Archive for July 2012

Another big comeback for Microsoft?

July 19th, 2012 — 2:16pm

Microsoft has been the big tech company that everyone loves to hate for a long time. This probably stems from it’s early dominance of PC operating systems, when users had to endure all the shortcomings of DOS and Windows. We had no choice.

Over the years, Microsoft has adopted an interesting strategy for technology companies. Rather than innovate, and get a “first mover” advantage, Microsoft is usually late to the party. It moves slowly, but when it moves, look out. Time and again, industry observers have mistaken this “sloth” for weakness, predicting Microsoft’s decline or even demise.

Here are a few examples that I can recall of this strategy paying off for Microsoft:

  • In 1992, when I entered college, the computer labs were using WordPerfect and Lotus 123 for word processing and spreadsheets respectively. By the time I left in 1996, Microsoft Office was the standard for productivity tools – WP and Lotus were finished.
  • In the mid 1990’s, the Internet was hot. Many people gleefully chided Microsoft for “missing the Internet”. In 1995/ 96, Microsoft introduced its first version of Internet Explorer. It was buggy, and was ridiculed by the CEO of the dominant browser at the time – Netscape Navigator. In just a few years, MSIE had over 80% over the browser market, and Netscape Communications was effectively out of business.
  • In 2002, Microsoft entered the game console market. The competition was well established – Nintendo, Sega, and Sony dominated the space. Critics argued there was no room for another gaming console. Nevertheless, Microsoft muscled in, and today the xbox has over 30% market share.
  • Fast forward to the mobile space. Microsoft recently announced the “Surface” – it’s upcoming entry into the tablet market, to compete against the iPad and Android based tablets. Also Microsoft is releasing Windows 8, promising a solid platform for mobile phones. Again, critics are saying these efforts are too little, too late. But I, for one, am not counting them out. In fact, I’m sure quite a few companies in that space are very, very worried.

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