I had to go to Best Buy last night to pick up a printer cartridge for my ink jet printer at home. I don't go to Best Buy a lot, so I have not been there since Windows 8 was released. The printer cartridges were in the computer department and to get to them I had to walk through the cell phone area, then the desktop, laptop, Apple, and finally tablet areas. It proved to be an eye-opening experience.
Big screens, little screens, portable screens, desktop monitor or TV, Microsoft's grand vision was in full display (pun intended). Anyone who thinks Steve Ballmer made a bad bet needs to take another look. No matter where I looked, no matter the screen (except in the Apple area), the Windows 8 Metro interface was on everything. This is the real secret to Microsoft's future success and it's the reason the naysayers who think Redmond's days are done are wrong.
When I went to the cell phone area, they had a nice iPhone display with a lot of iPhone accessories. They had tons of Android phones, not as many accessories. But the eye-level displays, the signage, the eye-catching phone models were all sporting the live tiles of the Metro/ Windows 8 interface. There were plenty of accessories for the Windows phones as well. Like the Android phones, there were also plenty of models from a variety of manufacturers. Windows 8 phones are here and are competing with Apple and Android. I have been to the AT&T store recently and now that they also give Windows phones a big push in both low price and high visibility. Over time this has to translate to more market share.
Passing through the phone section I next was in the PC area. Wow, PCs sure have changed. There were lots of all-in-one models without a separate tower. I would say one third to one half had really nice big displays that were touch screens. All of them had Windows 8. Also, they were very cheap and sported a variety of Intel Core series processors and others as well.
Next, I was in the laptop area. They had laptops that were really tiny (Ultrabooks), they had ones that were really big (sounds like Dr. Seuss), they had them in lots of colors, weights and, most importantly of all, lots of different prices. The one constant was that they all had Windows 8 on the screen.
Next, I was in Apple land. The displays were very pretty and the store had dedicated Apple sales people. Both the laptops and desktops looked really sleek and beautiful, like works of art. They were very desirable, but also very expensive.
Passing through Apple land I came next to the tablet section. I went first from iPads - both full-sized and mini - and then into Android Tablets. There were about nine different Android models, all of which looked like Jelly Bean tablets. They ranged in size from about 7 inches to about 10 inches. Prices ranged from $199 to about $700. After this was a display of Windows tablets. It wasn't just tablets like iPads. There were devices of all sizes and shapes. The difference in the form factors of these devices was pretty amazing compared to the uniformity of the tablets from Android and Apple.
What really struck me about the Windows tablets was the amount of tiles in the interface. There were multiple screens of tiles on each device. The tiles were truly live. The different apps showed so much information right in the tile. I have heard from so many people who don't like the Windows 8 interface and long for the start button. But seeing those live tiles on a tablet was so compelling, so powerful that I realized this could really be the future.
I then got to the printer section and picked up my cartridge. I had to pick up my kids, who had drifted over to the video game section (where else?). I found them playing some new Xbox games. When they got logged off the games, what did I see on the screen? You guessed it, Windows 8 Live Tiles again!
Do you get the picture? No matter where I went in the store, Windows 8 and its live tiles were ubiquitous. More than just my computer, it was my phone, my tablet, video games and even TVs. Anyone who doesn't see how this strategy plays out is kidding themselves.
Microsoft may not dominate any one of these categories. It may not even be the leader in any of these categories. But being in the top three of every one of them (and it would seem they have that done), gives them a winning bet.