Microsoft? Is that still a thing?

Summary:Microsoft's new Surface tablet-cum-laptop is clearly intended to challenge Apple's market domination. But is it too little, too late?

Microsoft's new Surface tablet-cum-laptop is clearly intended to challenge Apple's market domination. But is it too little, too late?

Twenty years ago, Microsoft was synonymous with computing. The company still has a massive presence in businesses across the world. But in the past five years, Apple's share price has risen 380 per cent, while Microsoft's has been dead flat.

Yet, the company does have clear strengths. So what's the problem?

In this week's Patch Monday (on Tuesday) podcast, you'll hear our initial impressions of the Surface, recorded immediately after Microsoft's announcement, and then a deeper discussion of Microsoft's position in the marketplace. The picture isn't pretty.

"I think that Microsoft's position in the business community is a lot more tenuous than what people think," said technology author and broadcaster Paul Wallbank.

"I [go] into meetings with senior managers and directors of businesses and that, and they've all got iPads. This line that we've got to buy Microsoft, no one will get sacked for buying Microsoft products, that's going by the by," he said.

Business strategy and implementation consultant Kate Carruthers thinks Microsoft is trying to do too many things at once.

"Just look at Microsoft and how much they've got to digest at the moment. They've just taken Skype, they've just picked up Yammer, they're launching a tablet that's not really a tablet because they're still in PC mindset — that's an awful lot of stuff for a big organisation to do globally," she said.

"Everything that they've got that's social is kind of broken. SharePoint's broken. The number of corporates that I'm talking to that are talking about swapping out SharePoint for other solutions, including Yammer, is remarkable."

And then there's the challenge to Microsoft's traditional bread-and-butter income streams: licences for Windows and Office that cost hundreds of dollars. As application architect Benno Rice pointed out, Apple has set the upgrade price for the new Mountain Lion version of OS X at well under $50. How will Microsoft make up for the inevitable price reductions?

The consensus? Surface is indeed too little, too late — and Microsoft chief executive director Steve Ballmer must go.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time: 32 minutes, 16 seconds

Topics: Apple, Microsoft


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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