An author at a reputed website predicted the future of Microsoft company as a whole, and gave the verdict that it is dying. I guess many of you might have read it. Let us too check out the factors that were discussed in the article, I read few days ago. Of course, the views expressed in this post are my personal views, and do not reflect the views of TheWindowsClub.com.
Microsoft is now waiting for a new CEO to take over, and the latest operating system has been as much criticized as it has been accepted. Surface RT has been a bit of a failure, but then, there are other products from Microsoft too. Based on the discussion on each product, let’s see how the future of Microsoft company holds, from an end-users perspective: Will it really perish as that reputed website forecasts – or will it flourish? And then what are it’s options to survive and flourish in a fast changing demanding market situation?
Future of Microsoft
Major Products From Microsoft
The major part of Microsoft’s history has been tied to its Windows operating system. When people speak of Microsoft, more than often, the picture of Windows flashes in one’s mind, even though the company diversified into many markets other than just the operating system. That include its new hardware Surface, Office Automation through Microsoft Office – cloud offerings for Office Automation and business management through Office Web Apps, and Azure plus Office 365, Windows Phone and not to forget the gaming consoles Xbox! And then, there is Internet Explorer, one of the first browsers since the time, when people had to hook up via telephone numbers and had to pay by minutes used.
Bing Search – Do we need to compare it with Google
Other than the above listed products, the consumer product which comes to mind is Bing, the search engine that might be generating some revenue from advertising. We will analyze Microsoft products starting from the search engine.
Even today, most of the consumers don’t even know that Bing exists as an alternative to Google. While Google is a verb (replacing “search the Internet”) these days, Bing is less known noun that is secondary or even tertiary to many. I would go to the extent of putting Yahoo and Ask among more the better-known search engines, from what I know of and grasped from the man-on-the-street or even the IT Pro’s.
When speaking of the market, I include only primarily Asia & Europe, as I have not been following the trends in other places. Maybe we can also include a little of Middle-East and talk about it in subsequent sections. Sure, Bing may be doing well in the US, but what about the rest of the world? How many people do you know in the real world, who actually use Bing Search? Very few unfortunately.
It is well known that Microsoft was in the search business, much before people even knew of Google. It was a built in section of early Internet Explorers. Probably, they did not take it seriously and got beaten by Google – and even Yahoo search. Microsoft has definitely improved Bing in the past one year however, but it maybe a bit late. Until we see few more algorithm mistakes & changes in Google that make people run away from Google, Bing will never reach the top position in search market.
In other words, until Google itself destroys its search algorithms, Bing is set to remain at its current place. Google is a verb, and it will stay that way for years to come.I do not see much hope for this product unless Microsoft convinces other browsers – Firefox, Opera, etc,to set Bing as the default search instead of Google.
Windows Operating System
The Windows operating system can be said to be the backbone of Microsoft company. Under different CEOs, it went on to become one of the most appealing operating systems preferred by many – all over the globe. It’s Windows XP was one of the most popular operating system that provided everything that one would expect from a computer – including looks. Windows Vista was considered a failure, but Microsoft was quick to bring its OS on track using Windows 7. As of now, even as companies are still upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP, Microsoft has introduced Windows 8.
Throughout pre-release, Windows 8 was projected as a 128bit operating system that would bring in a revolution – by increasing demand for desktop supercomputers. We had many talks all over the Internet and once I was called pessimist by a Microsoft PR, who said that Microsoft can implement a 128 bit operating system, as it has its own sources for hardware. I will have to dig back three years into my Twitter account to provide you links with that conversation. However, while I failed to pick up the hint, Microsoft indeed came up with its own hardware that it calls Surface. We’ll come to that piece in a while.
