Can Microsoft regain its leading position with Windows 8?

October 16, 2012 • Business, Microsoft • Views: 1344

According to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt Microsoft is not among the top four leading tech companies. These are Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google. That’s what we can learn from last week’s interview by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, For sure these are great companies, providing wonderful solutions, but I honestly believe we can just talk about a top 5 including Microsoft. [Updated 9 Nov 2012]

Microsoft no longer among the leading tech companies?

Of course we can complain about Windows Vista, which might not have been the best operating system ever and Windows Phone is still very small. On the other hand Windows 7 was a big leap forward. Worldwide there are over 1.3 billion Windows-based systems and over 1 billion MS Office users. We can also easily conclude Microsoft is ruling the business desktop environment.

Microsoft offers software from operating system up to cloud and everything in between. Increasingly, all these products and solutions are seamlessly integrating with each other. That’s something the so-called top 4 doesn’t offer and it’s something the business user really needs.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree Apple has changed the way we think about technology today in many ways and Steve Jobs has done an amazing job. They have designed great devices and changed the mobile landscape, but what’s next? The recent iPhone 5 presentation basically lead to disappointment among Apple users (I’m one of them), they expected more. Besides, iOS 6 for iPhone and iPad and OS X Mountain Lion (the Apple PC operating system) didn’t bring the new functionality the users were hoping for.

Apple looks a bit Jobsless ….

Google is offering a really nice cloud solution with Google Apps, Amazon provides perfect cloud solutions and Facebook manages to attract over a billion users. But in my opinion Google Apps can really not compete with Office365 and for sure not with the soon to be released new version. Amazon Cloud Services has a very competitive offering compared to Windows Azure, but they don’t offer all the other things.

So in fact it’s close to impossible to compare Microsoft with all of them. Microsoft’s efforts seem not to be appreciated by the market. They are perceived to be not innovative. The “blue screen” syndrome of the nighties is probably still chasing them.

Microsoft preparing for a revolution

But Microsoft seems to be willing to fight back. This fall Microsoft will release some new solutions which potentially can cause a revolution in today’s IT-world. The main question is whether the user is willing to accept this revolution. Microsoft is for sure fully focussed to make a success out of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

The PC, 1981, really mainstreamed technology; Windows 95 really brought computers to be open and accessible to people every day. But with Windows 8, this year, right now, right here, with this reimagination, this will kick off what I consider to be the most epic year in Microsoft’s history, and that’s coming off of a pretty exciting year. (Steve Ballmer, keynote WPC12)

Recently, Ballmer mentioned in his Shareholder Letter that Microsoft is from now on a devices and services company. To make Windows 8 will succeed and to push other suppliers of devices, they’ve even decided to develop their own device.The Surface will be the first by Microsoft developed tablet to hit the market on the Windows 8 release date, October 26. Rumours by BGR that Microsoft is also working on a Windows Phone 8 device haven’t been confirmed to date (as far as I’m aware).

Will Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 succeed?

But Microsoft is not there yet. As Farhoo Manjoo mentions in the Pando Daily it is not guaranteed Microsoft will succeed, for one simple reason: “We don’t have any clue, yet, what most customers—i.e., regular non-tech people—think of Microsoft’s mobile efforts. When Windows 8 hits the streets later this month, will people consider it a fresh, exciting take on an aging interface? Or will they recoil at the jarring difference between the new and the old, at how radically they’ve got to change how they work to accommodate the new software? And will the new Windows Phone finally push people to take a look at Microsoft’s left-behind mobile OS? Or will they be too thrilled by the iPhone to even care? At the moment, these huge, company-defining questions loom over Microsoft’s future.”

And the future will tell ….. No guarantees upfront.

Windows Phone 8 will look very similar to Windows Phone 7, although there are huge differences. It’s probably the most end-to-end secure mobile device. When connected to Office365 / Sharepoint, you will always have access to all your document, wherever you are. I expect such features might be very appealing to business users, especially combined with great devices like the Lumia 920 and the Samsung ATIV S.

The main issue might be the “modern UI”. Microsoft has reinvented the user interface. For many users this will mean a big change and the main question is whether the user will really love it and be willing to change. Personally, I love the new chrome-less design and I already met many more people with the same opinion.

The success of Windows 8 is highly depending on the acceptance of the new UI, which Microsoft is using across all platforms, being the desktop, tablets, smartphone and Xbox. If the user does, Microsoft is back or stays in the driving seat, if not it might get harder because a plan B seems not foreseen.

[Update 9 Nov 2012] Today I found a great, neutral post by Tom Taulli at Forbes.com supporting a lot I mentioned above, Will Windows Phone 8 be a game changer?. I think it’s worth sharing.

I’m really excited about both solutions and while being in the US in the upcoming weeks, I hope to be able to buy myself a new Windows 8 device, because in the end like always the proof of the pudding …… 

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