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  • The Beleaguered Microsoft: The Evidence Mounts

    July 14th, 2009

    Although I remain skeptical how it’ll all turn out, the top executives at Microsoft must be freaking upon learning that Google plans to build the Chrome operating system. Worse, that it’ll be deployed first for netbooks and eventually to regular note-books and desktop computers as well.

    Most of the online chatter doesn’t really mention Apple much, beyond the fact that Google CEO Eric Schmidt might have to reconsider his position as a member of Apple’s Board of Directors. Right now he will recuse himself from sessions dealing with the iPhone, because of Google’s Android operating system. So if Mac OS X is discussed, the theory goes that Schmidt will have to stay away from those discussions as well, which more or less excludes him from a large portion of those meetings. Well, that’s something for Apple and Google to figure out, since it has little to do with any practical issues regarding Google’s forthcoming OS.

    Now Google’s focus is primarily on Web-based applications, such as Gmail and Google Apps. The real competitor to Microsoft is the latter, since they are struggling to compete with Google for search advertising and other areas. Indeed, Office 10 for Windows will be offered in an ad-sponsored online version, clearly a reaction to Google. Originality is not in their DNA, but when they see someone else succeeding in a product segment they want to exploit, you just know they are going to try to do something about it.

    This doesn’t mean that Google’s new OS is a sure thing. It’s not. Yes, it is built upon a secure Linux foundation, which means it’ll be far more robust out of the box than any version of Windows. Indeed, it may well be that focusing on Web-based applications will serve a certain class of customers. But the PC industry is too heavily focused on desktop apps on the Mac and Windows platforms to give Google much elbow room right now. Then again, just giving Microsoft conniptions ought to be sufficient to make this initiative worthwhile.

    From Apple’s standpoint, they have been pushing hard for industry standards for much of what they do. So it would seem that anything you can run from the browser under the Chrome OS will work on a Mac as well, and on a Windows PC for that matter. Well, maybe Microsoft will try to block them on Internet Explorer, despite the fact that the new version, version 8, supposedly adheres more closely to Internet standards.

    But it’s not just browsers and operating systems where Microsoft is experiencing a slow, inexorable decline. They haven’t done so well with their mobile phone initiative either. Windows Mobile is an afterthought when the media pundits speak of smartphones. The chatter is all about the iPhone, the BlackBerry, the latest Android-based device and, of course, the Palm Pre. How fascinating it is to see real competition in this space, rather than face an 800-pound gorilla that spends a large part of its time beating down any competition that dares invade its territory.

    Certainly Microsoft’s woes started big-time when the iPod arrived, and Apple rapidly managed to carve for itself a hefty majority of the market, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the usual naysayers. Microsoft tried working with the usual group of third-party manufacturers and failed. They tried the Zune and it was a failure too. The lifetime of the dedicated media playing is coming to a close, except, perhaps, for the iPod touch, which is really just a small personal computer.

    When it comes to the iPhone, Apple’s ace in the hole, beyond a great user interface, is the App Store. With 1.5 billion downloads in the first year and 65,000 selections, I suspect only the Windows platform has more apps available. What Apple has done is simply amazing, and no other company, even with a larger share of the smartphone market, has been able to come close.

    Of course Apple tried and tested a lot of the basic structure of the App Store in building the world’s largest music retailer, iTunes. So it wasn’t quite as hard to just expand its capabilities to accommodate the iPhone and iPod touch. Imagine what would have been involved if they had to invent it all over again from scratch?

    Microsoft? They’d love to build a true competitor, but maybe they are just left to recall the famous movie phrase from the late Marlon Brando, “I coulda been a contender.”

    This isn’t to say that Microsoft is doomed, though it may look that way. Their search engine flavor of the week, Bing, has gotten off to a good start and is apparently taking a tiny bit of market share away from Google. Bing has also garnered fairly good reviews from the critics, so maybe it has potential.

    There are also reports that Microsoft has a Web-based or lightweight operating system on the back burner, and it might very well get accelerated development if the Chrome OS really takes off. On the other hand, I don’t see Google appealing to more than a core segment of power users and curiosity seekers. That is, unless or until the public embraces the Chrome OS and decides it’s really a good thing.



