Microsoft's Gambit: A New World

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Ondennik, May 19, 2016.

  1. Ondennik Active Member

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    So, well, I'm a new member and I wanted to try and see what history might have been like for Microsoft had it taken a different course. In this timeline, I want to explore what could have happened had Microsoft focused differently on the mobile market.

    I hope you all like it, and thanks.
     
  2. Ondennik Active Member

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    Part I: Microsoft Reacts to the iPhone.

    The release of the iPhone brought to the fore many reactions among the different teams at Microsoft. Many of the teams shook off the new product as little more than a passing fad, a status symbol that would ultimately wear out its welcome. Windows already had its own mobile platform in the form of Windows Mobile, they reasoned, and this platform had a far richer feature set than iPhone OS. In addition, the fact that the phone did not have a physical keyboard led many to believe that businesses would not adopt the new product.

    One man at Microsoft, however, was singing a very different tune. Allard, head of the Xbox division, saw the release of the iPhone as something that would pose a grave threat to Microsoft unless action was taken to combat it.

    He decided to send an internal office note to Ballmer, hoping to make him realize the importance of the new phone and the effects that it would have upon Microsoft's business.

    At that moment, Allard felt the weight of the company upon his shoulders.

    Ultimately, Ballmer received the note from Allard, and curious as to what the developer saw in Apple, called Allard to discuss with him the state of mobile.

    While working on a series of Xbox models, Allard was asked to meet with Ballmer. Allard was somewhat reluctant, but obliged the man, and went to the office.

    Ballmer saw the somewhat scruffy-looking engineer and asked him to take a seat. Allard obliged him.

    As Allard sat, Ballmer piped up.

    “As you know, Apple recently released the iPhone. You seem to view this new product as a threat to us. If so, why?”

    Allard responded “Right now, the iPhone may not seem like much, and really, it isn't, but it has the potential to grow into something much greater than what it currently is. We've missed the mark on a lot of things- we can't miss the mark on mobile.

    The future of this company needs us to target the consumer market.

    I urge you to take a strong initiative to combat the phone. It is imperative that action be taken right now. We don't have much time to lose.”

    Ballmer looked at the young man, who seemed so eager and convinced, and told him “Please head back to your Xbox team. I'm sure they miss you.” Glancing at Allard, he said “I'll see what I can do.”

    In the meantime, Microsoft had to be careful to avoid alienating its Windows Mobile partners. It could not give the impression of abandoning the platform.

    Ballmer; to reassure them, said that “We have a great lineup of Windows Mobile products that are selling in far greater numbers than the iPhone. We remain committed to Windows Mobile, and plan on releasing new phones for our customers.”

    In spite of these words, Ballmer realized that the iPhone's touch-based interface, not Windows Mobile's resistive stylus-based interface, was the future.

    Therefore, Ballmer announced a top-secret program within Microsoft to create a mobile phone that could compete with the iPhone. Allard and a handful of others were tasked with creating a prototype.

    The race to enter the market had begun.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  3. Ondennik Active Member

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    Part II: Microsoft examines Mobile

    Allard was joyous at the fact that Microsoft was planning a response against the iPhone and more so at the fact that he was one of the members tasked with leading the group. He was confident in his ability to create a new mobile platform that would compete with Apple.

    In order to design the system, he and his team sketched a series of mockups. There were a series of designs, varying wildly from one another. One of the designs proved to be very similar to Windows Mobile, save for the fact that it was tweaked slightly to make it somewhat better for touch. Another design had what were called live tiles, which were an alternative to Apple's icon grid. The third design was based upon a row of icons with the options to add widgets and a great deal of extensibility.

    Of these three designs, Allard and his team were faced with a choice. They, for starters, ruled out the design that largely kept its inspiration from Windows Mobile. The group agreed that Windows Mobile was unsuited for the consumer market, and that merely making it friendlier for touch would not be enough.

    This left two different designs: the live tiles and the icon grid. Allard saw that the icon grid was similar enough to Apple's iPhone that there was a distinct possibility that Microsoft could get sued.

    Therefore, he decided upon the phone with the live tiles. Allard then went to his team and asked them for advice and refinements. Over the course of several months, his team gradually refined the design, and prepared to produce prototypes.

    Ballmer, who was kept abreast of these developments, normally would seek the advice of Bill Gates on such a decision. In this case, however, he felt that Gates' experience wasn't well-suited for mobile.

    Therefore, he urged the team to push forward and continue their work. Ballmer was determined to prepare Microsoft to become an effective competitor to Apple. In his mind, the battle had yet to be won.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2016
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  4. Puget Sound o-one giant weap fow mankind (≧◡≦)

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    Shouldn't that be Windows Phone 7?
     
  5. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    I'd suggest rolling back the point of divergence a couple years. Buying Danger was useless, Kin sucked, MS management has serious deep problems, WP7 started too late, etc...

