Monday, 9 January 2012

Microsoft 8 its do or die

The latest version of Microsoft's operating system for smartphones is a revolutionary product for its parent company because it is considered to have both taste and culture. Windows Phone uses the company's Metro interface, whose graphics are so cutting-edge they can make the iPhone seem out of date. Its creators, Microsoft's in-house design team, claim it is changing not only how their products appear, but the company's philosophy.

Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft's world-dominating PCsoftware, will be released later this year and has been given a Metro makeover. The worry is that Microsoft has discovered the power of good taste a little too late.

Windows software is installed on 95% of the world's estimated 1.5bn home and business PCs, but in the western world sales of laptop and particularly desktop computers have reached a plateau. When Windows 8 is released later this year, millions of Microsoft customers will ask themselves whether they should spend money upgrading an old computer, or treat themselves to new one. For many, that new machine is likely to be not a PC but a tablet, and until now Apple has been the only company capable of selling tablets in large numbers.

"The ground is shifting under Microsoft," says Jean-Louis Gassée, former head of Apple Macintosh development and contender for the chief executive role in the late 1980s. "The world will no longer be PC-centric. We will see growing numbers of smartphones and tablets and we as users will spend more time on these devices. PCs will be reserved for the tasks of content creation."

Microsoft sees a future through cleaner Windows | Technology | The Observer

One thing Yahoo! can teach us all, that it takes a long time for the new giants of IT to die. In the case of firms like IBM the dying process is so slow that the company has the ability to rebuilt itself before it dies. That is once a company like Oracle, IBM, Yahoo!, HP, or Dell reach such a size the vibrant growing nature of the IT market and the massive barriers to entry prevent normal market forces from working. There is simply too much increase in demand ever year, and too few new big players to cull the failures.

In the case of IBM this allowed a great firm to survive to become a great firm again, just a different kind of great firm. In the case of Yahoo! it just is a slow pathetic death.

What is going to happen to Microsoft is not entirely clear. Its now certain that everyone who works with Microsoft gets that Windows and Office will not take them in to the future for much longer. Microsoft is facing a world of more mobile devices and the Cloud. So far they have done a very good job of the Cloud. I am confident that Enterprise Cloud will be dominated by Microsoft back ends for some time to come.

The problem has not been the large solutions that run in Cloud farms, but getting Microsoft in to a small device. This is kind of pathetic because their name in MICROsoft. The company was born in the race for the micro computer leaving older mainframe computers in the dust to provide the OS, programming languages and productivity tools for the desktop computing and then laptop computing. Its just that Microsoft has utterly messed up going PALM top.

But this is much more than just a change is overall size of devices, its also a failure to keep up with the change in the social role of computers made possible by this change in size. Microsoft is still stuck in a world of Offices and Windows, a world where computers were grey and used mostly for creating presentations for customer days. Since this time firms like Apple, Google and Blackberry have managed to make computers cool.

Microsoft not only needs to establish itself in the world of small devices running ARM based technology rather than just INTEL chips, which they can do technically without a doubt, but they also need to establish products that can grap the new consumers imagination in the way Android, iOS and Blackberry have, and become as cool as twitter and facebook. This is something they have NEVER done, and probably this element of style and 'class' is where Microsoft looks most like the next IBM or Digital. Computers are never going to be grey again. Can Microsoft live in a world of color?

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