The once mighty Microsoft is in a bit of peril as of late. Windows 8 is widely panned, Surface tablets are selling slowly, and they’re losing footholds once considered intrinsic to their success. Much of their issues involve the success of Android, and having BlackBerry return to the fold won’t help, either. Microsoft has some major concerns, and time to remedy the issues is running short.
Where does Microsoft have an Advantage?
It’s not all bad in the world of Microsoft. They have quite a bit going for them, which is what carries them through. The issue is, many of those things they rely on for support right now are declining markets, or have very worthy contenders. You can’t win ‘em all, but Microsoft is still dominating on a few fronts.
Go to any store that sells PCs, and you will be inundated with Windows machines. Sure, Apple and Google have kiosks, but Microsoft has the store. You really have no viable option in purchasing a full fledged non-Apple PC other than to use Microsoft at this point. With Windows being so widely used, Microsoft still has quite a foothold in this market. In fact, they dominate it thoroughly.
Microsoft Office is, hands down, the best solution for PC document creation. Office has the most functionality, and is something power-users (especially those creating spreadsheets) need on a daily basis. There are other options available, but none even sniff the air Office is breathing right now. This is a cornerstone product for Microsoft, and rightfully so.
In a traditional business setting, most companies still utilize Microsoft products. They use Office, Outlook, and they run Windows machines. It’s so ingrained in the culture of “computing”, enterprise customers rarely think twice about it. Microsoft has become adept at giving business what they’ve become accustomed to, and most IT professionals balk at considering anything else.
Iconic at this point, the XBox is synonymous with gaming. The Playstation has taken a spot in the King’s court, and the XBox has no reason to be concerned with usurpation. It does everything the Playstation or (ugh) the Nintendo Wii can, and then some. Kinect is a revelation, and XBox live is way out in front of its counterparts. For living room gaming, the XBox is simply your best option.
That’s right, Microsoft owns Skype. The video conferencing tool that is as synonymous with the act as “Google it” is to search, is a leader in the field. Make calls, send messages, or video conference in one program… now that’s pretty great. Making it available on any platform was a smart move by Microsoft, and having the Kinect utilize it will be sublime.
Where they’ve gone wrong
As much as Microsoft has going for them, they’ve made some key blunders. While not time for panic, it is definitely time for Bill Gates to start considering just what he’s going to do to right his ship. There are rough waters ahead, and Microsoft is having issues with calmer seas.
The PC is dying
We are a mobile society, and we like our devices to be. The PC, even an ultrabook, is not convenient to carry around all day. My phone or tablet, however, is perfect. I can do most things on my mobile device I can on a PC, and take it anywhere. I’m informed, in touch, and on the go. I’m starting to wonder why I even need a PC, mobile productivity is so good.
For many, myself included, Windows 8 isn’t even Windows. Windows 8 took everything we liked about Windows and kicked it in the gut. I understand the purpose is to be a cross-platform OS, but the execution is just… bad. I actually enjoy the “Metro” UI, so it’s not that they changed what I was looking at… they changed how I do things, and not for the better this time.
I’ve pointed this out before: Microsoft beat everyone to the smartphone gates, so there is no reason they should be looking up to anyone. Their failure wasn’t with concept, it was in execution. Rather than be innovative and think of the best way a phone could actually be “smart”, they tried to run a pretty straight-up Windows program on a phone. For a plethora of reasons, this just isn’t feasible. Plain and simple, Microsoft failed to understand mobile… probably because they didn’t take it seriously.
Why Android and Google are winning
It’s pretty simple, really: Google gets it. I don’t pretend to fully understand all the nuances of how a gigantic company like Microsoft or Google operates, but the fact is that Google makes the necessary changes while Microsoft trudges along the same old path, so we know it’s possible to adapt.
Google considers itself a “mobile first” company, which is pretty much how we live our lives. Rather than insist on telling us how and when to access information, play games, and work… Google just tried to better understand how we want to do all of that. Even if we go back to the heyday of BlackBerry, Microsoft still didn’t seem to get mobility. They were happy to let RIM handle the mobile stuff, leaving them to concentrate on the standalone computers, with the software and whatnot. Well,
RIM BlackBerry is dying, and web apps are quickly becoming the new software.
Again, Microsoft has some excellent services on offer… but they’re costly. Office 2013 is $140… for one license! Google Drive is free… and collaborative. I can access Google Drive from any device, and even create new documents. Everything is stored in the cloud, and available any time. Skydrive will do a lot, but it’s just not as well-rounded on mobile as it should be.
There are also the other services, such as Google Maps or Navigation, you get with Android. I know, I know… Microsoft has Nokia maps, but it’s just not as good, and probably never will be. Those services are also third party apps, and could be gone at any time. With Google owning and operating all services, you know you’ll always have them.
Does Microsoft have a place?
Sure they do! Their place is, unfortunately, the dwindling PC market. That sector is shrinking, and the advent of the Chromebook (especially for enterprise) only hurts their standing. Microsoft’s place in the mobile landscape is entirely too small, and a lot of that has to do with the cost of their devices. A top-end Surface Pro Tablet with that really cool keyboard will set you back about $1,000. I can buy a Chromebook, Nexus 7, Nexus 4, and have money left over for accessories with that same $1,000.
Microsoft has said they are not considering a “Plan B” should their efforts with mobile fail, and that’s probably not a wise choice. The Surface, like all other Microsoft practises, is out of touch with the world around it. I freak out if I have to spend $1,000 to get my car fixed… you think I’m going to drop that on a tablet?! Even with the small concessions I make here and there with Google Drive versus Office, it’s worth it to have a few extra bucks in my pocket.
We’re a mobile first society, which is where anyone who is serious about attracting tech consumers needs to be. Microsoft has failed at this, and their market share reflects that. We want apps, games, and services… not the ability to create a really kick-ass spreadsheet. There will be Office for Android at some point, but if other Microsoft mobile offerings are any indication, I don’t look for this to be very user-friendly.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the article, and consider the other side of some of those arguments. The PC? The Chromebook may start to kill that off entirely. Console gaming? Ouya and GameStick are poised to take over your living room. Skype? Google hangouts has all the same functionality… for free. The problem is that even when Microsoft is winning, they’ve still got to look over their shoulder at the little green robot.. and he’s pretty fast.