The reports of Microsoft's demise are greatly exaggerated

The reports of Microsoft's demise are greatly exaggerated

Summary: It's hard to avoid the constant trope of Microsoft's failures and concerns for its future. With competitors like Apple and Google, how will life go on? Can we please get real?


Microsoft is taking a beating from competition from Apple and Google. The company is going downhill fast. Redmond doesn't appear to have a strategy for success and the management to execute on its current plans.

Apple history provides a unique viewpoint over these claims. Believe it or not, but Apple was declared dead for many years. And look at it now.

One problem for Microsoft is reputation. Ages ago, the company owned everything and almost every market. In a recent post on his Storagezilla blog, EMC programmer Mark Twomey said that back in the days Microsoft was a "terrifying competitor." But he added that this was no longer the case.

For the company under attack, it's all about what has been done and the expectation for the future. But Microsoft has had failures of execution for more than a decade. It's catching up to them.

Looking in the back of my closet the other day for a folding chair, I happened upon an Apple t-shirt from 1995, released the weeks before Microsoft's introduction of Windows 95. Apple launched a "Been there ... done that" ad campaign in an attempt to reassure the Mac market, developers and the industry that Apple was hardly fazed by Microsoft's shift to a GUI OS (Windows 95 was the real deal, unlike Window 3 and before).

The Been there... campaign was a timeline of technologies and products showing that the goodness of Windows 95 had long been enjoyed by Mac customers. The meaning was that Apple had innovated with the Macintosh and would keep innovating.

Mac Been There t-shirt 1995-620

Been there...

1984. Macintosh • Graphical User Interface, cut, copy, paste, undo • Quicktime bit-mapped graphical display, long file names, 3.5" floppy.

1985. LaserWriter printer with PostScript • Plug & play networking (LocalTalk)

1986. Plug & play SCSI, Kanjitalk.

1987. Built-in, plug & play bus expansion (NuBus) • Plug and play Ethernet • networking Multifinder brings multitasking to Mac • HyperCard visual programming.

1988. 1st SCSI plug & play CD-ROM • SuperDrive can read/write Mac, DOS & OS/2 • EtherTalk.

1989. photo-realistic images (32-bit QuickDraw).

1990. Sound input • Macintosh Quadra Ethernet built in.

1991. System 7, Apple invents TrueType fonts, file sharing aliases • Motorola, IBM & Apple agree to develop RISC chips • Quicktime multimedia, AppleTalk Remote Access (ARA).

1992. Global Support (WorldScript) • ColorSync color matching • Built-in CD-ROMs spur multimedia growth • Quicktime for Windows, cross-platform standard • AppleScript & OSA.

1993. Speech Recognition/synthesis • integrated telephony (GeoPort) • AOCE, PowerTalk & PowerShare • 1st PC with built-in TV.

1994. Power Macintosh • MAE Mac OS on UNIX • System 7.5 introduced • "Most recent" folders • WindowShade • Apple Guide with coachmarks • Macintosh PC Exchange • Macintosh Easy Open • DOS and Windows compatibility add-in cards • DOS and Windows emulation • Thread Manager • QuickDraw GX next generation DTP • Quicktime 2.0, advanced multimedia • Integrated 32-bit TCP/IP Internet support • PowerBook control strip • Universal mailbox • DigiSign electronic approval • PowerBook file synchronization.

1995. Quicktime VR • Quicktime conferencing • Open Transport • Quickdraw 3D • Next-generation RISC chip Macs • MAE 2.0 Mac OS for SUN & HP UNIX • More RISC native (faster) S/7.5x upgrades • PCI suport • Copland on the way • OpenDoc

...done that! Macintosh.

As a longtime Mac user, I love this trip down memory lane. The Mac OS of the time was better than Windows 95 (and each generation has continued to be the same story) even though there were detours such as Copland and OpenDoc. But there was no stopping the juggernaut of Windows. And Twomey was right, Microsoft was the "terrifying competitor." Apple's Mac market share declined to just a few percent.

However, today's Microsoft is not Apple in 1995. Almost all the stories about "doom" end up saying that nobody should get hysterical. No kidding.

Microsoft still has a huge market share advantage in desktops and laptops: more than 93 percent. And it has the great majority of file servers sold into the market. By the way, it has a market cap of $233 billion. Yes, it's made mistakes in mobile computing and tablets. And perhaps again with its latest Windows release. But Microsoft isn't going anywhere and its problems may turn around.

