If you’ve got a massive software line but find that its historic success doesn’t fit easily with new mobile trends, what do you do? Answer: make it fit. Well, to be more precise, provide the hardware that’ll make it fit. Like a physical keyboard for mobile devices.
If this all seems a bit too esoteric and cryptic, let me clarify. Speaking at a relatively low key event a few days ago (the annual luncheon of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce), Microsoft’s incoming CEO, Satya Nadella answered a question about the dismally low market share of the Window’s Phone in a surprising way. It really doesn’t matter. Devices, he said, come and go, people are increasingly changing their phone several times a year and, accordingly, the Microsoft vision doesn’t place specific mobile devices at its core but the people who use them.
What he was getting at is that Microsoft is now going hammer and tongs at developing the apps and platforms that people use for their digital memories and their productivity experiences. It seems logical to interpret Microsoft’s “mobile first, cloud first” strategy under Nadella as meaning this: the computer giant will focus on providing apps (no matter what the hardware) and cloud services for all mobile devices.
Now back to that massive product line we opened with. Microsoft Office is great for desktops and laptops, but so far hasn’t adapted to the mobile environment. How do you use Office effectively without a physical keyboard?
For those of us who are into article writing in a big way and like to get our moments of inspired content safely inscribed as they occur, paper and pen remain our mobile devices of choice much of the time. Laptops are heavy to drag around everywhere.
Microsoft has an exceptionally canny solution. Office 365 is already a future-proof, cloud-based version of the famous product line and Microsoft wants to service iOS, Android and iOS platforms with it. Enter the Microsoft Universal Hardware Keyboard, which does what it says on the tin: it’s a truly cross-platform device that works with all three.
This is a stroke of genius: with one new, slimline chunk of hardware, Microsoft has well-nigh ensured that one of its biggest product lines will live and thrive in the mobile habitat. Neat idea, Mr Nadella.