Microsoft's Gambit: A New World

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

  1. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Sorry that I've been gone for so long. I had Finals to study for, a trip to Ecuador, and a bunch of other things that prevented me from posting, but now I should be back. I'll try and post an entry or two today.

    Thanks for your patience.
  2. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Part V: Windows Phone Takes its First Steps

    As work continued on Windows Phone, the OS was starting to become increasingly polished and refined. However, the live tile UI was increasingly becoming very different from the traditional desktop UI. Due to this, some in Microsoft looked askance at the new platform, arguing that it was too much of a departure. Ballmer, however, defended Allard’s design by pointing out that the new mobile world of technology would require different interfaces than those used by the desktop.

    Soon, Windows Phone 7 was almost done, but the work of finding a company that would sell WP7 would need to be done. At this point, AT&T was the exclusive seller of the iPhone, a position which had brought it millions of dollars in revenue as users wanted a piece of the new phone. This meant, however, that Verizon, AT&T’s largest competitor, didn’t have a smartphone platform that they could use to entice buyers. Microsoft saw an opportunity to establish Windows as a mobile platform with the help of Verizon.

    In late 2007, Steve Ballmer contacted Verizon’s CEO, Ivan G. Seidenberg, to discuss Verizon adopting Windows Phone 7 as its smartphone platform. Seidenberg was slightly wary of Windows Phone, as Windows Mobile had been increasingly losing to the iPhone. Ballmer realized Seidenberg’s skepticism, however, and took him to the labs at Microsoft were WP7 was being developed.


    Ivan G. Seidenberg, Verizon's CEO from 2002 to 2011.

    There, Seidenberg saw the work invested in the platform and saw how well-designed and sleek the platform was. Ballmer and Allard stated that “the future of Microsoft rests in the hands of Windows Phone 7” and by the end of his visit, Seidenberg believed them. As he prepared to leave, he decided to enter into Ballmer’s office.

    At that moment, both men sat down to discuss WP7. Seidenberg confided to Ballmer that he had been invited to meet with several Google representatives who attempted to sell him on Android, but that he felt that Android was not as refined or as ready for market consumption as he would have liked. Windows Phone 7, on the other hand, seemed far better for market consumption, but he was reluctant to see a phone platform that would take such a long time to meet release.

    Microsoft’s own estimates proposed that Windows Phone 7 would meet release around mid-2009. This was not good enough for Seidenberg, who was pressed for time, and who wanted a platform from Microsoft right then and there. Seidenberg wanted WP7 to be ready by mid-2008 at the latest. Ballmer looked at him slightly askance but promised Seidenberg that he would talk to the WP7 development team to see if they could speed up the release of the new platform.

    Shortly after, Seidenberg left Microsoft’s headquarters.

    In the meantime, Ballmer went to Allard and told him and his team that they needed Windows Phone 7 to be released by June 2008. Allard protested, and said that the platform wouldn’t be as feature-rich as he had intended it to be. Ballmer, however, argued that features weren’t everything. He pointed the example of the iPhone, which though lacking in many features common to mobile phone platforms of the time, had a superior design and ecosystem that made it appeal to large cross-sections of the population. Ballmer felt that WP7, with its unique live tile design, would be able to develop a design as unique and well-known as Apple’s designs.

    Allard, though somewhat unconvinced, agreed to work towards completing the release of the device. Some features, such as copy and paste, were not included in the initial release, but nonetheless, the phone was still quite smooth, polished, and well-designed.

    By February 2008, Allard’s team had developed a prototype phone running Windows Phone 7. At this point, Ballmer invited Seidenberg to see the new phone. Reportedly, Seidenberg was very impressed and agreed to sign a contract. Under the contract, Verizon would be the exclusive seller of WP7 smartphones for a three-year period in the United States. With the contract signed, WP7 moved from something which had been in the testing stages to something which would actually hit the consumer market. Microsoft, however, had a problem on its hands. It had earlier committed itself to maintaining Windows Mobile as a platform but now needed to get OEMs to build WP7 phones.

