As Microsoft enthusiasts, we’ve been saying it all along: this stuff does matter. Yesterday at a press event in New York, where Microsoft-centric journalists and bloggers were treated warmly and not like some kind of enemy, Microsoft put on a show. Relaxed, personable, and diverse (sideways fedoras count as diversity, right?), Microsoft talked less about specs and stats and numbers, and more about what it *feels* like to use their products. They’re making a conscious effort, for maybe the first time ever, to help us move from just needing Windows, to beginning to enjoy using Windows to… loving Windows.
This is so far removed from some of the events I covered back in the “Sinofsky era” where Microsoft bloggers/enthusiasts were treated like some kind of maybe-not-quite necessary evil, as if being enthusiastic about the products you used was some kind of laughable notion. “We don’t care”, as Lily Tomlin voiced as a phone company operator back in the early days of Saturday Night Live, “we don’t have to”.
But now, suddenly, finally, Microsoft is finding that it does need to care. It’s finding out that making cool stuff matters, and giving enthusiasts not only tools but a reason to belong, a place to “be”, is worth a lot more than just lip service.
Xbox matters. Gamers are more than just a stepping stone into the living room, they matter. An Xbox that bungled the gamer experience and kludged an entertainment hub onto their backs at a premium price not only didn’t work, it massively backfired. Microsoft might make a lot of money someday with the Xbox as the center of the living room experience, but at its core, gaming still needs to matter.
Information workers and road warriors matter, too. They shouldn’t have to pack around a boring bloated laptop in a bag full of extra batteries and accessories because they just can’t *work* on one of those fancy iPads that the cool kids are carrying. The Surface Pro has given serious street cred to people who care about how they’re perceived, but need a real working machine. The Surface Pro line, up to and including the sexy new Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, not only works, but it matters.
Phones matter too, but not only as the best of the current generation, but as a leader for what’s to come. 8 years ago, the only conversations around phones involved Nokia and Blackberry. That all changed of course, but the nature of phones is not that someone wins, it’s that the landscape changes. The only thing about phones we know for sure is that in another 8 years, we won’t be using “smartphones” as they exist today. Continuum may or may not be the way to the future, but Microsoft isn’t standing still, for once. Microsoft enthusiasts, left out in the cold for far too long without a new flagship device, are finally getting not one but two, even as Microsoft understands that these phones aren’t going to be big sellers. Why? Because enthusiasm matters, and users left out in the cold, even though they’re small in numbers, are vocal in their displeasure when they could be carrying the torch for Microsoft.
And what matters most is Microsoft, One Microsoft. This is a company that realized that by ignoring Microsoft enthusiasts, and enthusiasm for Microsoft, it was throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, Microsoft makes a lot of money on the enterprise. But we don’t stop having feelings when we get to work. We want to be proud of what we use, to show off our skills and our connection to what’s cool. It matters, and for perhaps the first time ever, Microsoft seems to have figured that out.