Microsoft’s New Direction Is Not Surprising

Together with its new CEO, the software giant is embracing the inevitable: transforming its users into a data product. Google is, arguably, the company that has done this with the greatest degree of success. Jealous, Microsoft ran the “Scroogled”^ smear campaign against its competitor. It dropped it in 2014, probably when somebody decided that, after all, Google’s strategy is more in tune with the times.

Two years later and Windows 10 is phoning home hundreds of time every day, even when told not to^. The company said it will provide a “fix” for this, but as the article I linked cleverly points out: as operating systems start to increasingly rely on their companies’ cloud infrastructure, especially when it comes to Artificial Intelligence, we will be forced into all sorts of privacy trade-offs.

But what worries me the most is the fact that Microsoft is moving towards transforming Windows into a closed ecosystem, emulating the model established by Apple and, later, Google. For better or for worse, Windows’ popularity has ensured that developers have a popular platform that they can deliver products on, with few intermediaries.

However, with the upcoming Universal Windows Platform, Microsoft is taking its first steps into placing itself as a leech between developers and customers, charging not only for the operating system but also taking a profit share from producers – just like pretty much all other “app stores”. If this comes to pass, it will be particularly harmful for game developers, with games being one of the most profitable products sold in the Microsoft ecosystem.

No wonder Tim Sweeney of Epic Games is upset (while Gabe Newell of Valve started a long time ago to heavily invest in the Linux ecosystem):

http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/4/11160104/tim-sweeney-microsoft-walled-garden-criticism^

In all fairness, Microsoft is making the right moves to stay profitable. Each year, there’s fewer people willing to renew their Windows licenses, so it’s no wonder that the company ponders offering updates to Windows 10 for free, while in the same time devising new ways to turn a profit. The App Store model has been implemented successfully by many companies, why should Microsoft remain behind?

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