The Thing About Microsoft is…

Microsoft just recently admitted making mistakes when Vista was released, stating that “We broke a lot of things.” and “There’s a conversation going on in the marketplace today and it’s just plain awful.”

Microsoft Windows Vista LogoWe broke a lot of things.

The conversation referred to is presumably the one where word of mouth is spreading Vista’s incompatibility with many devices and the general feeling of the new OS being a step back from XP. It might also include the conversation where many users, as much as 40% of current college students, are deciding that rather than upgrading to Vista ($130 – $220 depending on the version) they’re going to shell out for a new Mac (who’s computers are now only about $500 more expensive and who’s OS upgrades are only around $80.) Apple’s market share (for Macs) is up to almost 8% (from less than 1% in the late 90’s). Corporations (especially in China) are switching to Linux more and more often. Firefox has as much as 41% of the browser market, which just a few years ago was all but completely dominated by Internet Explorer.

So what happened, and what’s going to happen?

Well, I believe that Microsoft just didn’t care. For years we were complaining about blue screens of death, XP running like a slug after 6 months, viruses destroying our lives via Office and Internet Explorer’s lacking functionality. We were all using Microsoft’s products and we were all pissed, but since we were all using Microsoft’s products, the general statement was “Oh well, that’s to be expected when working with computers.” The key word there? Computers.

But while all of that was happening, another change was in the works. We no longer live in a world where the only people who know how to work well with computers are geeks. There are plenty of every day power users out there and they’re everyone from the coolest rock stars to the suavest business men to the oldest grannies to the youngest kindergardeners. A massive piece of the population knows all about right-clicking, rebooting, virus scanning, and defragging. We’re not idiots anymore, and we’ve heard that there are better solutions out there. It’s no longer “Oh well, that’s a computer for you.” Now it’s becoming, “God dammit Microsoft, WTF?”

And they’re playing catch up, which doesn’t work in the world of technology, not when you were completely ahead and didn’t do anything to keep the vast population who’ve been loyal to you over the past 17 years happy. Not when you were resting on your laurels, developing XBoxes and Surface (which I’ve never even seen in real life) while neglecting the core of your business. A great example might be that even while HD digital camcorders and self-published music and cameras in every cell phone were becoming the standard of nearly every American’s life, Microsoft still didn’t provide you any built in way to work with these tools. Paint, sound recorder and Windows Movie Maker were buried in the OS while iLife was shining bright and enticing people to take advantage of their digital lives. Many consumers, even businesses, are hip to the idea that there are better alternatives out there, and they’ve either already made the switch already or are likely going to be persuaded to do so before I publish this post.

I believe that over the next decade we’ll see Apple take a giant chunk out of the home computer market, particularly as iPhones and iPods become more like computers, all the while Linux setups will continue to infiltrate the developing business world. Microsoft won’t be completely eliminated obviously, but I think the name XBox could easily become more recognizable with the company’s name than Windows.

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