History has shown that the greatest of empires can rule with seemingly no challenger for centuries, but end up collapsing rapidly in less than a decade. As I write this post on my Windows 8 laptop, I wonder if that is what is happening to Microsoft. Is Microsoft a doomed empire in decline?
For starters let me state that I actually did use Microsoft products a lot. I have used a Windows PC all my life. Almost ten years ago, I used Internet Explorer everyday, Windows Media player and Microsoft Office. My primary email account was on Hotmail, which was atleast since the time I created the account, a Microsoft product. I was not alone either, most friends in college, family members and colleagues used all things Microsoft.
Today, Microsoft is not the dominant factor in the personal technology we use everyday. I use Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, VLC player instead of Windows Media player and Google Docs instead of Office. I have not opened my Hotmail account for over a year now, I exclusively use Gmail.
I still use Windows 8 on my laptop but my second device (mobile phones) runs on Android. It is not just me, but almost everyone I know, is not using Microsoft products as their first choice products. I wonder if Microsoft has actually become a company full of ‘second place’ products.
Microsoft’s “second place” syndrome
Second place as a term is very relative. For me it boils down to number of users using a product as their most preferred one. Here MS products seem to be missing the mark increasingly. They are basically creating products which are making up the numbers. For instance Bing as a search engine, Windows Phone, Windows tablets, SkyDrive cloud sync service, email service with Hotmail and Outlook.com are all at the moment making up the competition and not dominating. Incredibly the once dominant Internet Explorer has also slipped to second place over the past few months.
It still dominates OS usage with its Windows OS. I can see it trying to do something different to stay relevant in the post-PC world with Windows 8, but it has honestly in my experience not got its act together. I use Windows 8 and the apps eco-system around it resembles a ghost town. Even on the mobile platform, app developers are not showing much enthusiasm.
Even on Windows platform, I am using Chrome 80% of the time. If I got myself a tablet, I might end up even lesser time on my laptop which is the sole Microsoft product I am using.
Even their internet products are not really making a big mark. It recently started So.cl, a social network launched earlier this month. It resembles a Facebook designed like Pinterest, but without the social interaction. It has massive failures on the internet business front, with one major disaster being the purchase of advertisement platform Aquantive. Microsoft finally had to write-off the purchase of Aquantive and ended up reporting a loss for the first time in its history.
It seems Microsoft has over the past five years, stopped being the champion to beat but has become the slightly competitive second place challenger.
Competing on too many fronts
One might argue that Microsoft being in multiple products is the same as Google. But Google dominates many businesses it has got into. It dominates the mobile OS market with Android, YouTube has hardly any competition, Google Search is as solidly in first place as ever, Gmail seems to be marching along ruthlessly and recently with Nexus 7 it might be tasting hardware success. Google Maps is as Apple found recently, a very difficult product to replicate let alone replace.
Google and Microsoft differ in their approach. Google backs data and ruthlessly retires products which are not working out. It hardly carries out negative marketing campaigns and simply keep working on their mistakes.
Microsoft is from a much older culture, where corporations simply refuse to own up to mistakes. They prefer the solid facade of indestructibility but it sometimes weakens the company from inside. Today, Microsoft is shrinking in terms of its revenues and relevance. It is spread too thin and is fighting on many fronts.
It needs a Steve Jobs, who at his second innings at Apple, famously and ruthlessly focused on lesser products to spark a revival over a decade ago. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not seem to have anyone pulling them back a bit to focus on lesser but better products. Or may be this is just the natural cycle of every company and Microsoft slow decline is just inevitable.
What are your views on Microsoft? Do drop in your comments.
Image Credit: PcAuthority
Awesome article. Really loved reading it. 🙂
Nice analysis. I believe Microsoft still has a few great unmatched products (like Office. Till date, no one has matched the usability and features 2007 onwards) but that’s hardly needed for the majority. It’s still stuck in the corporate days of yore and companies stuck in the corporate days of yore will stick to Microsoft.
The best part is with such major cultural shifts in the past decade or so, pushed single-handedly by technological progress, the corporate behaviour is coming to an end. Open is the new name of the game. Secretive people are not trusted. Even though Microsoft has started becoming open about things where it is counter-productive to be closed source (file formats, codecs, etc). It still has a lot to learn from Facebook and Google in terms of engagement of society into their business.
No revolutionary worth his shot is going the Microsoft way, unless the Microsoft way improves. No Steve Jobs or Linus for them, yet.
Microsoft lacks a visionary and from the early times intead of improving its product range microsoft has misused its dominace to hurt any company that is a threat to its market domination. But now there are too many better market players and great alternatives. When it comes to tech products. People do look for better design better ui, better productivity and better support. Brand is still a factor but, now there are many good brands to compete with mictosoft.
@Sreejesh: Most companies in dominant position misuse it to some extent. The point is if MS will learn the lessons and how fast they will adapt to the changing world.
Microsoft makes good products for the PC, but they fail on the web and phone fronts. However, the world is increasingly moving from PC to phones and cloud. Hence MS is in a fix.
Actually it does not need to do anything radical. It still has users, has products. They just have to make them more relevant and open up more as a company.
Marvellous article i like it ….