COMMENT: I purchased my first piece of Microsoft software 25 years ago in December. At the time Microsoft was a brand new company and I was running a brand new PR company that had several large enterprise computing clients.For 20 of those past 25 years, Microsoft has been on a roll, prosecuted and fined for their monopolistic practises. Microsoft has dominated in the desktop OS market, the Office applications market and in the server space with products like Exchange, SQL and a host of IT tools.
Today the company is struggling on several fronts with CEO Steve Ballmer moving to sell over $1.7 Billion dollars worth of shares in the company this month.
Their share of the browser market has slipped from over 90 percent to less than 45 percent as Google Chrome starts to take share away from Internet Explorer.
In the mobile market the company has seen their share of the Smartphone market slide from over 80 percent to less than 5 percent. Now they are trying to fight back with Windows 7 Phone, up against a surging Google Android and a much sought after Apple iPhone offering.
In the consumer market Microsoft has totally screwed up in Australia. Despite several promises the company has failed to deliver content such as movies and music to the desktop.
Five years ago it was Microsoft not Google who had the software via their Media Centre offering to deliver a TV service. The only problem was that Microsoft failed to deliver an electronic program guide, or additional services similar to what their US customers were being offered.
As a result it is Google with their Google TV offering that is attracting third party vendors like Sony and Logitech to partner with them.
In the tablet market it is Google with their Android offering and Apple with their iPad that is grabbing consumer attention. Microsoft, who 12 months ago stood up at the CES show in Las Vegas with a tablet offering via HP, have still not delivered a tablet product and as for HP, they are moving onto their own WebOS offering with both a tablet and WebOS Smartphone set to be launched in Australia in 2011.
Another big problem for Microsoft is cloud computing. While the company has sucked up sales of their Office range of software during the PC era several companies, including Google, are now offering businesses an alternative in the form of hosted applications.
Last week Flight Centre said they were dumping their Microsoft products. Instead they are deploying Gmail to 13,000 employees worldwide, replacing Microsoft Outlook.
Also dumping Microsoft products is real estate franchisor, Ray White, who is deploying a customer application available to 10,000 staff in its 1000 franchisees after trying unsuccessfully to use Microsoft .Net.
Microsoft is not a very nice company. They bully and intimidate organisations, and their management blatantly lie, when confronted over issues such as when we exposed that 30,000 of their Xbox 360 gaming consoles had overheating problems.
While Microsoft claim that they have billions invested in research and development one has to question why companies like Google, Apple and even brands like HTC are able to outperform Microsoft in the fast growing consumer market, and in the future, in the small medium business market.
I remember one day when Microsoft ran out of press releases at the launch of a new Windows OS, when I asked for a USB or DVD with the press kit on, I was told that none were available.
This is a company that tells major companies how to run their business. “We have the tools for just in time” performance they claim, yet despite this they fail internally to get a simple thing like a press release kit right.
Even now Windows Explorer is fat, slow and buggy and Google is taking advantage of this with a significantly faster Chrome offering. In a few weeks time vendors will be offered a free version of a new Chrome OS to load onto notebooks, netbooks and PCs to replace Windows.
At first many will bundle both but it will be interesting to see how long it takes before consumers and business demand a 100 percent Chrome offering as opposed to a Microsoft windows OS.
The dominance of Windows has been Microsoft’s greatest strength for decades, but the operating system is now under attack from Linux.
Microsoft saved Apple in 1997 with a $125 Million dollar handout. At the time Apple was considering a move to a suite of Linux based desktop applications developed by Corel. By giving Apple $125M they not only staved off Apple going into Chapter 11 they stopped Linux apps from getting onto the desktop.
13 years later that is all about to change. Microsoft’s long running battle with Linux is eroding its market share on the server side, while Apple is making slow but steady progress in the desktop and laptop businesses.
The situation is even worse on the mobile front, since Microsoft has never enjoyed the kind of dominance it has with PCs and servers in this market.
Apple, Google and RIM are all cutting into the market, and the response of analysts and customers to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system has been tepid at best.
Al Gillen, programme vice president of system software at IDC, told V3 recently: “A serious problem I see for Microsoft is that the emerging/growth markets that it has been cultivating for so long are where some of the most innovative uses of mobile technologies are occurring.
“The bottom line is that, by the time those consumers are ‘ready’ for PCs, their attentions may have shifted elsewhere.”