Microsoft just can’t get a break.

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by Mike
Posted December 12th, 2009 at 6:26 am

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Look back in time through your typical magic ball and observe how Microsoft at one point had a commanding grasp of many aspects of the technology market. From smartphones to computers to software, Microsoft controlled it all. The last 5-6 years however have seen a massive influx of both hardware and software options from various start ups and seasoned veterans all looking to get in on a piece of the pie Microsoft ate by itself for so long. The days of the Microsoft rule are over. Don’t understand what I mean? Just look at the desktop/laptop computer industry. While true that Microsoft still commands a crushing majority, Apple has moved from lower single digit numbers to hovering around double digit numbers in recent years — especially these past 2 — for the first time in history. Even with the Mac/Apple market share slipping ever so slightly this past quarter, overall growth and momentum is strong and unlikely to shrink. The smartphone industry has also seen major concessions from Microsoft. Windows Mobile at one point was “the” mobile OS of choice for it’s sophistication, customization, and scalability. Now all it’s known for is old, archaic, slow, and outdated software that only old, uncool people lose. It’s this “uncool/old” image that is destroying Microsoft.

Hardware

Looking at the most popular and widely known computer scene, Microsoft for the longest time has joked and criticized the “Apple tax” — that is, the “tax” customers pay when purchasing Apple computers. Microsoft’s current CEO, Steve Ballmer, claims you pay for the logo. Anyone who has used computers extensively knows that it’s more than a logo. It’s the streamlined and tight knit integration between hardware, software, and peripherals. Whether or not OS X is your cup of tea is another story. Regardless, Microsoft has repeatedly said that Apple computers are too expensive and that their own computers are built to get the job done and capture the mid to lower end market. Microsoft’s low-end market is in greater danger than ever.

eliteIf we step away from traditional computers and look at the gaming and audio player markets, we see two distinct and different outcomes. The Xbox 360 is a raging success. People love these things. From the large library of games to the fantastic and hands down best online gaming network available, Microsoft really hit the ball out of the park with this one.

In regards to music players, Microsoft has always had a thing for making it big with their own iPod of sorts. Their first venture was the ill-fated Toshiba built player that no one remembers. It suffered from all around lack-luster averageness oozing from every imaginable opening. Their second attempt however — the Zune — is proving to be a much better though still not iPod like success. Better marketing, more third party support, and a tighter integration with other products such as the Xbox 360 and Live Marketplace have actually developed into worthy alternative to the whole iPod/iTunes ecosystem. Again, props where they’re due.

Software

With the extremely quickly growing popularity of Android and slapping it on anything with a circuit board and processor, Microsoft has a new sector of the market to watch. While Microsoft requires OEM’s to pay for Windows licenses that are proportional to the actual price of the hardware being installed on, it’s still often too much for the bottom basement products which don’t have much wiggle room in the area of price. This is where Android excels. It doesn’t cost money to buy licenses. Putting Android on cheap, underpowered units suddenly get a breath of fresh air as Android also benefits from just being all around a better mobile performer. Need I not remind you that it started as a phone OS with meager specs and is now being placed on netbooks and some laptops.

win-mo6.5The current outlook for Microsoft is just so-so. Windows Mobile 6.5 regardless of how much “The Balms” claims to be a success is anything but. It’s a few .png’s and .jpg’s over the basic core of Windows Mobile 6.0. That basic core was outdated and crap several years ago. What makes them think some cheap lipstick is going to add value and make it better?

Heck, even on the dekstop software front, Microsoft isn’t the king they once were. Granted they’re still a major software company, with Office and Windows being their bread and butter, but with more Macs and OS X as well as smaller, cheaper software options getting tried due to a less than optimum economy means Microsoft is getting hit on all sides.

One of Microsoft’s biggest corporate offerings, Microsoft Office, is even beginning to get panned for being to bloated, increasingly difficult to learn and use, and becoming too hard for IT departments to support. Plus, you can’t mention software woes without mentioning Vista. While the few months leading up to Windows 7 were rather uneventful, the first year was a nightmare — aiken back to Windows ME days. It is Vista that directly caused many to defect to other platforms such as OS X and Linux with many vowing never to return. These kinds of things may seem small when looking at Microsoft’s still large 3/4+ market share of the OS market. office-logoThough getting comfortable and falling asleep behind the wheel can have dire consequences later on down the road. We can’t forget the other office suit offerings either. Apple’s iWork and the popular open source Open Office suite are two of the biggest secondary options to those tired of the traditional Microsoft suite. Will the onslaught ever stop?

