battery life, selection of software and accessories, and a mature SDK… Surface wins primarily on the presence of Office (and the desktop on Pro, though many would argue that the presence of the desktop on a tablet isn’t necessarily a benefit).

Onuora: What did you think of Microsoft’s latest reorg?
Wes: Having seen many reorgs before – including some massive ones while I was there, I’m taking a wait and see attitude. Great products aren’t created through changes in the org chart. Great products are created by individual contributors who are focused on creating great products, not focused on their reporting order.

Onuora: Looking forward, what line of business do you see Microsoft being the most successful with?
Wes: I’m very bullish on Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2, as well as Windows Azure and SQL Server. While Microsoft may not be hitting home runs with the Windows client, they are building some amazing server technologies, the Azure PaaS platform is very strong and the Azure IaaS platform is finally here and is quite impressive.

Onuora: If you had to name one thing, what would be the most important thing Microsoft needs to do in the next 12 months?
Wes: Hit the pavement. Get out there and evangelize like Microsoft of old. Help developers build great consumer and enterprise applications, and get the world to clearly understand why Windows was, is, and always will be great, even as Windows changes. Let Windows stand on its own, though – don’t use Office as a crutch for Windows, or Windows as a crutch for Office. Those two products need to stand on their own. If you use one to hold the other up, both get hurt in the long run.

Onuora: Steve Ballmer is leaving, thoughts on his tenure? Also do you think his leaving makes MSFT stronger?
Wes: I don’t think Steve leaving necessarily makes Microsoft either weaker or stronger. It’s really up to his replacement to make their own mark. They have a formidable challenge ahead of them, however, as they are likely to be pulled in three – potentially discordant – directions, by the board, investors, and customers.

Onuora: Who or what kind of person do you think should replace him?
Wes: I think the person who replaces Steve needs to be someone who is creative, and steadfast about helping the entire organization build technologies that delight customers (that will in turn drive sales). The next CEO shouldn’t be someone focused primarily on P&L – the company needs a visionary and a technical/design leader first.

Onuora Amobi is the Founder and VP of Digital Marketing at Learn About The Web Inc. Onuora has more than a decade of information security, project management and management consulting experience. He has specialized in the management and deployment of large scale ERP client/server systems. In addition to being a former Microsoft MVP and the founder and editor of EyeOnWindows.com, he is the CEO of a Pasadena based online marketing education startup - Learn About The Web Inc. (www.learnabouttheweb.com).

  • http://www.JVE.biz/ Rug Ratz

    good interview …. Microsoft really needs to be price conscious … they can either lose some profit in initial sales and gain massive market growth, or lose the money later in write-offs for excessive overstock in hardware and product … pick your poison. But market growth will give back profits over time and write-offs just piss off your stockholders. They did this with Win 95 … why are they pausing now? Worried about the FTC claiming their monopoly power is too great for competitors or something and sue them? Take over the world first, then pay your lawyers extra to keep it out of the court system.

  • Bart

    On Surface. I agree the price was a big factor. The RT is about right after the price drop if it included the keyboard. For Pro it is the full OS but $699 for the 64 should be the starting point and including the keyboard. The keyboard is a big factor to me since I don’t see anyone with an iPad who hasn’t bought a keyboard and cover to go with it.
    Going to a 4:3 may help when in portrait mode for reading. If given both options I think I would get the 16:9 but if I saw both together I might prefer the 4:3.
    Surface vs iPad I would add one more part to this RT or Pro vs iPad. iPad beats RT due to apps but the Pro wins overall with a full OS that can run any program. Pro is too expensive to compete fairly in this.
    Not mentioned but another factor is the lack of 4G LTE option. This could be fixed easily with an optional adapter that goes in a SD or USB slot so that you could choose the one for your carrier. Not one sticking out to be easily broken.

    • Ray C

      I agree. They have to win on price. The Surface is the best tablet out there, both the RT and Pro versions. It simply doesn’t have all of the top or “great” apps. That being said, I’ve never heard anyone say they think Android tablets are better than iPads or the mini, outside of those who have everything Android, but they’re selling more than twice as many of everything than Apple. Why? Price is king. You can almost get two similar Android tablets for the price of an iPad. Now I don’t think MS needs to sell out to the point where the Surface is half the price of the iPad, but the price difference does need to be enough where people will see it as a deal they almost can’t pass on. Options like 4G could also be something people will find it hard to pass on.

      • Bart

        At this point with 8.1 and outlook coming for the RT I would wait a bit. For the Pro I will wait on the Haswell to help with the battery life. Every commercial showcases the keyboard but it is an extra. It is like showcasing the engine on a car but it being an extra. Unless the prices improve I will go with an Ultrabook instead.
        I have an iPad supplied by work not something I would get. I hate the thing. I haven’t found an app worth anything for it. Some people brag up the apps by the quantity available for Apple yet who has more than a few that they use?

        • Rodney Longoria

          Exactly right, @kiacar:disqus. It’d be better PR for Microsoft to lose some revenue by selling Surface at an initial lower price than the bad PR they received doing the write-off.

  • KeithE

    Surprised you didn’t ask him about RT, the future of which is one of the most strategically important decisions MS has to make.

    • http://www.learnabouttheweb.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Great point. I simply forgot.

      Maybe next time. I think we’ll know more about RT when the next version of Surface tablets is released…

  • Mitchell Sheehan

    Very well said. I also think that the Surface should ditch the 16:9 landscape-focused display in favor of the more neutral 4:3 display. It is way better to watch movies on. Yes and the price is also a good point. If Microsoft gets all this right on the future Surface then it surely will be a hit. Personally, I don’t care about how much a tablet weighs. But they should really focus on what really matters. A large number of Good Apps, Price of the tablet and accessories, the 4:3 display, Apps should also cost a lot lesser and Office free with all tablets not just RT ( At least Student and Home 2013 )