Could Microsoft Upset the Mobile Landscape?

I’ve been trying out the Windows 8 operating system on a few devices, including the Nokia Lumia 820 and also the Dell XPS10 tablet. I have to say, it’s actually pretty slick and the tile system works rather well.

Okay, haters. Keep your pitchforks and torches at bay. Yes, Android is a decent OS. Yes, iOS is great. But are they the best? Are they unassailable? Are you 100% satisfied? The answer is most likely no. And with that, there’s the wiggle room that suggests this might be big. Might. Here’s why I think there’s some possible upsetting to happen.

A Very Clean Layout

Where iOS and Android have spent a lot of time making icons and apps look like “real world” things, Microsoft went the other way and made slick, simple, colorful tiles. The difference is that everything seems to run faster on Windows. It seems a bit slicker, too. (Can you believe it?) We might see this as one way that people will reconsider Windows as a mobile OS.

Cloud-First Development

Most of the apps I’ve tried in Windows have a cloud-first development. When I asked people what they liked for the apps on the Windows mobile platform, the #1 response I got was that the new Office app was pretty cool. In which universe is Office the “cool” app? I was ready to scoff until I tried it. It’s pretty darned cool to start an app on my tablet, check something on it while on my mobile phone, and then pass it off to someone via my desktop without really thinking about it. The files are just the same everywhere. That’s slick, too.

What Might Unhinge This

I think what will make what I said untrue is something Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer said many years ago: developers. There are some really basic apps missing, some “ow!” kinds of apps missing on some platforms (evidently, I can get Facebook and Twitter on my phone but not my tablet; Instagram is nowhere). But this is a weird chicken-and-egg problem. If no one’s buying, then there’s no impetus to develop there. If no one makes some neato apps (and Angry Birds isn’t neato), then this might not go the way I am thinking.

But don’t count them out, Microsoft. They have something interesting going on. Touch one and try one and see what you think. Don’t hate before you date. (or something).

Chris Brogan is president and CEO of Human Business Works.

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