At a quick glance once might be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft has lost it. Once the big M$ was the undisputed king of the software industry, so much so in fact that the company came under fire for its monopoly of tech. Every computer came pre-loaded with Windows, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer and really you didn’t need much else to get the most of your devices.
But then things started to go wrong… And their first attempts at clawing back some respect don’t seem to be going to plan – even Bill Gates himself is reportedly unhappy with the direction of his old business (http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-57569944-75/bill-gates-not-satisfied-with-microsofts-innovations/). Is Microsoft on shaky ground for the first time? Or do they have more tricks up their sleeves?
Microsoft’s Fall From Grace
Right now Microsoft is in a much less ‘stable’ position than it has been before, and in many ways it’s now almost in an underdog position. That Monopoly case hurt their business strategy and their reputation badly which lead to Chrome overtaking Explorer as the biggest browser. Meanwhile Apple became cool again and Macs finally started to hurt PC sales, and the mobile space exploded into a plethora of tablets and smartphones which Microsoft just had no place in. With Desktop PC sales rapidly falling and more and more people accessing the internet via their tablets, things looked bad for Microsoft for the first time.
Back With a Whimper
This left the software giant with one option – which was to aggressively enter the mobile space, switch up their image and generally become more competitive. And so they did with their tablet-friendly Windows 8 Pro, their ARM processor-friendly Windows 8 RT and even their own hardware release in the form of the Surface tablet. Combine this with their Windows 7 then Windows 8 smartphones and you have a whole new business strategy.
But at first glance the Surface Pro and Windows 8 aren’t going well. The Verge says that there’s no convenient way to use the Jack-of-all-trades Surface (http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/5/3955130/microsoft-surface-pro-review) and reviews for Windows 8 seem to be similarly lukewarm with a low number of sales (http://uk.ign.com/articles/2013/02/01/windows-8-holds-less-than-23-of-os-market). Combine this with the lacklustre sales of Windows phones and you have a comeback that doesn’t hold a candle to Take That.
The Surface many people have said is a strange device – too big and narrow to be used convincingly as a tablet (and with a four hour battery life) and with no way to work on your lap as you would expect from a laptop either; and Windows 8 seems to similarly be trying to do too much and ending up not doing anything as well as it could. Is Microsoft turning its back on the very business market that made it so successful in an attempt to appear hip?
The Silver Lining
But then writing off an old hat like Microsoft would be a mistake, and if you look more closely at the Surface, at Windows 8 and at their strategy in general you realise that their latest effort may yet take the world by storm.
Will Microsoft Own the Future?
Let’s not forget first of all that Microsoft is still dominating the home console market with Xbox 360 being a huge hit in the West demonstrating that the big M are perfectly capable of entering new markets and making waves. And not content to just rule, Microsoft also seems keen to experiment in the gaming industry. The Kinect may have been a response to Wii, but it was certainly an ambitious one, while the recently unveiled Illumi Room is something entirely new. This should be a clear and promising indication that Microsoft is still keen to push forward with its tech and to provide us with visions for the future.
And perhaps this is the thing with Windows 8 and the Surface – perhaps we’re only reluctant to accept them because they’re so revolutionary and so not what we’re used to. Walk into any Curries or PC World and suddenly Windows 8 machines start to look a lot more desirable.
You can stand a Surface, a Samsung Smart PC or a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 like an all-in-one PC monitor and you can interact with them by touching and swiping or by using a Bluetooth keyboard. From a glance these high definition machines look like attractive PCs with none of the bulk but all of the business-feel.
But then go closer and you can pick the machines up to take with you – whether to watch YouTube in the kitchen while the kettle boils or to code on the train. Use the additional Stylus and a version of Sketchbook Pro and you can draw amazing pictures as a graphic artist, or use the touch-type cover/a similar peripheral and you can work in a coffee shop without carrying your home office around with you. You don’t need to use the Surface as a laptop – you can prop it on a coffee table and work on a Bluetooth keyboard or you can just type straight onto the screen. And for professionals this all makes perfect sense.
Microsoft isn’t trying to rival the iPad or appeal to kids and casual users, it’s just trying to give computers more options when it comes to input and portability so that you can work on them or pick them up and take them with you on the go. In doing so they’ve managed to make the iPad with its grids of apps, lack of pen and single form factor look very old fashioned. The new logo reflects the live tiles as well as Windows, and the clean Metro look reflects the sleekness of having a desktop computer in a single slate.
Watch this space…
The author of this post, Jane Diggory, is a part of the team at Steinepreis Paganin, a major supplier of steinpag commercial lawyers. She has a keen interest in researching on the current business strategies in companies and enjoys sharing her ideas via blogging.