In short: No. Now that other manufacturers and developers have gotten their feet in the door, it’s only going to get more crowded with even more competition. But better things are to come. Windows Mobile 7 is set to drop late next year. While the pictures of the OS and murmurings of features coming to the next generation of Microsoft’s mobile OS sound good now, the release date still isn’t slated for late in 2010. How far along will Android be? What about Apple? Hell, what about Symbian? The first two in particular have already made it very clear through continuous software updates and bug fixes that they are fast, lightweight, and able to push out updates precisely and on time — something Microsoft simply can’t do being the giant company that they are.

Future Outlook

I can’t predict the future, nor can anyone else. Microsoft has a few gems waiting in the quarry. Rough hands and tools for some and a gentle polish for others will turn those gems into some truly remarkable products. As much as I criticize them, I remain optimistic. Just think what a revolutionary Windows Mobile 7 would do for the industry. Can you imaging Android and Apple having to catch up to Microsoft? It’s funny to think about now seeing how far Microsoft is behind, but flip flops in this industry can happen in an instant. Just look at the whole gorey mess surrounding the CrunchPad.

microsoft-surfaceLest we not forget the Microsoft Surface. Many years of development have culminated in a device/software that is extremely capable and is being used in all kinds of unique ways. As time goes on and developers and consumers have more access to Surface, it’s portfolio of useful applications will only grow. I would venture out and say that the Surface is easily one of the best thing to come out of Microsoft within the last decade — besides the Xbox 360 of course.

What’s your outlook? Does Microsoft have what it takes to reorganize their priorities and the company as whole, getting them back on track to pushing out phenomenal products? Or has their innovation and dominance run it’s course with the following decades highlighting a slowly shrinking computer company? It’s up to you to populate that box down below…

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One ResponseLeave a comment
  • Jordan
    December 12, 2009 at 11:20 am
    Reply

    Of course not, Microsoft has been slipping for a while, and will most likely continue to slip. They might have something bad ass waiting to be released, but it won’t be enough.
    I really only see it getting worse, at least before it gets any better for them. And even if it gets better, it won’t be enough.
    Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft will be around pummeling for a long time, but the fact that other products out there are what people really want, then there is nothing they can do.

    We already see the computers taking a hit, Apple is doing great and really doing a number to MicroSucks sales, but I do think it will get worse with the Google OS release.
    No point even talking about mobile phones, they lost that battle, and they’ll really have to release something, at least partially made with the skin of Jesus and baby angels, but I doubt they can.
    Look at the Zune, they tried, and failed, it wasn’t until the second version where it did somewhat okay, but still is a fail. They’ll have to release an mp3 player that fondles your balls while playing the latest Jack Johnson tune. But you know what, there already is an peripheral to the iPod that sticks it to your lady while playing music.

    The phone, we won’t even need to start that conversation.

    Hardware, Apple, since the beginning of time, has always had a superior product. Microsoft just knew how to market it well enough, and cheap enough where no one can stand a chance. That is changing, slowly, but it is changing. Even in the business world, OS X Server is being used more frequently, because it saves money on support and 3rd party software. The integration, even though will take a lot of people some time to get used to, is less expensive in the long run.
    I have a G3 iMac (first line released) that I use for some different computings, not to mention older computers, and a few not as old that still run like a charm. Even for how limited the hardware is inside to nowadays standards, that means I can still use a computer over 10 years old.

    Give me a windows user still using, not only the OS that old, but hardware that old.

    Obviously that is a better product, which means, I didn’t have to purchase anything in 10 years (I did of course, but still). That is saving a hell of a lot of money.

    In this battle, M$ has way more troops, tons more, but Apple has better trained, stealthier ninjas, with amazing abs. You can’t beat that. You can try, and you can possibly inflict a flesh wound, and that is all it will be.

    And Apple now has help in the defeat of Windows. Google is crushing, and will continue too.

    If you tell your employees not to use another companies product at a conference, you know you are out of gas, scared, and binge eating into a broken down recliner in your aunts basement.

    Good-bye Microsoft.

    I’m done, 11:20 and I’m ready for some burrs!

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