Microsoft’s Underground Mobile Success

There has been a lot of public criticism of Microsoft’s Windows 8 and the new version for ARM processor-based tablets, Windows RT. The products are flawed, not up to snuff, and not selling anywhere nearly enough. But before people with an online IT degree write off the new operating system, it’s best to consider all the facts.

And one of those data points is that Windows RT could be far more successful than many currently think — successful enough that not planning for employees or customers using it could be a big mistake. There are next to no independent numbers that can accurately gauge how many Windows RT devices have sold.

Furthermore, one of the main devices running it is Microsoft’s own Surface tablet, which has been available only in Microsoft’s own stores, so getting solid sales numbers is difficult. Even though Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Surface sales were growing “modestly,” a month ago market research firm NDP reported “healthy sales” of the devices.

It may be that Ballmer wants to play down any success because Microsoft currently finds itself in competition against its traditional hardware partners. A big win with Surface could eventually be as damaging to the company as a big loss, as Byte explains:

That would be a dagger in the heart of the OEMs like Dell, HP, Asus and Acer who are all struggling with thin margins in the post PC era. Lenovo, now the world’s biggest PC maker, reported a 1.4 percent profit margin for the second quarter of 2012. But a weakened Lenovo ultimately is a weaker Microsoft because fewer units of Windows 8 are shipped. PC sales are already down 21 percent over last year.

And yet, there are other signs that sales may be climbing:

At an event I attended in New York earlier this week, a Bank of America (BAC) IT executive in charge of mobile app development said that the company had approximately 10 million users of its smartphone and tablet apps. Over the last month, the banking firm saw 100,000 users register with a Windows RT device, significant growth for a new platform. At the same event, an Accenture mobility consultant for the financial services industry said that for a long time, his clients talked only of Google (GOOG) Android and Apple (AAPL) iOS. But now “Windows RT is definitely on their maps,” the consultant said.

Although iOS and Android clearly have a lead, the promise of compatibility with existing IT infrastructures and Microsoft’s popular Office software could make Windows RT attractive to the market. Even if your company isn’t ready to embrace Windows RT, it is important to at least prepare for the possibility that employees and customers may start putting the operating system into wider use and consider how your IT strategy might have to chance accordingly.

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