    Therefore, Microsoft sent its WP7 representatives to several large OEMs, such as Samsung, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo, to try and convince them to produce WP7 phones. These representatives were met with some resistance from these companies. After all, Windows Mobile had sold relatively well, and developing WP7 phones would be risky.

    Microsoft knew that they couldn’t just force the OEMs to immediately switch, and so made a deal. These OEMs would be allowed to continue to produce Windows Mobile phones, but in exchange, they would each have to produce WP7 phones as well in order to continue producing the Windows Mobile phones.

    The companies were aghast, but didn’t have many other options, and so agreed to get on board with Microsoft’s proposal. Now that Microsoft had OEMs making WP7 phones, and a carrier ready to distribute the phones, Microsoft felt confident that WP7 would shock the world of technology. Microsoft also created its own WP7 phone, which would be a showcase of what the platform could do, and the phone clearly showed Microsoft’s prowess in designing hardware, something which Microsoft had traditionally not done.

    Ballmer was joyous at the release of this new phone and platform and had an event hosted at the famous Lincoln Center in Manhattan, New York on May 21, 2008. At the event, Microsoft announced the release of WP7. Tech reviewers were shocked at the beautiful WP7 platform and argued that Microsoft, at last, had a viable, relevant platform and that Microsoft could come to dominate mobile. The phone’s hardware was also the subject of plaudits from many in the tech industry.


    Windows Phone 7's design received rave reviews from many technology observers, who hailed it as a major improvement over Windows Mobile.

    At the end of the conference, Ballmer announced that the Microsoft Kin, as the WP7-powered phone was known, would go on sale on July 1, 2008. At that same time, Samsung and Acer announced that they would also release phones of their own that same day.

    Other OEMs, such as HP, Dell, and Toshiba expressed interest in releasing their own phones shortly before the conference and were listed as possible OEM partners for WP7. Immediately after this, Microsoft began a publicity campaign to try and convince users to purchase WP7. The goal was to make WP7 into a platform which would become as strong as iPhone OS, and which would, in due time, surpass Windows Mobile.

    Windows Phone 7’s time had come.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
  3. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Spotlight on: Xbox

    Over the proceeding years, video gaming grew to become a major phenomenon and a major market for Microsoft. The company's Xbox division was rather profitable, even though it faced competition from gaming juggernauts Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft was determined to make the Xbox division profitable and saw in the division great potential.

    The release of the Nintendo Wii jumpstarted the gaming industry and Microsoft, true to form, was determined to capitalize on the success of the Wii to improve Xbox. Allard, who formerly chaired the Xbox division, was busy working with Sinofsky on Windows 7, and thus, couldn't dedicate a lot of time to the division.

    As a result of this, the Xbox division became somewhat ignored at Microsoft, but Microsoft had no plans to abandon its console business. It was just not quite a priority then.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  4. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Part VI: Windows 7 Progress

    As Windows Vista saw the release of Service Pack 1, which brought several improvements to the OS, public reaction to Vista still remained chilly at best. Microsoft knew that it needed to move away from the tainted Vista branding, but at the same, many of the improvements made in Windows Vista were leveraged for Windows 7. However, some changes to the design were made. In the meantime, Allard and Sinofsky continued to work on the OS.

    Allard, coming from Xbox, saw the Games for Windows Live, found on Windows Vista, as brimming with potential. He argued that Microsoft needed to more fully develop it and create a marketplace for video games that could compete with Valve's Steam, among others. He felt that Microsoft needed this to leverage the strong gaming platform which had been created. In contrast, Sinofsky argued that the experiment had failed and that Games for Windows Live needed to be abandoned as a failed effort at trying to compete.

    Ballmer saw both men's thoughts and decided that Sinofsky had a better idea. Ballmer ordered that Games for Windows Live and the Games Explorer from Windows Vista be removed in Windows 7. Games would still remain on the OS, but they would not have the Explorer backing them.

