In the 80s, Microsoft became the biggest technology company in the world. The invention of the Windows operating system made computers usable for the everyday person. The company continued to grown throughout the 90s, with better and better versions of Windows and other software and hardware ventures. However, Microsoft floundered in the age of the Internet.
While its operating system was the platform that most people used to access the web, it was overtaken on several innovative fronts by Google, Apple, and other tech companies. It seems that the company has completely lost its innovative thinkers and now leans on its successful products: Windows and Office. The company has been in a tail-spin for years, and the future seems bleak.
One of Microsoft’s weakest points is that they like to copy other innovators who have had success in a particular market. Look at the iPod and iPhone. Microsoft saw that Apple had created a genius business model based on a digital marketplace. Enter Zune, Microsoft’s answer to the iPod. It’s basically a poorly rehashed iPod with its own music marketplace.
Most teenagers today probably don’t even know what Zune is, because it never really left the ground. Microsoft thought that they could simply copy what another company had done without adding any innovation, and it would be a success. Wrong. The Zune was a failure from the beginning. A former Microsoft executive said that Apple killed the Zune before it even launched and that ”they weren’t brave enough” to compete with the technology. Now Zune resides as a music marketplace on the Xbox console. The music players are no longer being made.
The next biggest failure of Microsoft’s would have to be the Internet Explorer browser. Back in the 90s, Microsoft managed to be the dominant browser by far, with nearly 90% of users using the software to browse the fledgling World Wide Web. That number has dropped to 25%, while its main competitor Google Chrome has 42% of the user base as of June 2013.
The Internet browser failed to keep up with web standards and became a sluggishly slow browser to use. Web coders hated Internet Explorer for the longest time because they would have to put fixes into their code so that web pages would be viewed correctly. With the smooth running, highly extensible Google Chrome having nearly twice the market share, Internet Explorer isn’t looking to rebound any time soon.
The current failure of Microsoft seems to be one of the two things that keeps the company in the black: its Windows operating system software. The Windows 8 operating system launched with the idea that computing was moving towards tablets, and away from PCs. So, for Windows 8 they made their operating system optimized for the tablet market. While the operating system is a fresh new look and actually is great on a tablet, they seemed to forget that their staple consumer resides in the business sector. With the functionality of Windows 8 focused on a tablet and mobile market, businesses are holding their breath to upgrade from the much more business friendly Windows 7.
Alongside Windows 8, Microsoft released its Surface tablet. The tablet was designed to be a business friendly tablet that incorporated everything that people loved about Windows, including Microsoft Office. While the tablet is impressive in places, it’s failed in its release by falling millions of sales short of its goals. Once again, Microsoft steps into a category that has already matured, expecting that it can take over market share without a killer edge in innovation. Seriously, slapping a rubber keyboard onto a tablet isn’t that useful.
There are many other Microsoft failures, but they have some successes. The Xbox has been a successful dance into the video game console market place and the Xbox 360 was a great follow up. The Xbox One was announced in June of 2013 and unfortunately for Microsoft, the tech world is saying that Sony’s Play station 4 is going to be the clear front runner from now on.
Microsoft’s problem is clearly an innovation problem. They’ve copied Google; they’ve copied Apple (multiple times over many decades); and they’ve tried to copy Sony. Many of their copycat schemes have succeeded to bring the company vast fortune . However, the gig seems to be up for Microsoft as the young innovative crowd finds itself centered in next generation companies like Google. The company looks to be on a slow painful decline as it continues moderate success mixed with incalculable failure.
Serge is the technical founder at Edictive, production management software based in Sydney, Australia.