    Also what are you thinking about Courier? Sure it should have been unified with WP7, but far far better than the garbage ARM tablets MS went with in the end before Surface.

    Windows Phone 7 Series, please :).
     
  6. Ondennik Active Member

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    So you suggest rolling it back to the Windows XP era?

    For Courier, my thoughts were that Microsoft would release it as a professional-level competitor to the iPad. My thought process is that since Microsoft's traditional stronghold was in the business world, that a Microsoft-made tablet would be able to sell far better, especially since the iPad was relatively new and Android tablets hadn't yet hit the scene.

    I apologize for not putting images but making mockups isn't my best idea.
     
  7. Ondennik Active Member

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    Thanks for noticing the error. It has been corrected.
     
  8. juanml82 Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if you need some sort of internal mockup of an OS able to run on ARM processors being worked somewhere in the Microsoft R&D department. At the moment the iPad was launched, X86 processors couldn't compete in mobile and Microsoft only had Windows mobile for ARM, which doesn't cut it for mainly touch input.
    Also, a relative quick answer designed for ARM architecture would break compatibility with existing X86 corporate applications. But if Microsoft already has an ARM version of Office, even if unreleased, and had been toying with GUIs designed for touch, they could jump quickly at the iPad.
    But would they be able to quickly transition to a business model based on ads based income (ie, competing with Android), seeing as they were comfortable with a business model of getting OEMs and corporations to pay upfront for software?
     
  9. Ondennik Active Member

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    I would have to find some sort of mockup. I'm not sure where I'd be able to find it but it can be found. My thoughts on mobile are that Windows would emerge as a viable third platform. Android would still be the most popular mobile platform, but Windows would succeed as a third platform in a way that it didn't OTL. In my timeline, Microsoft would have a different approach. They would still keep desktop and mobile separate from each other, in contrast to OTL Microsoft which has tried to merge both, but features might cross over.
     
  10. juanml82 Well-Known Member

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    You'll also need to do something about apps. Basically, we started with:
    iOS: lots of games and apps!
    Android: some games and apps, months later than iOS. But hey, they are free (with ads)!
    WP7: almost no apps

    Which evolved to:
    iOS and Android: lots of games and apps!
    WP: very few apps

    So it's the kind of market in which the winner, or few winners, take it all. The most people they use one product, the more incentive third parties have to improve it (by providing apps). The ones with little/diminishing market share (WP, Blackberry) don't entice third parties to get involved and thus, the product becomes worse against the competition.
     
  11. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    I think you have serious ambitions on your first timeline :). And knowing MS, you need a POD circa 2007 (Ballmer takes the iPhone seriously perhaps?) to actually effect things. I'm one of the very few people that actually bought a WP7 mobile because I'm a UX nerd, and WP7 was perhaps the only time MS has managed to beat Apple in the last twenty years on UI design. And they blew that chance badly, lol.

    In other words you need to change the management at MS much earlier than OTL to really change things.

    Do what I do and keep the same names for everything (creative license) so OTL pictures can work heh.
     
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  12. Nivek Resident Videogame Expert

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    Something it will help the xbox and game division? maybe integrating xbox arcade games to phone and viceversa, with mappeable buttons for console version and incentives for develop both?
     
  13. Ondennik Active Member

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    That would help matters. I might have to retool the first initial posts to reflect the change in the timeline. What motivated me to do this timeline is that I'm not fond of Microsoft's one Windows across all platforms idea and wanted a timeline where Windows 7 adopted a rolling release model much like Windows 10.

    This isn't an easy timeline to do, but thanks for the encouragement.

    PS: Apple's designs are always more consistent. I have a Mac mini that runs OS X El Capitan and Windows 10 Pro and El Capitan is far nicer in terms of usability and design.
     
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  14. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    Well the obvious POD in that era (for both good and bad, no clear cut winners in MS of the time—the Mini-Microsoft blog is a great read) is to have Allard emerge victorious.

    That is he doesn't fuck up the Xbox 360 thermals (so no RROD), he then leverages that success into getting Courier, and by then Ballmer is weakened and a crazy struggle between Allard and Sinofsky will emerge. Whoever wins will purge the other faction, and at the very least you have a lot of options.

    Oh I love Apple. You're new here, feel free to browse my thread history heh :)
     
  15. Ondennik Active Member

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    Well, I edited the first two entries.
     
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  16. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

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    Think Zune HD (released September 2009 OTL) for what an early Allard phone would look like.

    Also keep in mind the carriers, Verizon is key for success in the USA and circa 2008-9 is when they finally realize they can't fight the iPhone with Blackberry (lol). IOTL they almost went with WebOS (alas, maybe Palm would have survived) but with Droid instead. However they also went with MS and Kin, so clearly *Microsoft can set up a deal with them.
     
  17. Ondennik Active Member

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    Part III: Verizon Searches for a Platform

    The release of the iPhone on June 29, 2007 marked a new direction in the future of mobile computing. Almost every established technology player was worried of the new product, for they viewed the product as quite possibly eclipsing the products which they had already produced.

    While Microsoft planned its own response to the release of the iPhone, Google also planned a response of its own. Google, who had purchased Android, Inc. in 2006, was concerned about the iPhone. While Google was the default web browser on the iPhone, Google feared that if Apple were ever to lock Google from the iPhone, that Google would lose out on the new mobile world, and would, by extension, lose out on the next generation of users.

    Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, called a meeting of all the employees to discuss what the response to this new product would be. At the meeting, it became clear that the early Android prototypes, which greatly resembled Blackberry phones, would not be enough. In this new world, touch UIs would dominate, not keyboard-based UIs.

    Schmidt, therefore, announced that efforts would be made to change course on Android. No longer would Android be made to reference the popular Blackberry phones of the time. Instead, Android would adopt a touch-based UI similar to that of the iPhone.

    another20android20prptotype202008-11352339.jpeg

    Top: A prototype Android phone. Notice the resemblance to the popular Blackberry.

    In the meantime, Verizon was looking on aghast at the skyrocketing popularity of the iPhone. AT&T, their biggest competitor, had scored a major victory by becoming the exclusive carrier of the iPhone. Since AT&T had an exclusivity agreement with Apple, Verizon couldn’t sell the iPhone. Verizon knew that they needed an alternative to the iPhone, especially since the iPhone was proving to be a formidable competitor. In addition, the iPhone, in which Apple strictly controlled the experience to prevent carrier interference, was something anathema to Verizon, who was used to applying its controls on their devices. A solution would be needed- a new platform that would work for Verizon. The question was- what would that platform be?
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2016
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  18. Ondennik Active Member

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    Part IV: The Clash of Developers- Sinofsky vs. Allard

    The release of Windows Vista, in late 2006, was wrought with controversy. Even as the operating system brought to the fore numerous improvements over Windows XP, such as a new interface in the form of Aero, the appearance of limited user profiles through User Account Control, and better support for 64-bit, the system was bogged with numerous problems. It was bloated and slow, and consumers were hesitant to upgrade from Windows XP, which had proven itself to be a rather reliable operating system throughout its life. As a result of the hesitant consumer adoption of Windows Vista, developers were also reluctant to create programs for Vista. Microsoft proved itself to have a major problem on its hands. Tech sites, such as Endgadget, bashed Vista, and Apple started a line of "Get a Mac" ads poking fun at Vista's flaws.

    [​IMG]
    Windows Vista (note the new UI compared to Windows XP)

    People were losing faith in Microsoft's ability to create highly popular and relevant operating systems. A successor to Vista was rapidly needed.

    In the Windows team, debate raged as to what the future of Windows would be. Allard believed that mobile was the future and that desktop Windows would need to adapt itself to the increasingly mobile-dependent future. In contrast, Sinofsky argued for a slower, more methodical approach. Windows, after all, was long the domain of large corporations, who were very conservative when it came to system changes.

    Both men argued fiercely over which direction Windows should take, and both sides had their own set of developers that emphasized one form of Windows over the other. A sort of civil war raged between these two different factions. Ballmer sensed that this civil war would end up hurting Microsoft more in the long run than simply bridging the gap between the two sides.

    Therefore, Ballmer called Allard and Sinofsky to a meeting.

    Both men were told by Ballmer that they needed to compromise. "Both of you are geniuses in your respective fields. There's really no need for either of you to argue. However, while you two waste your time arguing over minor quibbles, the Mac is gaining on us. Either get your acts together and start working as a team, or I will fire both of you. There are plenty of young developers committed to Microsoft that would love to take your place."

    While neither of the two men liked each other, they realized that they had to work together. A compromise was struck between the two men: Windows 7, as the successor to Windows Vista would be called, would adopt a rolling release model. It would still have service packs, but there would be no more versions of Windows after 7. This made Allard happy, as the model was similar to the one he wanted. However, Windows 7 would be a desktop OS first and foremost, pleasing Sinofsky.

    Work soon began on Windows 7. Both men were confident that they were on to a winner.

    However, while the desktop may have been set on a clear trajectory, the trajectory of Microsoft's mobile efforts was still in progress.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
  19. QueenofScots Well-Known Member

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    A final OS?

    Wow. that could actually work.
     
  20. Ondennik Active Member

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    My thought process was that Windows 7 would become the equivalent of Windows 10 (at least on the desktop) in this timeline. The reason for this is that in the timeline, Microsoft keeps desktop and mobile separate from one another. There might be convergence at a later point, but the convergence would be more gradual than in OTL.
     
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