Microsoft’s 3D strategy suggests a lot about its mobile strategy


A few weeks back, Microsoft had an event in which they unveiled some really neat things. Now, I’m not here to talk about The Surface Book, though it is nice, nor the Surface Studio, though I admittedly want one pretty hard. Rather, I want to talk about how Microsoft likely tipped its hand for the future. It looks very highly likely that Windows 10 mobile isn’t long for this world, at least in its current form. Allow me to explain.

Microsoft started off by showing off its new upcoming update to Windows 10. Windows 10 Creators Update will feature a wide range of creator’s tools, including the pronounced use to 3D modeling in Paint among other programs. You remember Windows Paint right? I remember vividly coloring in pixel by pixel in Windows Paint long before I had any concept of Paint Shop Pro, or anything Adobe’s ever made. But one announcement Microsoft made seemingly telegraphed its intentions going forward.

microsoft-paint-3d-doodleNot just Windows

During the demo of 3D fun that we were shown, our Creator presenter showed off 3D scanning capability on an app installed on an HP Elite X3,  because someone had to buy one I guess. But the next item dropped was the kicker. The app that was scanning 3D objects with the greatest of ease was going to roll out to all mobile phones in the future including Android and iPhone, presumably..

Just think about that for a second. Microsoft has this really great tech that pairs off well with its operating system, and it’s releasing it to the masses without batting an eyelash. Of course, we don’t know the full details just yet – whether it’ll be Windows 10 Mobile first, everyone else second, etc. But the fact that Microsoft is getting out in front of everyone and sharing this tech on competing platforms tells me one of two things is happening.

On the bright side

The more optimistic view of this is that Microsoft realizes that other platforms are already well on their way to doing this. Sometimes friend/sometimes competitor Lenovo rolled out very similar tech with Project Tango (cross) and the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. It’s possible and likely that Microsoft simply wants to get ahead of the game in this respect. 3D and augmented reality are coming very quickly over the horizon and the first companies in this industry will likely benefit the most. It’s possible Microsoft simply wants to get in everyone’s heads about this stuff before we start thinking about it in earnest.

Let’s face it, 3D models with Buffy and Missy on the beach are cute, but there’s no real practical application for them…yet. This industry has a long way to go to establishing itself and Microsoft clearly wants to be one of the first boots on the ground. Industries aren’t always defined by who is best, but often by who is first. Microsoft can make up a lot of ground in the mobile and computing industry in general if it is one of the early pioneers of this future.

microsoft-paint-3d-minecraftBe everywhere, not nowhere

Of course, it likely also means that Microsoft wants to be the first in this industry on all platforms because it recognizes that its own platform won’t gain the traction it needs to be a leader. If this tech were cool enough, and it looks like it might be, it could potentially help pull a platform up by a lot. If Microsoft were to stay exclusive to Windows 10 Mobile and release this 3D Centric Creator Update, it might have some chance of reviving the platform. Not much of a chance, but a chance. Rather, Microsoft is taking the safer bet by going all in on the successful platforms, which means it has little faith in its own. This is a bit sobering and sad, but I’m not sure I see another way to interpret these events.

That being said, if Microsoft can help shape this future of ours, there is still every reason to continue to be somewhat active in the mobile space and stay fresh in the minds of those who are paying attention to technology. Because when the time comes to ramp up Windows (whatever number they’re on) Mobile in the future, it will already have some column inches waiting for it. Windows 10 Mobile may not be dead, but it’s clearly less important to Microsoft than ever before. There is some reason to hope for the future – the far future – but for right now, Microsoft is playing things safe, as it probably should.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!