Microsoft’s Surface Hardware Additions Show Creativity And Perseverance In Cracking Mobile Innovation

Microsoft’s Surface generation 2 announcements today show that they are firmly committed to the hardware business for tablets and PCs, not just Nokia Windows Phones. See my colleague JP Gownder’s blog post for his take on how Microsoft will need to update branding and go-to-market to succeed.

As with the original Xbox bet more than a decade ago, Microsoft will persevere in creating premium, fully controlled hardware and service experiences. This will create more and more contrast with low-end Windows devices from many OEMs. I predict that Microsoft will eventually anoint a handful of OEMs, two to four, as premium providers — which means that Microsoft will have to create a premium Windows label or branding to distinguish these premium hardware offerings from the budget offerings that many buyers will still focus on.

The details of the new Surface devices — better performance, battery life, kickstand, displays, and more — and the range of new accessories — such as dock, battery and backlit keyboard covers, and more — are proof of an expanding hardware ecosystem. The Surface Remix, a musical controller that magnetically clicks in like the TouchCover, is a very creative and novel addition to the possibilities of mobile devices.

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The Battle To Serve Your Digital Self

Forrester’s surveys show that individuals all over the world are using personal cloud technologies to store their personal and work stuff — files, contacts, photos, music, and videos — in online services. In the US, 77% of online adults use one or more of these services, while in Europe 61% do so. As a result, there’s now a new Internet gold rush to help you build your “digital self” — to help you access, manage, and benefit from your digital information using any smartphone, tablet, PC, or web browser.

Once your digital self is stored in online services, it becomes possible for providers to serve you with not only automated storage but also advice. These providers do things like automatically uploading your digital photos, synchronizing your contacts everywhere, and automatically assembling your expense report from photos, scans, or emails of receipts. Or even advising you on the right financial strategy or workout times based on your spending logs and work calendar.

The companies offering these services are a mix of leading startups, big tech companies, and new players.

For example, Phil Libin created Evernote to help you remember everything easily after he grew frustrated at fiddling with files to organize information from work and home. Now Evernote has 45 million accounts and a new deal to serve Telefonica’s wireless customers worldwide. When you enter new notes, Evernote suggests related notes from your notebooks and those of coworkers you’re linked to.

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