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?

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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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36 comments
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  • So

    This is the year of Mac.....
    Vish2801
  • MICROSOFT IS DEAD...

    Wintel was killed by the iPad.

    The days of powering up a beige box with a power-sucking Intel chip that runs an overpriced and buggy OS from Microsoft just to get on the Net and check email are over!

    Wintel stifled both competition and innovation for over 3-decades.

    If it were up to Microsoft, we would still be carrying around 12-pound laptops with 30-minites of battery life that left third degree burns while sitting in your lap.

    93-percent of the Desktop market today means the same thing that 93-percent of the VCR market meant when the DVD came into existence.

    Microsoft has ZERO mobile prescence...and we all know that mobile is the future.

    Windows RT is a joke.

    Windows Phone 8 is also laughable.

    Windows 8 is reprehensible.

    In 5-years, Microsoft will be milking the last of its legacy customers and writing software for the real mobile players; and Windows will be forgotten.

    Microsoft is not brilliant, just lucky.

    They will forever be remembered as a company that wasn't admired, but tolerated.

    Their legacy is that of an unscrupulous company that stole, intimidated and bullied their way to the top, because on their own all they could ever produce was shoddy, bug infested software!
    orandy
    • Yeah, Right, Sure-Sure

      Two thirds of what you say, you have no suporting evidence (just rehashing old FUD), and half of the other third is pure speculation. Of course, we are all merely speculating.
      I defy you though to pledge to follow up in five years and see if any aspect of your prediction comes to pass.
      The Mokoda
    • Okay, I'll bite...

      > Wintel was killed by the iPad.

      Actually the iPad competes in a slightly different space. Mobile Intel e.g. UMPC style "tablets" are definitely dead. MS has responded by going to WinARM (if you want to use that daft naming convention).

      > The days of powering up a beige box with a power-sucking Intel chip that runs an overpriced and buggy OS from Microsoft just to get on the Net and check email are over!

      Sure. Most of us check it on phones, tablets, laptops etc. Of course, hardly any PCs are beige anymore. The latest OS is very cheap (and actually, since many PCs still run XP, if you factor in cost per year, XP was very cheap as well). But I accept what you said - no more beige boxes. Move on.

      > Wintel stifled both competition and innovation for over 3-decades.

      How so? By standardising the industry it enabled the home computing boom of the 90's and early 00's. By giving the insane number of combinations of hardware that existed a common base to build on, it enabled vast deployment of software across enterprises. Sure, MS did involve in some anti-competitive practises back in the day and they were called out on it, and legally smacked around. But to say that their net worth to the industry hasn't been good is pure anti-MS bias.

      > If it were up to Microsoft, we would still be carrying around 12-pound laptops with 30-minites of battery life that left third degree burns while sitting in your lap.

      This is a daft statement, and you know it. A pure install of Windows, with none of the crapware in it, has excellent power management profiles right out of the box. MS gave manufacturers standardised ways to manage the power of their machines (ACPI compliance etc.). But MS weren't the hardware manufacturers. It was Apple, who also make their own hardware, who took the step of making non-removable batteries in order to increase their size and therefore their life. Lots of the tech elite hated them for it. And it only occurred in the last 4-5 years!

      > 93-percent of the Desktop market today means the same thing that 93-percent of the VCR market meant when the DVD came into existence.

      Odd analogy - VHS was realistically a single use only medium - it had one purpose. DVDs were cheaper, more reliable, had more things it was capable of across both home entertainment and computing. VHS could not upgrade itself to meet the current market. The desktop market does - the desktops and laptops on sale today are vastly superior to ten (or even five) years ago. In reality, the markets you tried to paint a picture with don't compare.

      > Microsoft has ZERO mobile prescence...and we all know that mobile is the future.

      Don't forget, mobile also includes laptops. In which case, it has a huge presence. Windows Phone 8 is the platform that everyone is talking about. Their is actually interest in Surface RT believe it or not - if nothing else the eye-catching looks of the Modern UI have got people talking.

      > Windows RT is a joke.

      Time will tell. I'm inclined to think it is a mis-step at most. It is definitely a transition product.

      > Windows Phone 8 is also laughable.

      Nice, fanboyism starting to take over any sense of reasonable argument at your end I see.

      > Windows 8 is reprehensible.

      As somebody who actually uses it - no it's not. It's fast, stable and cheap. It has an awkward UI mishmash, but it doesn't take too long to get used to. Certainly no longer than the switch between Windows and OS X, or iOS and Android or WP8.

      > In 5-years, Microsoft will be milking the last of its legacy customers and writing software for the real mobile players; and Windows will be forgotten.

      I'm sure somebody said very similar stuff 5 or 10 years ago. Keep going.

      > Microsoft is not brilliant, just lucky.

      Matter of opinion - they were definitely a combination of both in the early years, like most of todays tech giants.

      > They will forever be remembered as a company that wasn't admired, but tolerated.

      Depends on who you talk to.

      > Their legacy is that of an unscrupulous company that stole, intimidated and bullied their way to the top, because on their own all they could ever produce was shoddy, bug infested software!

      Or as a company that standardised and enabled the massive growth of the PC industry. Yes they stomped on people on the way up, and yes they were rightfully told off under anti-competition laws. Their software has been shoddy in the past, largely due to its complexity and the corporate infighting at Microsoft, but the MS of today is vastly different to the MS of 10 years ago.
      Ben_E
    • you are kind of expert... aren't you?

      Dude first thing first you should chill out.
      You are taking this review very personal.
      Yes Microsoft had its vicious moments but that company has changed dramatically. This is not the same (administration) Microsoft as we know.
      Things that you have mention earlier on are silly. As someone already told you with no evidence/ source of it, your comments are worthless.

      You have compared iPad with entire Microsoft empire. Well... I think that's just lame. However iPad is cool device but ask your boss (if you work for big companies/corporations) to swap (get rid off) all laptops/desktops, servers etc in favour of iPads. Also try and join to the domain (for some serious work).
      Have you been using Surface with Windows RT for sometime?
      Have you been using Windows 8 Pro with touch screen for some time?
      Bokani
    • Dead? There's a BIG Fundamental Market Change...

      Back in the day, we all wanted Mac's but most of the kids I knew got Windows 3.1 PC's instead because nobody's parents could afford to buy their kid a $3,000+ machine. So we got our 386 boxes, loaded up Castle Wolfenstein (and later Doom), and the PC market took off in a big way.

      Microsoft became dominant because it was the cost-effective alternative to Macintosh, which was a high-end product for "professionals". That led businesses & consumers to adopt PC's, and drove Mac into the tiny "high-end niche" that it's remained in ever since.

      TODAY, however, Google is the low-price choice for computing - not Microsoft. Take a stroll through Best Buy, and you'll see "low, low prices" on Android Phones & Chromebooks, which has kept Microsoft out of the Smart Phone market and now threatens to erode their PC dominance as well.

      To make matters worse, Microsoft is helping the situation by making radical changes to Windows that are undermining consumer confidence in the platform. That makes it easier for people to switch, since if they're going to learn a new OS anyways they'll opt-in for low-priced alternatives.

      Right now, Microsoft is hanging on by "current market dominance", but with Apple cutting out the high-end and Google eating the low-price market, it just might leave Microsoft as a shrinking "middle class" in the computing market with no real future in sight...
      timventura
  • 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.
    gregv2k
    • 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
    anonymous
  • 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.
    edelbrp
    • 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.
        ldo17
        • 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.
      dtourond
      • 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.
          dtourond
    • Agreed

      Man well said it.
      Totally agree with you.
      Bokani
  • 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.
    dtourond