Even in the worst of times, Apple knew how to keep its installed base happy: better, more-usable software, ever faster and more-powerful machines, better design and quality.

Perhaps those classic Apple values are places for Microsoft to start.


Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Servers, Software

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  • So

    This is the year of Mac.....
  • Surface will likely fail, but MS will survive

    Just like it survived Windows ME, Windows Vista, Zune and Kin, among others. Maybe the dismissal of Sinofsky was a step in the right direction. Perhaps if the board can summon the courage to show Ballmer the door, MS will stop chasing Apple and Google and find a way to innovate technology that doesn't prey on the compulsivity of men who grew up on Donkey Kong.

    There are a lot of talented people working at MS and they deserve to succeed. A wholesale management flush may just allow some true shining stars to rise to the top. If MS can start innovating it can be truly great. I'll be the first to applaud if/when they find the recipe.
    • Well Said

      I too think Surface may fail. But I think it also lit a nice fire under hardware manufacturers who must compete with it...except for HP and Acer, who choose to cry real tears about it.
      For that reason, I believe Windos 8 has a future, maybe not on desktops (though I think it will catch on), but certainly in mobile.
      The Mokoda
    • Surface RT maybe..

      But Surface 86x is certainly going to be a step forward in the good direction. The iPad to me is useless and the Surface 86x will be more than welcomed.
      Simon Tupper
  • This article seems very much a reverse of the good ole days when Apple was

    dead or dying. every now and again there would be a "counter" argument made via the then tech magazines that Apple would indeed survive but not often. Still despite what was then conventional wisdom Apple did indeed survive and well thrive:P I hope MS does not fail but even if it does it will take a very long time for such a giant to die. I hope MS mobility play works out for it for we need healthy competition to keep the others yes even Apple honest. Good luck MS and oh by the way it's long past time for a new XBox!!!!

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
  • Market share

    "Microsoft still has a huge market share advantage in desktops and laptops"

    But what does that *mean*? Obviously, mobile devices are what is turning over and people are spending less time at their desks slaving at their Desk-Top Computer PCs. Even laptops aren't turing over very fast because they last longer these days.

    Microsoft's marketshare lock-in was on two simple levels: UI and file types. Oh, have a .doc? You need Office. Oh, uncomfortable using trying another OS? Lucky you've been using Windows for years, you'll love Win7.

    MS threw everything up in the air with dragging their feet on mobile (until the last year or so) and pushing out Win8 with a new UI.

    Meanwhile, people are finding you can open docs in other programs on other OSs, there are different, more interesting UIs. Corp ITs, as usual, are putting the breaks on Win8 upgrades. Etc.
    • And a gamer will always choose windows over Mac

      Mac is really crappy when it comes to price VS capacities... I own a Asus desktop PC, a MacBook pro retina and a Asus Laptop.

      My Asus Laptop can play almost every new games... My MacBook can't play games from 2010 and up...

      Apple really make their products overpriced and really limited... it kills the experience IMO
      Simon Tupper
      • Re: And a gamer will always choose windows over Mac

        More of them are choosing consoles than Windows and Mac put together.

        And soon, if Gabe Newell is right, they might be choosing Linux as well.
        • Linux is nice

          True, but I still like to have games on both consoles and PC.

          Linux is nice, but I don't think that it can compete with all that Microsoft and Apple can offer... It nice o have a free and good OS, but I prefer having an OS that comes with several services that make users' experience better.
          Simon Tupper
  • Articles about Microsoft

    I love how articles claiming that Microsoft is making poor sales and that their products fails at getting attention don't have a single clue nor does it have actual numbers...

    I see a lot of people having interest in my W8 laptop with a touch screen, people love W8, but great changes comes with great disapproval.

    I am sick of people putting down Microsoft... it makes the #1 gaming console, windows 7 is the most successful OS, the Kinect was a success, the Surface is said to represent 14%(or so) of Microsoft's hardware sales (which is good) and WP8 is simply awesome regardless of the lack of some key apps.

    I own a Lumia 920 and really the iPhone 5 can't compete IMO, I don't care much about apps as I never use them except to edit pictures...

