The IE debacle
The internet and mobile were sins of omission. But with IE, management actively shot itself in the foot. In 2003, Microsoft announced that there would be no more standalone versions of IE and that you could only get IE with Windows. It was the height of arrogance from a 90-per-cent market-share winner.
That decision opened the door to Firefox, then known only to open sourcers and geeks. In the years since, it has been downloaded by millions, eroding IE's lead. It made surfing simpler, safer, and more standards compliant. Today, Firefox stands at 24 per cent market share, while IE has hit an all-time-low of 63.5 per cent. And now that people have been released from the "must-have" IE mindset of the 1990s and found there is another way, IE faces a fresh challenge in Chrome from internet search and ads Goliath Google.
Another disaster: The introduction of a new form of licensing for Windows called Software Assurance. It charged a subscription on the basis customers would get upgrades during the two- or three-year lifetime of their SA contract. But in the end, it pushed up customer's licensing costs and - in the case of Windows - new versions were not forthcoming, breeding anger and resentment among customers. Microsoft spent years spicing SA with extras to make the program palatable and provide some perceived form of value for money.
New world, new Microsoft
As Microsoft moves out of the Noughties and into the next decade, the confidence it displayed when it entered the Millennium is gone. The certainties of the old PC world have evaporated while the tactics of Microsoft used in that world - picking a leader and spending furiously to beat them - are challenged in a world where the competition is diverse, fragmented, free, and open.
Opportunities exist for Microsoft in the next decade and the company can succeed again. It might be late to cloud computing with Azure, but most everyone is still on the start line, so it still stands a chance.
If Microsoft can convince open-sourcers it's genuine - and if it no longer lobs grenades on intellectual property and patents that poison the atmosphere - then it could harness open-sourcers on Windows and Azure. The Xbox looks like continuing to challenge Sony, which has acted with a curious inertia to Microsoft throughout The Noughties. And when it comes to rich media, Microsoft's got a winner with Silverlight as an alternative to Adobe's Flash - at least as far as .NET developers are concerned.
In other areas - particularly mobile phones, browsers and search - the missteps of the past will need to be rectified before Microsoft can move on. As for Windows, Microsoft can bask in Windows 7 for now, but one day must find new ways to persuade users to move on to succeeding editions.
One thing is certain. Microsoft will see 2010 as a chance to re-set the clock - and put a painful ten years behind it. ®
Microsoft will soon lose its browser
Microsoft didn't so much lose its mojo. It lost its mobile.
Now that Microsoft's Windows Mobile has been completely knocked out of the mobile handset scene, we'll see cascading effects crashing through Redmond.
For example, soon there'll be more people accessing the internet from mobile devices, rather than desktop/laptop PCs. The Internet Explorer web browser only exists on its failed Windows Mobile platform, which is now out of the game.
That means the future of web browsing is Webkit (eg Safari, Chrome, and many other browsers are based on Webkit).
The other thing worth mentioning is that Microsoft played hardball in the industry. It played nasty. As mentioned in the article, it threatened OEMs with withdrawal of their Windows license unless they played the One Microsoft Way.
People haven't forgotten. PC companies, now becoming phone handset makers, are rushing straight to Android. They remember Microsoft's past behaviour, and don't want this repeated in the mobile scene.
Microsoft has burned it's bridges.
As of January 1, 2010, I will no longer be accepting contracts to work on Microsoft's products ... and I'm going to explain, in excruciating detail, exactly why to anyone who will listen. Including my current customer base which uses MS products.
"If Microsoft can convince open-sourcers it's genuine - and if it no longer lobs grenades on intellectual property and patents that poison the atmosphere - then it could harness open-sourcers on Windows and Azure."
Unlikely. So many open source users are using either Linux or OSX, 1) They're either volunteer, or working for a Linux vendor in many cases. So they won't be "harnessed" unless they want to be. 2) They're not running Windows. 3) To develop for Windows & Azure, for the most part you have to be running Windows. I think cross-compilers are a foreign concept to Microsoft. I for one will never purchase a copy of Windows, or get hardware that has it bundled. (I suppose people could do .NET stuff with Mono if they want on non-Windows systems.)
@jake, good for you! I refuse to work on Microsoft systems now either! In fact most of the people I know that used to fix people's problems either quit, or jacked rates WAY up (like $150 an hour). I think this is a genuine threat to Microsoft, people tolerated Windows faults assuming they could pay some kid like $20 to fix it.. the talented ones either fled Windows, or jacked the rates up! Microsoft products break for no good reason, are virus prone, unstable, and relatively inscrutable compared to the other OSes available. The lack of package management is painful; the poor driver support and tendancy to tie the OS to a machine is painful as well (You know, if you ditch Windows, if your computer dies you can just move the hard drive to a new machine? Yes you can.) These same people complain how "hard" computers are, "why do they break all the time?" etc., and just don't believe me when I say my computer doesn't break because I'm not using Windows.
@AC "Like it or hate it, you still need to use MS."
Like hell I do. And I think Hugh_Pym and DanielB sum it up nicely.... Just knowing the state Windows is in EVEN OUT OF THE BOX, I can't take any pride on my work on it. EVERYTHING felt like a kludge, between the registry and windows/system or windows/system32, I never REALLY knew what was going on, and too often the system behavior was unpredictable. I felt like a (fill in shitty car here) mechanic, it never ran quite well and I knew it was just going to break down soon enough. Admining a UNIX box in contrast is a pleasure, the behavior is predictable, and I know when I am done it is just going to run and run. And as DanielB says, there's plenty of jobs... 1) Microsofters tend to have a distorted view of the market.. Microsoft is large but it's not like there's nothing else. 2) I think there's less job competition in the UNIX market.
Personally I view Microsoft as similar to Digital Research.. they thought they were infallible, based om market share they appeared infallible, throughout the early 1980s. CP/M is dead, and I think Windows is on the way out too. Microsoft will take a LONG LONG time to fall, due to huge cash reserves, and just like every system ever made, there'll be SOME Windows systems left for a long time.
This is another reason I've left Windows behind though -- it's so complex, there's layer upon layer upon layer with sometimes arcane interactions... but to me it'd be like learning the inner workings of CP/M... I just don't think it'll be knowledge I will have a use for.