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How to save Windows Surface?

Microsoft, you’re doing it wrong. You are focusing on the wrong thing. You don’t compete on hardware alone. Your tablet technology may, or may not, be better. Your OS may, or may not, be more intuitive and easy to use. Sadly people will not get this far.

You have to compete on the entire package.

The Windows tablet is not competing against the iPad, it’s competing against the Apple ecosystem which includes a very rich and complete appstore. Going to the Windows store is like visiting Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard … it’s bare.

“She went to the baker's
To buy him some bread;
When she came back
The dog was dead!”

Give the doggie a bone

A computing device with no software is like a car with no gas.

Users want apps. You need users. You need apps.

Sadly, it is a chicken and egg situation. Developers will not create native apps for your current platform. Why should they? The market is just too small. Even a runaway hit may only cover costs at best. Why would developers risk resources (some of their most precious assets) learning and building for a platform with an audience that is fifty times smaller, when they can task these people building apps for a known market?

You need break this vicious cycle.

You need to remove the risk for these developers, better still you need to incentivize them. Even better, excite them.

Nothing seems to incent business (or excite people) better than free money. Here’s my proposal to you to kickstart … No, I’ll go further … to save your tablet business: Start an app bounty program.

Not some small, dinky, pretend bounty program, but a huge mother of all bounty programs. A bounty program with rewards so spectacular that people will sit up and pay attention. A program so monumental in scale that it will be in the headlines for weeks to come. A program so exciting that children will dream of becoming Windows software developers.

Recently, it was announced that you wrote down $900 million on over production of Windows RT devices. That’s an awful lot of money. Imagine if the same amount of money was spent paying for developers to make (or recompile) their, already, popular apps to native Windows?

Here’s a draft $900 million budget:

Here’s what you do. You go to the appstores on Google and Android and find the most popular 10,000 apps of all time. You then enter into contract with each of their developers and promise to pay them, handsomely, if they convert their app to run native on your platform. Agree a quality bar. You pay them half in advance, and the second half upon delivery to the agreed standard.

I like big bounties (and I cannot lie) …

Not just cute bounties, but huge bounties. You should offer to pay the top 10 apps, $5 million each.

The next 140 apps should get a cool $1 million.

Everyone in the top 500 should receive a least half a million.

Developers would be running to your door. They’d hire engineers and testers. They’d get the job done. (Sure, some developers might take the first payment and never complete the other half, but why would they not? By prioritizing the list based on Appstore performance they are already pre-screened by the apps that people want to consume. Once Windows hardware is being purchased there should be organic additional app love).


Even down the list there should be love for smaller and indie developers, if you’re in the top 10,000 I'm suggesting that you receive almost $50k to fund your conversion.

Level the playing field

Once there is a healthy ecosystem of apps out there, Microsoft, then, you can start to compete on other features, like your snappy keyboard, and your tiles, and performance, or that you have a USB port … but until this time, nobody cares.

So what about after the first year? Do it again. Keep doing it. Keep doing it until you have a measurable market share. Once people have your devices in sufficient quantities then developers can justify building Windows native applications purely based on the organic revenue they’ll generate (just like they do on Android and appstore).

Just last year, you wrote off $6.2 billion (yes that’s a “b”) on the failed aQuantive acquisition, which did nothing for your company or your shareholder value.

Imagine, instead, where the Windows tablet ecosystem would be if the program I’m suggesting had been running consistently for seven solid years? Which do you think would have been a better “investment” for that Six Billion Dollars?

Goodbye Mr Ballmer

Goodbye Mr Ballmer (I’ll politely refrain from making any comments). We don’t yet know who your replacement is, but I sure hope that he/she realizes that you are a software company, and your devices need software.

Once there are sufficient quantities of Windows devices out there, developers will naturally want to support that platform as it will represent a measurable part of their audience.

You need to break the current cycle of disinterest (or die).

Call me maybe?

I’ll be happy to manage this entire program for you for a modest 2% off the top. Call me.


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