Does Microsoft (MSFT) want to sell you a copy of Windows? Of course, and sign you up for Office, a Windows Phone device, and an Xbox gaming console to boot.
But recent moves by the software maker show how it is shifting its strategy away from only pushing its own products to embracing other companies' wares.
For example, Microsoft is rumored to be planning to launch a fitness band this fall that would be compatible with Apple (AAPL) iOS and Google (GOOG) Android mobile devices and not just those that run Windows Phone. That would be unusual not only for Microsoft, which, like its rivals, has wanted to keep consumers within its brand and ecosystem, but it would be unusual for device makers in general.
Not that Microsoft hasn't paid attention to Windows. The company is reportedly working on creating Windows-based wearable devices. But an apparent new spirit of realism has overtaken management. Given how poorly Windows Phone-based smartphones have done in competition with iPhones and Android devices, that is wise.
In another case of the company adapting its gear to competing technologies, Microsoft has made versions of Office for iPads, iPhones and Android phones. Although Office has been available on Macs for a long time, this has been a tacit admission that an all-Windows-all-the-time strategy hasn't worked. Now there are reports of an upcoming beta test version of Office for Android tablets. Given the other variations, this would hardly be a surprise.
Underlying all of this is Microsoft's drive to embrace Internet cloud-based services, both for consumers and for businesses. The new versions of Office are actually apps that tie into the cloud version of the software, Office 365. The move lets Microsoft switch its focus to recurring revenue instead of the feast-or-famine upgrade business model that depended on massive popularity of periodic new versions of popular software.
With the popularity of mobile devices beginning to dwarf traditional desktop and laptop PCs, Microsoft can no longer control the industry through its ubiquitous client operating system. Instead, the company will hope to provide dominant services that replace its popular productivity software. That will buy some additional time for the company to learn how to make mobile devices that consumers will like enough to buy in large volumes.