Microsoft Analyst Event Part One: What’s New for Fall 2012

The traditional Microsoft Dynamics Fall Analyst Event (FAE) 2012 started with a tour of the flagship Microsoft Store in an opulent mall in Bellevue, WA, where Windows 8 and Surface were all the rage. Windows 8 is about the following three features:

  1. Performing tasks with fewer clicks -- the “tiles” (formerly called the “Metro” look-and-feel) are updated in real time, whereas on, say, the Apple iPad one must invoke one app at a time for updates.

  2. Multi-tasking – on the iPad you can only do one thing at a time, while other apps are closed (except for listening to music in the background).

  3. Sharing -- from wherever you are in the system (say, on some web page that you want to blast to contacts in your social network or on an email list) you don’t need to cut and paste; you simply invoke the “share charm” (a pop-up icon on the right side of the screen) and send an email with the automatic attachment to whomever you want.

While I have often heard the joke about how sales reps can hardly even single-task, not every user is a sales person. I personally like the "sharing" feature, as it is a pain in the neck for me to currently share my blog posts on Twitter or Facebook from TEC's blog site. First, I have to go to or a similar site to shorten the URL and copy and paste it. Then, I have to either memorize my title or copy and paste it into another window in order to compile a tweet before I share it. This is almost impossible to do on the iPad, and is quite cumbersome even on my Macbook laptop. Still, there are many more basic users than power users out there and fast is not always better. Rather than multi-tasking, a new trend is supposed to be facilitating mindfulness!

At the analyst event, Microsoft confirmed that all devices (desktop, phone, tablet, PC, and TV) it is currently making will run on Windows 8, i.e., all form-factors will be running on the same operating system. This is the common platform and single Microsoft experience that we've been anticipating. In May 2012, Microsoft acquired Perceptive Pixel, a company spcializing in research, development, and production of multi-touch interfaces (displays),  and now has for sale the very first 80-inch touch screen that also includes the XBox Kinect for motioning—very nifty. On some level, consistency is good, but 100 percent consistency has never worked for all user constituencies, and only time will tell whether Microsoft is right or wrong here.

Windows 8 and Surface – Game Changers?

Now, some folks will say that the paradigm shift from the Windows XP “Start Page,” with windows and mouse use (right clicks, etc.)  to the touch interface of Surface will be steep, but as a Mac user who has not used Windows much lately, it was very easy for me to use Surface and move and rearrange all those tiles. Surface seems to have many advantages over the iPad, except for the brand recognition, tablet market share, and the Apple coolness factor, of course. Namely, in addition to the aforementioned fewer clicks/touches and the multi-tasking and sharing capabilities, one major advantage is that Microsoft Office apps come preloaded and included in the price. That is major, and with the existence of the USB drive, one might not even need a PC or laptop any more.

Also, a touch plastic keyboard comes included as a tablet cover (it attaches magnetically), but for those who want the usual keyboard with actual keys and a touchpad, that is available for an extra $130, also magnetically attachable and in cover form. Also, there is no need to buy extra tablet covers in order to prop Surface up for easier typing and reading, since the prop flap is designed into the tablet.

It will take some time, but I think Surface and Windows 8 will be winners for Microsoft’s vast fandom. I’ve got an iPad, but I use it very seldom given that it is very user unfriendly for typing lengthy emails and documents (basically, my little one watches her YouTube cartoons on the device, and that’s about it, other than the occasional quick Internet lookup). Also, the folks who have upgraded to Windows 8 rave about its stability, with no crashing, etc. as with some prior versions of Windows.

I know that iPad is not the leading tablet, but it is easy to use (and intuitive, even for kids) and plays well across the Apple ecosystem. Several other tablets are more functional and/or have better technology. With the rate of growth in popularity of tablets seen these days, the iPad, Surface, and one or two Android options can certainly co-exist.

At the analyst event, although Surface and Windows 8 were on display the focus was on Microsoft Dynamics. For my thoughts on what Microsoft’s plans for Dynamics are now and into the near future, see upcoming blog posts for Microsoft Dynamics for enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), and what’s next in the Dynamics space.
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