Microsoft is positioning itself to be the largest and most well-funded provider of third-party mobile productivity apps.
There's a phrase Microsoft wants us all to repeat over and over again: Mobile first, cloud first. This is the new company mantra, and you'll be seeing it in just about any press release or news story emanating from Microsoft these days. It's the Microsoft business strategy stated in its simplest terms.
On June 2, 2015, Microsoft provided another example of this mobile first, cloud first strategy with the announcement that the company had acquired 6Wunderkinder. The Germany-based 6Wunderkinder is the developer of a task management app called Wunderlist.
While it has its critics and its problems, Outlook is still the default email, calendar, contact manager, and task list app for many enterprise users. Personally, I like the email client part of Outlook and use it on a daily basis, but I find the to-do list section of Outlook to be absolutely unusable. Tasks in Outlook feel like it was tacked on at the end of the project because someone noticed that it was missing.
Wunderlist is a welcome addition to the Microsoft productivity app lineup. To put it plainly, Wunderlist is what Tasks in Outlook should have always been. And because Wunderlist was developed as a mobile device app from the start, it doesn't feel kludgy on a mobile device like a converted desktop app almost always does. It will be interesting to see how, or if, Microsoft incorporates Wunderlist into Outlook and Office 365. I'm hoping they do and that they do it sooner rather than later.
On the To-Do list
If you take a good hard look at Microsoft's recent acquisitions, you can definitely see the mobile first, cloud first strategy in action.
- Wunderlist—a task management app available on all major platforms (Android, iOS, Windows)
- Sunrise—a calendar management app available for iOS and Android, including wearables like the Apple Watch
- Acompli—a provider of mobile email apps available for iOS and Android
Look at that list carefully, and note that all of the apps made by the acquired companies have versions that run on mobile devices with operating systems that are not Windows. One could argue that Microsoft is positioning itself to be the largest and most well-funded provider of third-party mobile productivity apps for both Android and iOS.
Some may see this acquisition strategy as an indictment of Windows Phone, but I think that criticism misses the mark. I see this mobile first, cloud first strategy as an acknowledgement of reality. No matter how good Windows devices are, they are not the only devices on the market. And even if Microsoft meets its billion Windows 10 devices goal, there will still be billions of other devices running on other platforms. Microsoft wants to be the default productivity app provider for those devices too.
This strategy of producing applications for all devices and all platforms makes sense. For some years now, the strategy for all the major platforms (iOS, Android, and Windows) has been to get users into their particular ecosystem and keep them there. This new Microsoft strategy ignores those well-placed ecosystem boundaries. In essence, Microsoft is disrupting the established market strategy. It has been a long time since we could make a statement like that about Microsoft.
By adopting the mobile first, cloud first strategy, Microsoft is conducting the proverbial pivot in corporate philosophy. The company is no longer content with just providing software for Windows devices—it wants to be the default provider of productivity apps, regardless of device or platform.
Now, whether that strategy pays off in the end is an open question. I think it could work. What do you think of the mobile first, cloud first strategy?