    This disappointed Allard, who felt that Microsoft had missed a chance to dominate the gaming market, but nonetheless, he obliged Ballmer and agreed to remove both elements from Windows 7.

    Changes to the taskbar were also made, and the OS as a whole was starting to look up.

    There wasn't much time either, as the hope was that the OS would be finished by summer 2009.

    Microsoft wanted to abandon Windows Vista as quickly as possible.
  5. HawkAussie Is not a Magical Girl

    Apr 4, 2014
    Interesting, very interesting as my house had a Window 7 in OTL. So it would be interesting to see what is going to come from this.
  6. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

    Jun 16, 2005
    Capital Regional District
    The Xbox division incurred massive losses (multiple billions) on the original Xbox for various reasons (Nvidia + HDD + price slashing) they were hoping to make it up on the sequel… before they rushed it and ignored all the problems and paid out yet more billions on the RROD.

    Otherwise intriguing! :)
  7. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    I knew that the Xbox division lost money initially, but my thought process was that over time, the division did turn a profit. That's why I said they were "rather profitable." Clearly, they weren't so initially. It's kind of the same thing that happened with the Surface line-they did eventually turn a profit, but they had to incur a lot of losses in order for that to happen.
  8. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

    Jun 16, 2005
    Capital Regional District
    Well best guess (since Microsoft carefully obscures Xbox finances) they finally went positive with the boost they got from Kinect. So 2011. Without RROD perhaps a couple years earlier like 2008-9.

    The original Xbox only lost money, it never went profitable (beyond like Halo 2 quarter IIRC). The Xbox 360 despite turning profitable eventually never paid back the losses (not that it matters sunk cost fallacy and all, but just to show you how bad it was). Quite simply the Xbox was a strategic investment against Sony so that PlayStation didn't conquer the living room, MS poured money in. Heck they were so desperate they shoved Halo 2 out a year early which resulted in the loss of the brilliant Ed Fries.

    A great article (It's so weird Polygon is garbage except for amazing long form pieces), The Birth of Xbox Live.

    So as in-timeline you're at 2008 the Xbox remains a massive money pit with some light at the end of the tunnel :).
  9. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Part VII: The Release of Windows Phone 7

    After months of negotiations and preparations, the Microsoft Kin, the first phone running Windows Phone 7, finally went on sale on July 1, 2008. It was available at Verizon stores across the country and could be purchased online from Microsoft's web site. Initially, the phones didn't sell too well. Tech reviewers loved the phones, in particular, their live tile-based UI, but consumers were wary of purchasing the phones.

    Nokia and Blackberry, who at the time dominated the market, called Microsoft's phones "pathetic" and stated that "under no circumstances would consumers flock to a flailing tech company's products."

    In spite of this, Microsoft knew that if it abandoned mobile, that the loss of the mobile market would outweigh any possible gains. Therefore, it was decided that a massive ad campaign would need to be issued throughout the world.

    On August 10, 2008, a series of ads started to emerge throughout the United States pitting the iPhone against the Microsoft Kin and demonstrating the unique design the phone possessed. In addition, Verizon and Microsoft offered discounts on the phone to try and encourage customers to purchase the phones.

    The tactic seemed to work, as sales of the Kin went up. By October, Windows Phone 7's outlook, though still uncertain, was looking better than it had been just several months before.

    In addition to the Microsoft Kin, several PC OEMs released their own smartphones running Windows Phone 7. These phones ran the gamut from expensive, high-end phones that competed with the Microsoft Kin to affordable smartphones that were targeted at price-sensitive consumers.

    During this time, Microsoft tried to sway developers to develop apps for the platform. After all, the iPhone's recently opened App Store was proving to be a success, as developers of all stripes were empowered to create apps for the platform. Microsoft knew that it needed to seize upon this. Ballmer realized that the future of computing would be based upon applications.

