There have been many, many announcements from Microsoft over the last couple months. Starting with TechEd 2013 North America, then on to TechEd 2013 Europe, and BUILD just wrapped up. The majority of these announcements have all been about what Microsoft is doing, what they are building, and what they are giving us.
What They Are Taking Away
But, truly, the announcements that have captured the public's eye the most over the last few weeks have been those where, instead of giving us stuff, Microsoft has taken stuff away. Think back to the Xbox One announcement, where the gamers were in such outrage over what they felt Microsoft had removed from their gaming experience that Microsoft had to take a step back and eventually relent on their choices.
Now, think back to this past week when Microsoft announced they are terminating the TechNet Subscription service. As soon as the announcement was made public, the IT community erupted. The eruption was primarily because they would no longer have carte blanche access to software downloads for building out on-premise and mobile labs. As a replacement for downloads, Microsoft has left us virtual labs and Windows Azure's VM infrastructure, which is nowhere near the same thing. During community discussions it was clear to me that there are some IT folks who don't understand what Microsoft is doing. One individual I was talking with actually said, "Microsoft will never stop selling software." Pure and simple, that is cloudy (pardon the pun) judgment.
The Microsoft March to the Cloud
With every new announcement, Microsoft is clearly seen marching toward their communicated goal of becoming a Devices and Services company. While we wait for the news from the latest internal reorg at Microsoft (reported to happen within the next two weeks), we're left mulling over exactly what a Devices and Services transformation really means. Any reorg news that we hear over the next month will be focused entirely on how to align Microsoft best for the transformation. I don't think it takes a special person to be able to read into this. The tea leaves are the size of Redwood trees.
To be blunt, nowhere in the description of a Devices and Services company is there any room for "software," and that was made extremely clear this week when Microsoft announced they were ending their TechNet Subscription service. Sure, Microsoft will continue to develop software, but only software that is designed to be run in the Microsoft Cloud. Nothing to download. Nothing to install. When you consider it in that light, it makes complete sense that downloads from TechNet will no longer be available.
I've talked about this before, but Microsoft's ultimate goal is to transform their software business into a services business. Remember the phrase "software as a service" (SaaS)? It's taken a while, but we are on the cusp of this becoming the only reality. What this means in a Microsoft world is that they will no longer sell software, instead they will rent it. Office 365 represents the model for what Microsoft's future offerings will look like. A day is coming, and coming quickly, when "boxed" software from Microsoft is no longer available. Boxed or downloadable software will go the way of 8-track tapes and laserdiscs. Microsoft is following in the footsteps of just about every vendor out there. Adobe recently made similar adjustments with their release of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Microsoft's Roadmap on a Collision Course with IT
I truly hope that you all will keep your eyes open. Microsoft is not backing down from their roadmap. Even the things Microsoft has conceded on recently due to customer request or customer complaint, has been done in Microsoft's way. Customers lauded the return of the Start button in Windows 8.1 like it was monumental victory. But, when you look at the Start button that Microsoft brought back, it is nowhere near what customers actually asked for. It is a Start button that appeases the public while still satisfying Microsoft's desire to provide devices and services.
Even with public outcry about the loss of TechNet Subscriptions, there's very little that can be done. Microsoft may address the complaints, but they will do it Microsoft's way.
Times are very different; even more different than a lot in IT realize, it seems.
In case you missed them, here's some additional articles for guidance and information in the Devices and Services world: