Surfing the web today, I came across a very interesting interview on SeattlePi with Don Dodge, who was Microsoft’s Director of Business Development for the Emerging Business Team until getting laid off last month. During the interview, he revealed his opinions on Microsoft, their current situation and where they’re heading. He also revealed that he thinks “Microsoft is a lot like IBM was in 1985”, going on to say that “after 20 years they are losing the innovation edge.” This got me thinking; has Microsoft lost the ability to innovate after being the most dominative force in computing since the late 1980’s? And if so, why?
I think a key to the solution is the sheer amount of things Microsoft does. When you think of the number of markets Microsoft compete in, you can understand that it’s extremely difficult, maybe impossible, to dominate every market. Not only do Microsoft develop and maintain the Windows OS, they also compete in the market for smart phones with Windows Mobile; the gaming market with the Xbox 360 and internet search with Bing.
Microsoft only dominate one of these markets with Windows – even with competition from Mac OS X and Linux, 88.5% of the world’s population uses Windows on their PC’s, which is beyond monopolisation… Despite this, 62.2% of computer users are using Windows XP, which completely supports Dodge’s accusations that Microsoft aren’t innovating as much as they were before. Rightly or wrongly, Vista was never a favourite of consumers as it had a lot of bad press on and off the web. In my opinion, Windows 7 is a solid operating system, and when I’m using Windows, I use Windows 7.
When comparing the progress of Windows to its nearest competitor, how has it advanced since Windows XP was released in 2001? When Windows XP was introduced to the world, Apple had just released Mac OS X 10.1, and compared to Microsoft’s monopoly, Apple wasn’t in a good position with many criticising 10.1 for its bad performance. The next time we saw a consumer OS from Microsoft, however, was in January 2007, and the results weren’t worth the 6 year wait for many…
In the same time, Apple had released Mac OS X 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4, with Leopard coming 6 months later. So what were Microsoft doing in those 6 years? To the average user, there wasn’t much reason to upgrade from XP to Vista, because people were all too familiar with XP – why switch to have software incompatibilities and an unfamiliar interface?
On the mobile front, having used all three main players in the smartphone market right now (Windows Mobile 6.5, iPhone OS and Android), I’d only consider using iPhone OS or Android. Microsoft’s got a lot of catching up to do, and has fallen behind Apple and Google in terms of innovation and ease of use.
Navigating around a Windows Mobile device often feels far too long winded, with menus and menus of choices it’s simply not as user friendly as the iPhone or Android, even with HTC’s custom interface. Add this to the numerous delays of Windows Mobile 7, there’s no way I’d buy a Windows smartphone right now.
Having gone from the innovator to the company playing catch up with every other major player, Microsoft needs a new direction to wow people again. They’re very much in the gaming market with the Xbox 360, and hopefully we’ll see some pushes towards a better search with Bing in 2010 – how about a consumer friendly surface-like device? Competition for Apple’s tablet anyone? Let us know in the comments!