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Microsoft – Ups and Downs

Just look around the Microsoft website, or any other website focused on Microsoft technologies, and we see tiles – beautiful ones. Microsoft has allegedly invested a whopping amount just to promote Windows 8 as a game changer – somewhere close to a billion and a half dollars of advertising money, and that is some serious money. Given the kind of bets that Microsoft has placed on the success of Windows 8 and the ecosystem around it – it makes sense to analyze the reasons for the same and try to guess whether success will follow its strategy.

I think things started to change for Microsoft post the success of Windows 7 – it is fair to assume that Microsoft became a bit complacent. Their innovation quotient dipped. They were never nimble enough to adapt to changing technology – like a Google. Their cloud strategy was flawed and a couple of years behind – always playing catch-up with Amazon. Their mobile strategy was virtually non-existent. This period also coincided with the rise of the other giant in the technology world – Apple. The rise of Apple – especially the success of iPhone and iPad got them jittery – they shifted their focus to consumers -resulting in an unnecessary foray into hardware. Some bad acquisitions (Skype for $8 billion..?), some write-off’s (aQuantive – $6 billion) and Microsoft looked really vulnerable. Windows 7.5 was a decent and different start in the mobile space – unlike Android which had an uncanny resemblance to iOS. But Microsoft again faltered when it announced that Windows Phone 8 was a breaking change. They got some bad press along with Nokia for knowingly promoting the existing handsets when they were well aware of the breaking changes of WP8. They hurriedly released a mashed up version of Windows Phone 7.8 – which was a no-show. Office on the cloud was a decade behind. Their somewhat foolish race with Google on Search is for story books – their online division has been losing half a billion every quarter for the past couple of years.

Adding to its woes was a bleak forecast for Windows 8 adoption – just marginally better than Vista. Also, as if the switch from the Windows 7 interface to the Windows 8 way of doing things wasn’t bad enough, deciding what type of Windows 8 or Windows RT device to purchase was another challenge. The sheer number of options befuddled consumers – they were not sure whether to buy a tablet, slate, convertible, laptop, or a laptop with touch screen. Windows RT was a “mobile” operating system for its tablets, Windows Phone 8 apps from the Windows Phone Store weren’t designed to run on Windows RT or Windows 8, and a few Windows 8 apps just didn’t work on Windows RT. It was all so confusing…!

Phew…! that is a long list of missteps. Any other company would have been in deep trouble. Microsoft survived, and there are signs that they might be turning things around, albeit slowly. Let’s talk about it in the next post..!

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