Monday, November 1, 2010

You've got to work for love - does Microsoft need to change, or has it already changed?

InformationWeek obviously does not force its writers to toe a particular editorial line. Two InformationWeek columns have wildly divergent views about Microsoft's current place in the computing world.

Paul McDougal's piece is called Microsoft Looking Like An End-Stage Company. Excerpt:

Explorer's market share has fallen below 60% for the first time in recent memory, the software maker has largely conceded the only way it can compete in smartphones is through the courts, and so it sued Motorola (and, by proxy, Android developer Google), and Microsoft's board deemed CEO Steve Ballmer's performance over the past fiscal year so mediocre that it slashed his bonus.

Most significantly, Microsoft waived the white flag on social media when it pulled the plug on Windows Live Journal, dumping the blogging platform's users onto the open source WordPress system....

What's that say about its chances in mobile, or search, or tablets, or any of the other growth markets that are driven by younger professionals' demands for tools that are social, collaborative, instant, and always on?

Antone Gonsalves, in Microsoft Girds For Demise Of PC, has a rosier view:

[P]ocketing cash from its legacy products is not what's impressing Wall Street and industry analysts. The optimism is driven by the speed with which Microsoft is moving to the cloud. Rather than try to convince customers that the PC remains the center of the tech universe, Microsoft has chosen rightly in letting other companies, such as Google, and, educate the world about cloud computing, and then deliver the tools customers need to enter the emerging paradigm.

"They waited for the enterprise to adopt the idea, and then came out with their own products," Jillian E. Mirandi, analyst for Technology Business Research, told InformationWeek.

Microsoft customers appear interested. The number of subscriptions for Windows Azure, Microsoft's platform for customers to build and deploy applications in the cloud, grew 40% last quarter, when compared with the previous quarter. Overall, the number of business customers licensing the company's cloud services has more than tripled in the last year, Microsoft reported.

It's interesting to note that the negative assessment focused on products that tend toward the consumer end of the spectrum, while the positive assessment focused on products that tend toward the business end of the spectrum.

Or, to dramatically (and probably incorrectly) oversimplify things, people play with Apple products, but they work with Microsoft products.
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