We hear a lot about The New Microsoft, where cloud computing, mobile apps, and holographic computing are driving the company to record profits.
But at the same time, Microsoft’s traditional Windows and Office businesses are shrinking as the company moves to new software models where customers pay for monthly subscriptions, not boxed software.
At today’s Microsoft Build developer conference in San Francisco, it was abundantly clear that Microsoft is embracing and even driving this change. The company that’s basically synonymous with personal computing has moved past the personal computer.
It was two announcements that really show where Microsoft sees computing (and itself) going: The ability to use a Windows Phone running Windows 10 as a PC, and HoloLens, the holographic computer.
There was one particularly telling HoloLens demo on stage today. A Microsoft employee showed off a tiny, wheeled robot whose software was based on Windows 10.
When that employee put on her HoloLens, the robot came to life with a holographic avatar over its head. She was able to direct the robot around by pointing, and change its colour by opening a virtual control panel over it.
It’s easy to extrapolate what this could mean. Any Windows 10 device in the real world could have a holographic bit associated with it. You don’t need a screen or a keyboard for a computer that’s the size of a credit card, if all of that interface is projected onto a table with something only you can see.
So why would anybody need a full computer at all?
A Windows 10 phone with an associated holographic interface could be all the machine you’ll ever need. Similarly, any other interface anywhere else could have the same deal. A totally nondescript desk could be an interactive collaboration space, if only it has an embedded Windows computer and you’re wearing your HoloLens.
This is all years off. Demand for personal computers may be shrinking, but they will still be around for a while.
But Microsoft is teasing a future where all you need to get through your day, at work and at home, is a phone and a hologram, and it wants its developers to help us get there as soon as possible.
If that means that the traditional PC market has to fall by the wayside, including its traditional software business, so be it.