    Initially, Windows Phone 7 was released with version 1.0. This version had basic functionality found in flip phones, such as a calendar, a note-taking app, a music player, a calculator, a clock, etc., but used a touch screen and a virtual keyboard. However, notable was that it, similarly to the iPhone, lacked an app store.

    Several months later, on January 1, 2009, Microsoft threw open the doors to the new Microsoft Store. From that store, consumers could easily download, install, and update apps on their phone.

    At its launch, there were 1,500 apps. Microsoft, after all, had begun to develop for the store since October 2008, giving developers incentives such as $2,500 for every high-quality app they designed. To make sure that the apps weren't low on functionality, they were vetted by Microsoft's approval process.

    In addition to this, apps for Windows Phone 7 had to fall in line with the Metro UI. They could not use designs distinct from the OS.

    In spite of these restrictions, developers agreed to develop for the platform, as they saw that there was potential for Windows Phone 7 to grow into something much larger than it was at that moment.

    By March 2009, the Microsoft Store had become profitable, and consumers, lured by the platform's design and variety of apps, started purchasing the phones. This in turn allowed developers to make more programs for the platform.

    Due to this, Windows Phone 7's market share grew, and by October 2009, Windows Phone 7 had 10% of the market.

    The seeds were sown for a growing, thriving platform.
  10. New Patomic One Part Gay, Two Parts Rum

    Aug 4, 2009
    Champaign, Illinois
    As someone whose first smart phone used Windows this is a bit bittersweet to read. :p
  11. Asami It's Treason, Then?

    Mar 11, 2013
    I could see them moving to something like Mac OS X's flight plan; but in the late oughties, this is not really a feasible way to go yet, in my opinion. Microsoft's plans for Windows 7 as they were OTL were the best option available -- the development process couldn't afford more chaos and nonsense like it did under Windows Longhorn / Vista. Doing a rolling release cycle and updating over P2P networking is still rather spotty around 2007-2008. Apple didn't start doing it until Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion, 2011), two years after the launch of OTL's Windows 7.

    As for Microsoft's mobile foray -- staying in the mobile market full-tilt will inevitably draw their attentions away from their flagships. Apple is starting to suffer from the dredgingness of this -- yes, iPhones make up the majority of their income now, and that's not good as most of their original customer base was built from the allure of the Macintosh line, and you can see how Apple's pointed neglect, or attempts to iPhonify everything is turning their once well-praised-yet-costly line of computers into mere toys or decorative pieces for your mantle.

    Windows is getting flak in OTL for increasing the unification across all platforms -- people whom are powerusers are unhappy with the move to simplify everything and turn everything into a touch-UI-like environment. I can only imagine how people are going to feel if Windows Phone gets more and more attention, and Windows gets neglected.

    Also, perhaps you can save the Zune from her tragic and untimely death. The Zune could have been a viable competitor to the iPod, it just never got the foothold it needed.
    Electric Monk likes this.
  12. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Why so?
  13. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    To answer one of the earlier things which you stated- I would be one of those power-user types. I dislike how Microsoft has pushed mobile UI elements into Windows and grossly simplified the OS in recent years. That's part of the reason why in this timeline, Windows 7 serves as Microsoft's last OS-it's meant to avoid Windows 8 and 10, which I am not fond of personally.

    As for the Zune, I'll see what happens.
    Electric Monk likes this.
  14. Electric Monk Does Your Believing For You

    Jun 16, 2005
    Capital Regional District
    Something to note is how fucking cool the OTL MS Kin was packaging wise. Easily the best part of that phone, and something MS didn't follow through on in the WP division.
    Ondennik likes this.
  15. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    I saw the packaging. It did indeed look quite attractive. That said, TTL Kim will be a smartphone, rather than the glorified flip phone that OTL Kin was.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  16. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Part VIII: The State of the Windows Phone platform

    The release of Windows Phone 7 brought a new player into an increasingly crowded market. At this point, Nokia's Symbian and Research in Motion's Blackberry were still the leading platforms, but they were increasingly fading away. However, the smartphone world had no clear winning platform. While iOS was in the lead, there wasn't a large competitor to it. Even though the first Android phone, the HTC Dream G1, had been released on T-Mobile, Android was a rather small player. iOS was restricted to AT&T, and though it was profitable and had for itself an extremely loyal fanbase, it had a small marketshare. Palm was still working on WebOS, and there was no real indication as to how the platforms would progress.