    People who complains about W8 have never used it for the most part... W8 is awesome, it's not perfect, but tell me more about how new products are supposed to be perfect at launch? I can't remember any.
    Simon Tupper
    • I agree with you

      I think Windows 8 is great. I love Windows Phone 8 and I think Microsoft is doing well. And I'm frustrated too about the constant bashing that comes from people who haven't tried Windows 8 or mock Microsoft.
      • I love Apple too

        I own some Apple devices, they are great too. I see the good in any product, but I think Microsoft is doing a better job this year than Apple in the last two years.

        The iPad 4 is certainly better that the Surface RT BUT the 86x is going to be mine for sure as it will be way better than the RT.
        Simon Tupper
        • Agreed :)

          I'm not a fan of the iPad but if I had to compare it with the Surface RT I'd say the iPad is the winner but the Surface Pro (x86) beats the iPad i.m.o. because it offers two full UXs in a way that's not pushy nor hard to find. If I need to run a program I can go to the Desktop or if I want to use some M̶e̶t̶r̶o̶ Modern apps I could do that too.

          I'm an Apple fan as well and I appreciate Apple for a long time but I agree with you that Microsoft has been working harder than Apple for the past year or two.
    • Agreed

      Man well said it.
      Totally agree with you.
  • I think this was the year of Microsoft

    I think this year was the year of Microsoft. I can't think of something that Apple's done that's innovative.

    iPhone 5 - Just an improvement from the 4s.
    iPad Mini - Not innovative at all unless you think that making the same thing smaller is innovative.
    iPod Touch 5G - Not really innovative but I love that there's no curve to it. It makes it easier to hold at different angles.
    iMac - Meh. I love the new iMacs even though I find it more of an improvement then real innovation.

    Now, Microsoft's had the fair share of screw-ups. Examples: Zune, Vista

    I don't think Microsoft was 100% innovation this year but I definitely commend them for taking risks and taking chances. Companies that do that show that they're committed to their work and even though the Surface RT is pretty basic keep in mind that this is Microsoft's FIRST attempt at the tablet market in a long time and I'll agree that the Surface RT is a lot better than the Tablet PC was. Aside from the software I think the hardware itself is a bit innovative. I love the built-in kickstand and the Touch Cover which can be a keyboard and a cover when you're not using the Surface. I'm waiting 'til the Surface Pro comes out and I can't wait to get it.

    I also love Windows Phone 8. I love the UI and I hope that more apps are coded for it.

    And last but not least, Windows 8 on PC's and laptops. I love that Microsoft mixed the two UX's in one OS. I also adore the Modern UI and I find it a million times better than the Start Menu. I can find, organize, and execute all my files easier and faster with the Start Screen.

    I hope you don't think of me as an Apple hater. I love Apple and I'm writing this on my Mac Mini but I love using multiple platforms such as Windows 8 Pro and Ubuntu on my laptop.
    • Apple fanboys use the word innovation for anything that is Apple made

      Apple did innovate with the iPhone 3G I cannot deny that BUT seriously I don't see much innovation from Apple in the last 2 years ... Retina is great YES, but the MacBook Pro Retina... come on... I own one, I thought it was going to be an awesome laptop... and it turns out that my Asus laptop for half the price is twice as good...

      Apple must have put a cocaine like powder on their products to make people so addicted to it...
      Simon Tupper
      • I ugh, agree with you..

        I don't just use the word "innovation" for Apple products.

        I agree, the iPhone 3G was pretty great. And Retina was great too but I never understood why they put Retina on the MacBook Pro? I thought it was just fine without it. Maybe it was their excuse to sell more units and make more money - who knows?
      • Thinnovation

        The new thinner iMac still has the same footprint as the one that came before it and still takes the same amount of desktop space. They made it less expandable and yet everyone cheers.

        Seriously, if you want to pay me $1500 to punch you in the face, I'll gladly do it.
  • Anti-Microsoft propaganda

    From a man who admits to owning an official Apple propaganda t-shirt since 1995.

    The wording on his Apple t-shirt remins me that Apple abduction its fans were as smug and arrogant then as they are today.
    Tim Acheson
  • Those Were The Days

    As a former Apple man who remembers every single item in that "Been There, Done That" list, all I can say is, I can't point to a single one that really matters any more. Technologies come and go; they get obsoleted by newer technologies and so die. You can't live in the past--deal with it.

    Companies also come and go. And remember, they are not moral entities, so feeling loyalty to them as a customer is just bizarre.