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  • Where Microsoft’s Dominance Fails

    November 10th, 2009

    In recent weeks, it's been reported that the worldwide market share of Windows has dipped below 92%. That's still an impressively high figure, but what's more interesting is that the arrival of Windows 7, despite all the advance publicity and positive reviews from Microsoft's shills, and even some repeatable journalists, has failed to stem the gradual erosion.

    This may not seem all that significant to you until you examine another market where Microsoft's dominance once seemed unstoppable. Consider how the open source Firefox browser rose from zero market share five years ago, to over 24% in October of this year, according to Net Applications. The lamentable Internet Explorer, which is still the default on every single Windows computer on the planet, at least until that ballot box appears for European customers, is now estimated at 64.64%.

    Yes, Internet Explorer's decline may be measured in fractions of a percent each month, but that can really add up after a few years. So if Apple continues to grow its market, the naysayers may be singing a different tune about Microsoft in another five years, although it will probably require an awful lot of bad news and growing customer dissatisfaction to turn a gradual erosion into an unstoppable trend.

    Now aside from Microsoft's core operating system, email server and office software markets, they don't do quite as well. I bet a lot of you believe that their Web server software sits a close second to Apache, which has a market share of 46.90% as measured by this month by Netcraft. Actually, Microsoft's share is just 21.58%, with a several the applications filling out the rest of the market.

    In other words, over 78% of the world's Web servers are not run by a Microsoft product. I wonder how that state of affairs sits with Steve Ballmer and his minions.

    Moving beyond software, Microsoft fares even worse. Despite trying their best to imitate the success of the iPod, the Zune music player, even the current HD model, did quite poorly. Other third-party music players actually fare noticeably better.

    You wonder why Microsoft even bothers to dump what must be hundreds of millions of dollars into this losing venture. At least Apple's executives were smart enough to pull the plug on the Cube when it failed to become a top seller, even though it was certainly a personal favorite of Steve Jobs.

    Forget about Windows Mobile. It has become an afterthought. These days, most people lust after the iPhone, BlackBerry, or the latest iteration of a Google Android smartphone.

    Sure, Microsoft may be good at bait and switch but they clearly haven't a clue when and how to cut their losses when a product or service fails to gain traction. Instead, they simply come out with ever newer versions, often changing the names and a few surface details to fool people into believing that it's all different. So we have Bing, the latest attempt at a search engine, and Windows 7, which is basically an update of Vista.

    This is not to say that other Microsoft divisions are always losing money. Indeed their Entertainment and Devices Division, of which the Zune is a part, has actually shown a small profit in recent years. But this doesn't necessarily make up for all the years during which they lost huge chunks of money. It doesn't even compensate for the pathetic build quality of the Xbox, and I wonder how many of you remember Microsoft taking a billion dollar write-down to repair defective game consoles.

    You didn't hear about it? Well, it's true the mainstream press did run the story, but they really gave Microsoft a pass on this huge problem, since there were few followups. If Apple took a similar markdown on the iPod, you can bet that the press would never stop talking about it, and it would even be featured on the 24 hour cable news networks. Reporters would be stalking Apple's corporate headquarters, stopping every person to enter or leave any of the buildings in search of a scoop.

    Why wasn't that done with Microsoft? Why isn't the press probing that company's huge failure to build an operating system ecosystem that doesn't cause customers billions of dollars in losses each year because of malware outbreaks? Maybe Microsoft is regarded as too large to fail, in the fashion on those multinational financial conglomerates that ripped off the world economy to the tune of trillions of dollars, yet still managed to hold governments hostage for bailout money.

    Well, perhaps I'm getting a little too political there, but I do think that Microsoft has surely been responsible for so many serious failures, they deserve careful scrutiny from investigative journalists. What about those ex-employees who were given pink slips this past year? Wouldn't some of them serve as possible whistle blowers about other potential corporate scandals at the world's largest software company?

    Or maybe we all know Microsoft is an evil empire, so nothing they do should come as a surprise to anyone.



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    5 Responses to “Where Microsoft’s Dominance Fails”

    1. Jeff says:

      I don't know that it's a lack of whistle-blowers so much as Microsoft just isn't interesting.

      What was the last Microsoft product to really generate any buzz? I'm thinking all the way back to Windows 95 for anything approaching the draw of an iPhone. Microsoft has become the staid old mainframe companies that they replaced, and it's going to be a long time before anything of interest comes out of Redmond.

      Knute5 Reply:

      C'mon, the last exciting MS innovation?

      Songsmith!

    2. DaveD says:

      It is just like our senators and representatives in Congress who don't fulfill the needs and wants of the people on affordable health care for all. They want the money from the health insurance companies and Big Pharma. The big giveaway to bail out the financial companies which made bets upon bets upon bets pushed our economy to the edge of a cliff. Today the bailed institutions' workers are breaking out the champagne collecting their fat bonuses while the average middle/working class folks lose their jobs, health care, and the house. Any congressional members make a fuss on the bonuses? It is probably because they are waiting for their campaign "contributions" from the happy folks on Wall Street.

      Why would any tech writers write a bad article on Microsoft and then face the prospect of losing the advertising dollars? I'm going way beyond the "tech" commentary, but it is all the same to me. Big money talks. Microsoft as a monopoly raked in revenues of $58 billion for the 2009 reporting year (down from $60 billion in 2008).

    3. John Dingler says:

      Hi Gene,
      I like the mixing of technology with politics; The resulting combo is a fun read.

      Jeff sounds correct that MS is not as interesting as Apple, hence garnering less interest from media when it flubs.

      A plausible analogy can be made between how media regards Family Values Fundies who are unfaithful and Progressives who do not make Family Values Fundism an issue. Naturally, media will enthusiastically point at the Fundies' fall from an elevated status. This is drama, and it sells.

      Apple Mac present themselves as superior (I agree) to MS Windows. Any alleged failing in their superiority is therefore magnified and media knows that this also will sell.

      Now, MS has two PR faces: The face of a superior OS (I disagree), on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the face of a non-elitist.

      The dual nature is an advantage to combating any criticism. When the mediocre MS Windows fails, it's less interesting because it could point to its non-elitism, and say that the failure is no big deal while, at the same time, promote itself as superior in slick ads.

    4. SteveP says:

      @Jeff
      Whadaya mean?
      VISTA generated a buzz. And it was followed by a STING!
      Back to nature - the MS way! :)

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