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    15 Responses to “The Beleaguered Microsoft: The Evidence Mounts”

    1. DaveD says:

      Being a resident in the same State where Microsoft makes its home, I am glad to witness their slow decline. Any original ideas or products from Microsoft have failed and now, copying others’ ideas or products is experiencing a similar fate. The only way for Microsoft to go is down and that is a good thing. The company should have been separated into different entities when they were declared a monopoly like AT&T. Monopolies stifled innovations. Look at how our telecommunication ecosystem blossomed when AT&T got chopped up.

      I hope all Windows XP users will never upgrade to Windows 7. They have something that is good enough (service packs applied) and especially, If it ain’t broke why go through the pain of upgrading. Just use the Windows XP computer until it needs to be replaced. When that time comes just take a leisurely stroll through an Apple Retail store.

    2. The majority of my users will not ‘upgrade’ to Windows 7. They have little confidence in Microsoft. I think we are seeing the slow downfall of a once great company.

    3. Nashgul says:

      … once a great company.

      What? Where? Huh?
      You’ve got to be kidding. They are the equivalent to the Mob.

      Please do a little history and educate yourself.

    4. Brad says:

      I’ve installed Windows 7 RC on two machines: a desktop and laptop. I have been using Vista and XP and I must say that Win7 runs amazingly well. Boot-up is fast, opening windows and switching applications is fast. I don’t get annoying security pop-ups. Take the time to try it out because it basically runs as well as XP but with all the upgrades/updates of Vista. I had no upgrade issues, either. All the drivers for both my machines were found and automatically installed. Software isn’t a problem because if it runs on Vista it will run on Win7. And now that there is XP compatibility mode, and problems running old software are gone because it tricks the software into thinking it’s on an XP box.

      It certainly is the OS that Vista should have been. I eagerly plopped down $150 on Amazon to buy upgrade copies when it gets released in October. I realize Windows may not be the best OS. The registry system is ridiculous, there are many security flaws or holes. But honestly, it’s still what the world uses and until something really takes over and MANY products (both software and hardware) works on another OS I won’t even consider switching.

      Microsoft isn’t the greatest company by any means. They have no original ideas. They fired the development team that works on Microsoft Flight Simulator (which I love and have been using for over 10 years). However, they own the OS market right now and as I said, unless something takes their place life is easier with Windows (and yes, I’ve tried Linux).

    5. Mike says:

      @Brad

      Nothing would ever be replaced if everyone decided to go with the majority. If everyone followed your advice, we would all be stuck with, as you said, a lesser OS.

      And, why would I want to “upgrade” to a new OS if it only works as well as a decade old OS?! People seem to think that Microsoft has come out with something awesome when it doesn’t totally suck like Vista, just when it works “good enough.”
      If you want an OS that keeps raising the bar in usability and performance, try a mac.

    6. Dave Barnes says:

      “The lifetime of the dedicated media playing is coming to a close”

      I would agree. My wife kept upgrading to larger capacity iPods and buying a Nano and a Shuttle. But, since the arrival of the iPhone in her life, iPod usage has dropped to almost zero.
      And, just look 4 years down the road when your iPhone will be available with 128 GB.

    7. Beleaguered. Well put.

    8. Nicholas Aleshin says:

      In the future, the history of late 20th century computing (1981-2000) will be viewed as “The Dark Ages of Computing,” entirely because of Microsoft.

      Period.

    9. Brad says:

      @ Mike:
      Ok, but what I am saying is that as a consumer, I want to be able to walk into a store and buy software and a printer and whatever and know that it will work. A Windows PC is the only thing you can do that with. Believe it or not Mike there are things that still don’t work with your Mac and I don’t want to have to run Boot Camp in order to use it.

      I’ve used OS X and I don’t like it. I just don’t. And I don’t want to stick with XP forever. Why? Because Win7 comes with a lot of great new features and updates that XP does not have. Seriously, 9 year old software is ancient in computer years. We all know that. Vista sucks. We all know that, too.

