Microsoft, get back to work!

Microsoft is still in pursuit of the tablet market according to Ballmer, but it needs to get back to its roots

Steve Ballmer assured analysts and the world that Microsoft is hard at work developing a Windows 7-based tablet to compete with devices like the Apple iPad. It is also putting the finishing touches on Windows Phone 7, and preparing to launch the innovative Kinect controller for the Xbox 360. The problem for Microsoft is that these are not its bread and butter markets, and its dominance with business customers is slowly slipping away while it dabbles in consumer gadgets.

Microsoft has always had a consumer side. Microsoft Windows has been established as the de facto consumer desktop operating system. Internet Explorer enjoys a dominant market share among Web browsers. Still, it seems that most of the efforts Microsoft makes in the consumer market are unsuccessful.

Some Microsoft consumer technologies--like the Zune music player--have been technically sound, yet have failed to capture the attention of consumers or dent the dominance of the Apple iPod. Other consumer technologies--such as the Xbox 360--are a success in the market now, but operated at a loss for so many years that breaking even probably won't happen soon. Then there are the abject failures like Microsoft BOB, or the recently executed Kin social phone.

Microsoft, Google, and Apple seem to all suffer from such an intense desire to dominate markets and crush the competition that they jump into every market at once and end up doing a half-assed job at everything rather than a focused and excellent job developing the products and services their brands were built on. It's a sort of "throw every gadget, application, and technology at the wall and see what sticks" business strategy.

Historically speaking, fighting a war on too many fronts simultaneously is almost always a fatal flaw. It spreads valuable resources too thin, resulting in weakness, and eventually collapse. Just ask Napoleon.

Does Microsoft need a tablet? Will Windows Phone 7 be a success? Mobile platforms like tablets and smartphones are a computing revolution that Microsoft can't ignore, but Microsoft needs to be sure it is looking beyond the impulse to compete for the sake of competing, and that its tablet and smartphone efforts fit into a larger strategic vision that makes sense.

Microsoft holds a virtual monopoly on the desktop operating system, and office productivity software markets, as well as a comfortably dominant position with Internet Explorer and Microsoft Exchange. Instead of consumer-oriented products like music players, and gaming consoles, Microsoft should focus its efforts on its core business customers.

At the same time, though, Microsoft can't expect to just coast on the coattails of its former glory and rely solely on those products--at least not the way they are today. Microsoft needs to look at the direction technology is going--virtualization, cloud, mobility--and figure out how to adapt its core portfolio to continue meeting its customers' needs in an evolving marketplace.

Microsoft has those efforts going as well with Azure, and the recently-unveiled Windows Azure Platform appliance. But--if Microsoft would focus its resources on initiatives like that rather than consumer gadgets it might have much greater odds of success.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags AppleMicrosoftWindowsWindows 7softwaremicrosoft officeoperating systems

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?