The release of Windows 8 disappointed many – as it delighted others. People were expecting a very powerful desktop operating system that would get work done in split seconds. Instead what they got was a mobile interface, that allows for the desktop interface as well. It looks more like two operating systems. In all fairness, Microsoft did try and fix most of the desktop users in Windows 8.1. When I say serious work, I intend to point out at Graphics and Video editing, etc. One might argue that the Mac is better than Windows for video and graphics, but that argument too, goes against Microsoft. It is a lose-lose situation for most, with the exception for people who need more of mobility.
I do not think Windows 8.1 will, in any way, appeal to the Enterprise, unless the whole computing scenario changes to mobile. Of course BYOD and “work from home” are catching up, but it is still too early for a mobile operating system to replace a normal desktop OS.
This is where Microsoft may need to take a step backward and correct itself. Instead of two-in-one operating system, it needs to deliver two different versions for people needing mobility and people wanting more computing power. I hope the new CEO comes up with a solution that satisfies both types of people. A desktop supercomputer with a 128-bit architecture would be a great improvement in this direction. The OEMs will follow that line more happily than the current path Microsoft has taken.
Surface and other hardware
Though Microsoft has been building mobile computers for a while, all of them were ignored by the market. The gaming consoles and input devices have been appreciated by the consumers. You might want to take a look at our article on Microsoft’s hardware history. The Surface RT is specially built to ease the operations for the mobile part of Windows 8. Then there is Surface Pro that allows full-functioning of Windows 8 – but as noted earlier, a significant number of people would want a better, stronger operating system that may or may not be mobile.
It is not impossible, given that more and more companies are using cloud for their operations. A strong desktop operating system combined with cloud will anyway be considered mobile, as you can access your business/office from anywhere. While Surface RT is good for mobility, it still failed to impress avid gamers who would still carry their Windows 7 laptops to continue playing while on the move.
We cannot expect a company, the size of Microsoft, to survive by selling a few good models of input devices. They have to improve here too. The cost of Surface Pro is an issue, but I hope it can be negotiated, to grab a better share of the market. There are some good qualities in Surface 2 and some enhancements can bring Microsoft into the hardware market as a significant player.
I do not know much about Windows Phone, as I have not used one. It has been out of my reach always. For the price tag of one Nokia Lumia Windows Phone in India, I was able to buy an LG Optimus (Android) and a Samsung (again Android).
People with Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 say it is good. With Blackberry going down and with Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia, there is definitely a future for Windows Phone. But again, it cannot – in any way – beat the already wide spread Android. I know it is very difficult to get major phone builders to replace Android with Windows Phone.
There are two factors that might save and improve the Windows Phone market: 1) Easy accessibility – making the phones cheaper; and 2) A vast apps marketplace – maybe even borrow some apps from the Android and iPhone market.It sure looks like Microsoft is aware of this, working hard to address this issue. The emphasis has to be to lower the cost of the mobile operating system, as there are devices that already are easily affordable.
Games and XBox
This is one market that I am sure Microsoft will have a commanding position for a long – until it decides to convert XBox and other consoles to touch only consoles. I am not much into gaming but if I play, it is on my laptop. I have some games on my LG Android but the touch navigation repels even my young nephews. The major problems with a touch based device are accidental touches that are deciphered as inputs and spoil the game.
There was much talk about the recent version of XBox – XBox One all over the social networking sites. Some were pretty disappointed upon a small delay of just one day for delivery. The way they were enthusiastic, it ushered in confidence that this device is going to stay for long.
We still have Internet Explorer, Azure, Microsoft Office and Office 365 to discuss. It is too early to talk about Azure while Office 365 is doing well so far. The way Microsoft has improved Internet Explorer in v11 and the way Office 2013 has been integrated with cloud, is a plus again. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next versions are cloud only – which will be a major boost to the company’s product.
If you ask me, I would say the company is going through a tough phase. It now depends on the next CEO of the Microsoft company to make decisions good enough to bring it back to the higher level it deserves. I hope they’ll make a good choice for the sake of Microsoft’s future.
What do you think is the future of Microsoft?