Friday, July 16, 2010

Will Microsoft evolve again to adapt to the new consumer market?

Microsoft should have failed years ago. After all, most of the companies that were founded at that time either did fail, or became part of other companies.

And, as we know, Microsoft has done so many stupid things, and missed so many boats, in its 30+ year history.

One example - remember how Microsoft completely missed the boat on graphical user interfaces, yielding the high ground to Mac while maintaining DOS as its primary operating system? Oh yeah, they did come up with this kluge called "Windows" that resided over DOS. Whatever became of Windows, anyway?

Another example - remember how Microsoft completely missed the boat on the Internet, yielding the high ground to Netscape while pretty much ignoring the Internet? Whatever happened to Microsoft and the Internet, anyway?

I happened to be writing this post before Apple's press conference (The Revision), realizing that you won't see it until after the world has entirely changed (or maybe not). But the fact remains that when people talk about innovation, they're more likely to mention Apple before they mention Microsoft.

Yet Microsoft has been innovating all along, as those two examples show. Throughout its entire history, Microsoft has demonstrated a history of adapting to a changing market. Perhaps they're sometimes a bit slow at adapting, but they always adapt - with a (literal) vengeance.

Steven Hodson has noted that Microsoft may need to adapt again:

While the corporate IT world hasn’t changed in regards for its desire for a long and stable upgrade cycle the consumer world is changing. It is changing because of the effect of the Web and how rapidly it changes. After all look at how fast things like Facebook and Twitter have taken hold and affected not only the Web but also the software and hardware we use....

But Microsoft doesn’t do short release cycles because for them everything has to go by a timetable that their corporate customers can count on. It is because of this ever increasing sharp division between corporate and consumer needs that Microsoft needs to totally rethink how is separates its different divisions in relation to the targeted end user needs.

Now Hodson has talked about Microsoft and the consumer market before. For example, here's an earlier comment:

I will agree that for most of the company’s past it has been extremely single minded and that in the area of the consumer marketplace they have made a lot of mistakes. At the same time Microsoft has also shown that when it needs to make a change it can do it with amazing speed. We saw this when Bill Gates belatedly realize the mistake the company had made in its estimation of the importance of the Internet.

Unfortunately as Microsoft was shifting gears they were also came at it with their typical corporate-centric mindset and this cost them a lot of consumer, and developer, goodwill.

Yet I believe (and I think Hodson would agree) that it's more than likely that Microsoft WILL adapt, and will adopt a consumer software release model that takes the new realities into account.

Who knows - maybe five years from now the European Union will try to force Microsoft to REDUCE its number of product revisions, just to keep the playing field "level."
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