    10. Alan Smith says:

      @Brad
      I can walk into a store (Best Buy, Apple store) and buy a Mac, software, a printer and it will work. I have tried Windows (3, 98, XP, Vista) and I just don’t like it. So why would Windows 7 (which Vista SP is it?) be any different? Even Balmer has said that Windows 7 is an upgraded Vista.

      MS cannot innovate, does not know what catering to the market means and is only successful because they bully vendors into adopting their OS for the PC market. What a pity.

      MS is GM. And look what happened there. What will happen next? Microsoft will come crawling to the gov’t and be asking for a major bailout before it heads into Chapter 11?

    11. dfs says:

      There’s now a huge difference between Apple’s OSX and Windows. Note I said “Apple’s OSX” and not “the Mac OS” because that’s the crux of the matter. Apple now has a unified OS that works across three devices, the Mac, the iPod Touch, and the iPhone, and that can easily be adapted to any other devices they care to put out (a netbook, a notepad, and maybe some others one could dream up such as an intelligent version of Apple TV or a communications/navigation/entertainment device built into automobile dashboards that would blow the socks of anything now available), so that Apple is well situated to sponsor as large a family of interactive devices as it wants. Sky’s the limit. Even if Windows 7 is terrific, and pardon me for having doubts about that, Microsoft will still be stuck with a OS that works on PCs only for the foreseeable future. You don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out which corporation owns the future and which one is stuck in the past.

    12. Tom Jones says:

      I’m not sure I want to hand off my work to any company to “look after” for me in “the cloud”.

      It may work for small documents, but if you work with multi-media, a cloud-based computer is not going to cut it.

    13. Liam Hanigan says:

      Nice, harking back to the days of ‘The Beleaguered Apple’. I remember those articles – gleefully predicting the imminent demise of Apple. How long have you been hoping to swap the company name to Microsoft? Did it feel good? Unfortunately it’s not true. MSFT is still huge next to AAPL, and while they don’t have the innovation and mindshare, they do have the market share. When I see that drop substantially, I’ll be satisfied something is going on, but for now I don’t think unreleased software from Google and a failed MP3 player are cause for concern.

    14. gctwnl says:

      OTOH, Microsoft is gaining traction in the (large) business world at the expense of the Oracles and IBMs of this world. SharePoint, Office, Exchange, Active Directory are all parts of a hugely successful strategy where it will be almost impossible for any contender like Apple to get a decent market share.

      Apple did a very smart thing when they focused on stuff like movies, music etc. There is a large audience out there which do not need compatibility with the office (as they do not have one). Moving to intel is also smart for more than one reason. Not just for the power consumption, but the fact that they will be able – if Microsoft ever drops Office Mac – to enable Office Windows on Mac OS X (they will) is (I suspect) something that is part of the activities in the lab.

    15. InTheShelter says:

      @Brad

      “I want to be able to walk into a store and buy software and a printer and whatever and know that it will work.”
      – Congratulations, you can do that with a Mac

      ” A Windows PC is the only thing you can do that with.”
      -That is completely false.

      “Believe it or not Mike there are things that still don’t work with your Mac”
      – Such as? Probably 95% of peripherals such as printers, mice, scanners, hard drives, etc. are compatible with Macs now. You would really have to make a deliberate effort to end up buying something in Best Buy that did not work with a Mac. If you are talking software then obviously have to get Mac software, but it’s usually better priced or free (I’ve found tons of FOSS software so I haven’t had to pay for anything in years).

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attempting to flame you on my reply, but your misunderstanding of Mac compatability in the world today is something that disappeared quite a while ago. It used to be somewhat true, but no longer. I think MS counts on this sort of disinformation to scare customers away from Macs. It’s called FUD. As for not liking OS X, well that’s obviously a personal choice, but they don’t do things that much differently. Any average person can go back and forth between them and see the basic similarities. Point and click, minimize, maximize, exit, restart, log in, etc. I think the difference is that the Mac is more stable, no viruses, and what they do they do with more polish in a better GUI.

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