The One Sentence Ballmer Keeps Saying that Might Be the Difference between Windows Phone 8 Success and Failure

As always, let’s start with a short story. Yesterday, I spent the entire day at Microsoft events. The morning hours were spent at the largest tech event I have ever attended in Israel. The Windows 8 launch, for which Ballmer flew out, making Israel the first country outside of the US in which Ballmer launched the new platform.

The afternoon was spent at an event thrown my Microsoft R&D in which local startups displayed their innovation, as well as another keynote speech by Ballmer.

Clearly, the man had a lot to say about Windows 8 but to be quite honest, most of it was marketing mumbo jumbo. “A revolutionary new platform”, “Our biggest move as a business since Windows 95”, and “The most elegant mobile UI on the market”. Great.

Except, in my opinion, this launch is different (Yes, I know many claimed Windows Phone 7 was different too, but this is really different.)

There was one sentence Ballmer repeated many times throughout the day that got me thinking, I won’t leave you in suspense any longer (although, the temptation is there). That sentence was “We are all in on Windows 8”.

That is the difference, in my opinion, that will help Windows 8 achieve what Windows Phone 7 before it, and Windows Mobile before that, did not achieve in the mobile space.

If you have been paying attention to Microsoft and its recent mobile shenanigans, you might have noticed a pattern. Yes, Windows Phone 7 was a whole lot nicer than its predecessor Windows Mobile, there is absolutely no doubt about that. But was Windows Phone 7 ever really expected to achieve success and go head to head with iOS and Android? Not a freakin chance. It was half baked at launch and remained that way till its death (I am calling the fact that Windows Phone 7 devices are not getting updated to Windows Phone 8, the death of the Windows Phone 7 fantasy.)

Putting aside the fact that Microsoft and its partner Nokia did not invest the money or effort for Windows Phone 7 to reach mass market, the OS itself was always half baked. The ecosystem was non existent, and most importantly, putting aside a new design, there was nothing fundamentally different about Windows Phone 7. It was just another pretty mobile platform.

Windows 8, which Windows Phone 8 is now a part of, on the other hand, is a clear shift in Microsoft’s direction. No longer just a computer software company. In fact, no longer just a software company. Windows 8 and its core principles can be summed up in two words: “Deep integration.” Phone, tablet, PC? Doesn’t matter. Xbox, Office, Skydrive? It’s all there.

If Ballmer is telling the truth, Microsoft is looking at Windows 8 as the ultimate fight to the death. There is no half way with Windows 8. Microsoft is all in on Windows 8 because it knows quite well that it has to be.

This will be the first finished product the company has produced in the mobile space since, well forever.

The point is, it’s true that the Surface reviews, at least many of them, claim that the device is indeed a tablet and a laptop, but that it is mediocre at both, instead of excelling at one. That sounds a whole lot like previous mobile products from Microsoft.

But then you see how much Microsoft is investing in Windows 8 marketing ($1.5 billion) and hear Ballmer say things like “we are all in” and you begin to understand that Microsoft itself views previous attempts at the mobile space as stepping stones and Windows 8 as the finale.

I personally held over 20 of the most beautiful computing devices I have seen in a very long time and they were all running Windows 8. Whether it is the surface by Microsoft itself, some hybrid tablets by Samsung or Asus, or some highly competitive mobile phones like the HTC 8x or the Lumia 920.

After spending some one on one time with these computing beasts, the conclusion is pretty clear. Microsoft is not going after some loyal fanboys that daydream about Excel scripts. They are, as Ballmer kept saying, going all in and using all the ammunition they built up over the years.

That includes their partnerships in the hardware world, their know-how in the software development world, and yes, the icing on the cake, Microsoft is definitely pulling out all the stops in getting developers on board of this new platform.

So while right now, no geek in their right mind would use a platform without Instagram and a decent Twitter app, I would be willing to bet that Microsoft has the ecosystem, led by apps, as their top priority right now.

At least, I hope that is the case because if it’s not, Microsoft surely understands that the market today is way too competitive to give them another chance.

The bottom line is this. If Microsoft is indeed all in, Windows 8, combined with the company’s tremendous developer ecosystem, and deep integration with their suite of services has the potential (I say potential because a lot has to happen first.) to not only compete with iOS and Android but actually surpass them in the coming years.

Author: Hillel Fuld

"Hillel is a tech blogger who manages multiple sites such as Technmarketing, Appboy, and inneractive. In addition, Hillel has written on many leading online publications such as Mashable, Gigaom, and others. In addition to his blogger hat, Hillel is an active Twitter personality who defines himself as a "Social media addict". When Hillel is not blogging or tweeting, he is the Head of Marketing for inneractive, a mobile startup that deals with app monetization across all mobile platforms."

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  • nomorewin

    i will keep it short : LOL

  • Hillel Fuld

    Glad I was able to entertain you… :)

  • abbub

    To paraphrase a political operative from the 90s, it’s the apps, stupid.

  • mlewis

    Windows Phone 8 along with Windows 8 are no doubt the future. I’m excited! Got my surface which I really like, and my Cyan Lumia 920 will be here tomorrow, excited as hell for that! And my work PC is running windows 8. It’s all coming together. Take that $$$$$$$$Apple$$$$$$$$$ and $$$Google$$$

  • duke88

    Windows …yawn.

  • kpak101

    The one thing that strikes me as missing from MS’s “all in” plan for 8 is the Xbox. We can see clearly where Sony is going with the mobile gaming platform – and although the Xperia Play phone (we bought one) was a dud – the Vita shows that they are working towards truly extending PS3 reach (and the “stickyness” of brand loyalty) into the mobile space. But where does Win8 and Xbox intersect? If MS is “all in” there has to be a plan to bring about a critical mass nexus (forgive the choice of workds) between the two – in old fashioned marketing language – fully leverage your total existing customer base. Or is MS going to keep the Xbox separate in a bid to remain cool with the younger crowd (possibly seeing it as a corporate life jacket should Win8 be not so successful).

    It is hard to imagine any kind of big switch in the corporate space to Win8 anytime soon (mobile biz tablets aside), so obviously how Win8 succeeds with consumers (including mobile) and with Xbox has got to be the critical path. I loaded Glass onto my son’s Samsung G3 and was completely underwhelmed with its functionality – my son looked at it for 20 seconds before grunting and returning to Halo4. The integration necessary to make this happen was impressive, unfortunately the lack of any revolutionary capabilities had my son ignoring it in seconds – versus the solid week he spent investing time to configure and personalize his G3.

    Show me a real convergence plan for ALL of MS’s consumer platforms (tablets / phones / laptops and gaming platforms) and then I will believe Steve is really “All In”. The consumer space is the only space that MS can force the adoption of Win8 (on new devices).

    Trying to disguise standard app ability (like a music player or a text input device) as new technology is not convergence. Show me a snap-on, dual joystick controller for a Win8 phone (or tablet for that matter) with shared Xbox live access – and then I will believe Redmond’s propaganda. (don’t get me wrong, I am actually rooting for Redmond here, but remain unconvinced by Steve’s statements).

  • Kevin McClain

    So since there are millions more applications for windows than OSX, that must mean that the Mac is a dead and useless platform.

  • teacher78

    As for today, I’m really disappointed of WP8. I think it is really, really far from being mature enough for the market. If you compare it to android and iOS then…geeze!

    I hope I’m mistaking…since more competition is good for the market.

    (Ah, in regards of your last note 2 post…am I the only one GETTING sms preview on the lock screen without problem, as I used to do in my iPhone? Write me if you need to know the settings.)