] ] Trying out stuff at Microsoft
If the events of the last two weeks are anything to go by, we are going to be seeing a new, improved, and aggressive Microsoft. Although the various initiatives at the company obviously didn’t start after Nadella became the CEO just two months ago, we must congratulate him for at least being the bearer of great news for Microsoft shareholders and customers. What a difference a few weeks can make in perception.
Four announcements in the past few weeks, a couple of which are potentially game-changing, are quite plenty for a company critics have almost written off on innovation. The new tech moves include: a) turning iPad into a workhorse by incorporating Microsoft Office 365, b) bringing back familiar Windows features, c) dropping licensing fees on some Windows devices, and d) announcing Cortana, a smartphone personal assistant that will rival Apple’s Siri and Google Now.
Microsoft Office in iPad
Microsoft Office in iPad was the topic of last week’s article in this column, to which you should refer for more details. Suffice to say that, for productivity buffs, incorporating Office into iPad is potentially like changing iPad from basically a toy to a workhorse. Folks who have real work to do on iPad, that is, beyond sending/receiving emails; receiving, composing, and sending SMS, making and receiving phone calls, taking pictures, etc., might just have hit it big. Writing letters on letterheads, developing a decent document (report, book, etc.), crafting PowerPoint presentations for a must-win prospect, carrying out analysis on spreadsheet, are productivity tools you can now enjoy in iPad. Thus, we no longer have to contend with the poor quality of alternate productivity tools in iPad: Apple’s iWork app requires a rather clumsy file conversion operation, and other apps (Kingsoft Office, Quickoffice, and DocsToGo) are quite inferior to Office. Although a few Office functions are said to actually be easier in iPad than on traditional PCs, because of the touch technology, Office in iPad is work-in-progress, as it lacks some of the features found in the desktop/laptop version. I told you last week that you could only save on Microsoft’s OneDrive and that there is no allowance for printing. There are also no keyboard short cuts, no thesaurus, and you can’t check grammar. Many tech analysts have also fussed over the fact that Office in iPad struggles with collaboration. Although touch screen typing is sleek, I personally find the standard keyboard to be the ultimate typing tool, if a large document is being produced.
Bringing back familiar Windows features on the PC
Be careful what you throw at your customers, for they can always reject them. I guess not a lot of folks switched to Windows 8 operating system since it was launched on 26 October, 2012. You see, the static shortcuts of standard Windows on the screen of PCs and laptops have been supplanted in Windows 8 by live tiles that “bristle with activity.” One “PC How-To” guide enthusiastically described Windows 8 Start screen as “full of animated shortcuts known as Live Tiles.”
The Windows 8 live tiles are quite pleasing to the eye and they are also endowed with impressive on-the-fly functionalities. The user interface (UI) is quite pretty, and some believe that the operating system is probably the “freshest, cleanest, and most imaginative” one around. If that’s the case, why has the adoption of Windows 8 by consumers been dismal?
We go through this cycle with Windows from time to time: one version is great, the other is bad. Windows 8 certainly seems to belong in the latter, and Microsoft thinks it knows how to fix the problems. In Windows 8.1 released three days ago, Microsoft has brought back abandoned standard Windows features. You will get your mouse and keyboard back, and you will now automatically go to the desktop after booting or “un-locking,” the classic Start menu is back, and you now boot into desktop, again. The close (X) and minimize (-) icons in the upper right-hand corner, and the taskbar along the bottom of the classic desktop are now back.
Dropping Windows licensing fees
The essence here is that Microsoft will no longer charge a fee to hardware manufacturers that want to put Windows in devices with screens whose sizes are less than nine inches. This decision runs against Microsoft’s traditional model of licensing Windows to PC hardware makers, which represents one of the most stable and significant sources of revenue for Microsoft. But for “miniaturized” devices (smartphones), the free-licensing model is actually what hardware manufacturers know, courtesy of Google’s free Android operating system, which runs three out of every four smartphones sold today. Thus, if Microsoft wants to play in the smartphone world, which it should because the PC is dying, relatively speaking, it will have to give out Windows Mobile for free. In return, Microsoft gets more apps for Windows platform and some revenue.
Virtual assistant in Windows
Cortana, Microsoft’s new virtual assistant for Windows OS for smartphones, may as well be the sassiest smartphone innovation yet by Microsoft. Cortana is intended to take on Apple’s Siri and Google Now. I can see many folks, particularly, the younger ones, getting hooked on Cortana. It assists you mostly via voice interaction and carries out such tasks as: searches, appointment reminders, giving news and weather and flight information. Cortana also provides context-specific predictions. A few analysts feel that Cortana trumps Siri and Google Now in a feature called Cortana’s Notebook, where you can customize what is tracked, including specific interests such as sports team, news topics, people in your inner circle, and the places you frequent.
The bottom line in this article is that Microsoft is aggressively trying out stuff, to see what might click. Tension is high in the Nigerian telecoms sector as workers fear losing their jobs due to the new approach of Business Process Outsourcing model being adopted by the telecoms service providers.
Due to this new approach in business model and a more competitive environment, telecoms operators have been implementing one form of restructuring or the other.
Sale of the assets especially base stations is part of the outsourcing model implemented by the telecoms firms to cut costs following dwindling revenues.
Although outsourcing of tower services is a global phenomenon in the telecoms business, operators in Nigeria are, however, leveraging on the business model now to cut down on their cost of operation.
Experts are of the view that this may be the second time that the sector will experience huge job losses, following the outsourcing exercise for the customer service section of the major operators four years ago, which saw a lot of employees in the industry losing their jobs.
Airtel Telecommunications had on September 30, 2011 sacked all their customer care staff numbering 3000 due to salary disagreement. But Airtel Nigeria and its Call Centre BPO services providers, Tech Mahindra and Spanco, denied the report.
With the outsourcing model, telecoms firms are expected to hands-off their involvement in the provision and maintenance of towers and instead allow companies with core competence in the area to manage such services.
Etisalat had announced a maintenance agreement pact across Africa with Huawei at recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
MTN Nigeria was in a media report said to have sacked 252 engineers who were responsible for the operation and maintenance of its base stations nationwide last week while Etisalat in another report was alleged to have carried out a mass sack.
The sacks in MTN followed dwindling revenue and the BPO business strategy as those staffs whose duties had been outsourced could