    Microsoft hoped that Windows Phone 7 would become a strong platform, possibly even the dominant one, for if Microsoft managed to secure mobile, their future would be much brighter.

    The arrival of the Windows Phone 7 store led developers to make all sorts of apps for the platform, which in turn caused customers to flock to the platform. Microsoft and Verizon worked in tandem on the platform. While Microsoft handled software updates, Verizon was allowed to install applications upon the devices and to make their own custom Windows Phone 7 devices which they could sell. However, the applications had to be uninstallable by the user.

    Windows Phone 7 1.0 was rather light. A later update to 1.0 added the store, but Windows Phone 7 1.0 was superseded by Windows Phone 7 2.0 in October 2009. Microsoft released the Kin 2, and more OEMs started to make Windows Phone 7 devices running the new version of the OS.

    The new version of the OS brought with it a new set of refinements and features, such as copy and paste, improved Bluetooth and cellular support, improvements for foreign markets, and minor design tweaks such as a slightly increased use of glassy, transparent effects that were meant to subtly evoke the design of the new Windows 7.

    A range of devices started to appear, from affordable devices all the way to high-end flagships, and by early 2010, Windows Phone 7 had 17% of the market.

    These affordable devices became popular in emerging markets, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and allowed millions of people who previously only used flip phones to use smartphones.

    While iOS still had 25% of the market, and Symbian and Blackberry led the market, the future was looking brighter than ever for Microsoft's ambitions.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  17. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    I haven't abandoned this timeline, but since I'm in my last year of high school, I'm not really going to have a lot of time to post stuff on it. I do still plan on posting in this timeline, but it will be very infrequent.

    I apologize for not adding any new content, but I do want you guys to know that I haven't forgotten about the timeline and that it's not done.
    Ameck16 likes this.
  18. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Since I don't have a whole lot to go on right now, this entry will be relatively short. However, I did want to give you guys something to read, however small that thing might be. With all that said and done, here you go.

    Part IX: Google reacts and Windows 7 enters public consciousness

    The success of Windows Phone 7 was something that caught Google by surprise, much as had the launch of the iPhone. Google promptly intensified its efforts to develop a mobile platform as a safety mechanism to protect Google search for the future. The mobile platform, which Google called Android, already saw its first phone, the HTC Dream, released in October 2008 on T-Mobile. The phone, which more closely resembled a Blackberry-style phone than an iPhone, didn't do so well initially. In addition, AT&T and Verizon weren't the easiest carriers to convince to release Android devices, especially as AT&T had the iPhone exclusivity agreement and Verizon had Windows Phone, which was doing rather well.

    However, Sergey Brin and the Google team knew that someway, somehow, they had to ensure that Android at the very least established a foothold in the market. The future of Google depended on it.

    Along with this, in December 2008, Microsoft began the Windows 7 public beta. Customers who signed up were given early access to a pre-release version of Windows 7, and the initial response to Windows 7 was pretty good. Consumers viewed the new OS as being smoother and overall more responsive than Vista, and tech journalists also approved of the new OS. In the technology press, Windows 7 was hailed. Microsoft had seemingly gotten it right again, and as 2009 approached, Microsoft was feeling confident about the upcoming release of Windows 7, scheduled for October 2009.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2017
  19. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Note: I will add pictures to the entry later on.
  20. Ondennik Active Member

    May 19, 2016
    Sorry that it's been a while since I last updated this timeline. It's not dead, and I do plan to continue working on it. Now that I've graduated high school, I should have a bit more free time, so I'll be able to post more. Expect to see some new posts in the next couple of days as well as those pictures which have been long in coming.
    Ameck16 likes this.