Thursday, September 12, 2013

Microsoft is doing to much too late

Companies who fail to adapt to new market realities are often accused of doing "too little, too late". However, in the case of Microsoft I think they may be a case of doing  "too much, too late".

Until recently Microsoft had a virtual monopoly in the market for operating systems and productivity software that ran on Desktop PCs. People who were technology aware tended to favour either a MacOS desktop (which its fans claimed as being so much better that it justified the extra cost) or Linux (which is available for free but is rarely offered pre-installed on new PCs). However, there was (and indeed still is) a market for people who don't want new features and would prefer if the interface stayed the same as the one that they fist learned to use over a decade ago. In order to defend their monopoly position Microsoft made minimal changes to their software and put a top priority on backward compatibility which ensured that they appealed to people who did not want to learn any new interface.

In the last 5 years or so it became clear to Microsoft executives and anyone else observing the computer industry, that the desktop is becoming less important. In order to appeal to this new market Microsoft developed Windows mobile and then Windows v8. This was a brave move because, although these interfaces have received good reviews from people who have put the effort into learning them - the interfaces are very different from earlier versions of Windows and hence they force Windows users to learn something new.

I personally know only one person who has a Microsoft windows based phone - although he tells me that he grew to love it once he invested in learning the unconventional interface. The only thing I hear about Windows 8 based desktops is enquiries from people who are technical laggards asking if there is any way to downgrade from the version of windows 8 which came with their new PC.

I applaud Microsoft for their bravery to experiment. However, they have already lost their fans among the technical elite because of their slowness to innovate. With Windows 8 coming out I feel that they might also be set to lose their fans among the sizeable portion of the public who don't want to learn new technology.

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