Last week, we had two so-crazy-they-can't-be-true events that sent the internet into a tizzy. And both involved Apple and Microsoft. First, word arrived that Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer would appear on stage with the God-like Steve Jobs at Apple's forthcoming World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco, …
> the next, really big idea in computing, put it into practice and have everybody follow it.
Hmm. Maybe MS could produce Futurama-style suicide booths.
(@TheReg: That article could do with some proof-reading.)
Did ExxonMobil purchase all the cell phone companies or just the big ones with its petty cash?
"Microsoft is a follower not a leader"
Exactly right. Time was when they could do no wrong except in the eyes of techies who viewed their products with distrust and disdain.
Now Apple can do no wrong (coincidentally except in the eyes of techies, for different but related reasons) and have a 28% margin on everything they make. Overpriced? Certainly, but you have to admire it nonetheless.
So there's your target, Mr Ballmer, although the comment about slipping into a black turtleneck perhaps should refer to you slipping into another role...
"To answer Apple's surge, Microsoft must recapture its old vision and then execute to grow significantly in new areas."
You could at least remind us of that 'old vision'. Microsoft has only won big by either buying in ideas e..g spreadsheets or by repackaging the ideas of others e.g. Windows.
Xbox was a blinder. Yes they burned money to do it and the 360 had some unforgiveable quality control issues, but Microsoft did a good job here.
Microsoft muscled its way into the game console market up against Sony and Nintendo (and a dying Sega hardware division). They've consistently made Sony look stupid and slow and wooed a deeply sceptical market. Not to mention the 360 is regularly still outperforming Sony's wonder console.
But their stroke of genius was XBox Live. So far they're the only console company which have got online gaming working well, fast and made it easy to use. The Playstation Network is a joke and Nintendo aren't even in the game. And using the Xbox as a trojan horse into the living room has meant that Microsoft can push other services like Netflix and Sky to their users.
As for everything else - I really like the Zune's interface and online store - they're both better than iPod, but the hardware is so m'eh and the marketing so piss poor that I can't work out why Microsoft hasn't closed down the division.
"Time for Ballmer to slip into a black turtleneck"
He can't. He's not shown an ounce of vision since the beginning of his tenure. For some reason, though, he still impresses the beancounters. Maybe it's all the zeroes that confuse them.
The only credit I will give him is "developers, developers, developers". At least he's got that on Jobs, who seems to think that developers are just sons-of-bitches. Unfortunately, when Ballmer showed his support for developers, Gates was still head of Microsoft.
And he still hasn't done anything remarkable since.
Thanks a lot pal!
I had just got those bloody annoying YouTube videos of Ballmer dancing to mixed-up versions of his speech and now you have to remind me! All I have in my head now is that song "Developers, developers, developers! Developers, developers, developers! Developers, developers, developers!"
Ballmer will right this ship
Yes, Microsoft's flight path is flat or descending. Apple soared past them last Thursday, and today has $12B more air under them - more than 5%. MSFT is on a collision course with Google, AAPL in danger of colliding with XOM.
But with Captain Steve Ballmer's steady hand at the controls...
Oh, darn. I can't even write that. I keep cracking up.
Windows Mobile is toast. They're not an also-ran, they're seriously in "who?" territory. The mini-msft blog today was totally hilarious, as was "Ballmer three envelopes" (Google it). The Kin is a non-starter, WinPho7 looks to be delayed to next year. Nobody wants WinMo6.5, and they don't have any leverage with carriers, and HP was in such dire straits they bought Palm for $1.2B. Android phones are selling 100,000 units a day. Even Dell is making an Android phone. WinPho7 starts with no apps - no cut & paste - no developers - no multitasking. We all had a good laugh at the Microsoft funded IDC whitepaper forecasting 30 bazillion Windows Mobile sales in 2011. That was rich. That'll really get them some play with carriers - a self-funded IDC whitepaper about a fictional product on the Microsoft side, real products and buckets and buckets of soft folding cash on the iPhone / Android side. That scale's going to tip in their favor for sure.
Their tablet plans are even better. They can't stop the iPad. Apple owes them nothing. Nobody has credibly announced a Windows 7 tablet launching this year and if they had one, they would have. Not for grads, nor dads, nor back to school season. Not for Christmas either. Apple will have a full year to put 12 million iPads in the hands of consumers with pent - up demand, and one might imagine those people show off their latest envy inducing gadget, buy some content and accessories. Microsoft's tactical response? They go after Android tablets. Brilliant! The strategy involves driving even more consumers and developers and content vendors (apps and books and magazines and movies, oh my!) into the camp of Steve Jobs so he can have even more money to suffocate Microsoft with. This is truly amazing leadership.
Microsoft still has Windows desktop, Office and Exchange. When we all have nice tablets and phones that don't have the problems that trinity does, I imagine we'll all feel somewhat different about a platform shift away from that mess. Or just walk away from it.
These huge profits you speak of for Microsoft... where are they? If they've been turning billions of dollars in profits per month for the last decade, where is that money? Seriously. Where did it go? You noted they don't have it. The dividends only add up to $25B so they didn't give it all back to shareholders. By your own count that's about 18 months worth. Where are the rest of these legendary, or perhaps mythical "profits"? Lost in the accounting somewhere?
Name a successful Microsoft Innovation
apart from XML Data Objects. Bought in or borrowed doesn't count.
Good but not innovative.
Didn't Java introduce and standardise the use of a interpreted language using the the JVM to interprete bytecodes?
Then C# is introduced that (lo and behold) is converted to MSIL.Which then gets interpreted by the Framework?
C# is a refinement (and a good one), not an innovation.
Okay. Um. OneNote. I might hate it but it's innovative.
The p-system [one of the original operating systems available for the IBM PC, along with CP/M-86 and PC-DOS] also used a virtual machine interpreter. The same binaries would run on Z80, 8086 and 68000 flavors of the virtual machine.
"Microsoft has not stopped innovating"
Did it ever start? Can you name an innovative Microsoft product?
Microsoft is too big to actually do anything really innovative, far too many fingers in far too many pies. Like Oracle and IBM, they have to Borg their innovation. Apple, can think outside the box, select a target, and do different, later, with a better engineer product.
Perhaps Apple should offer Microsoft a $200 dollar life line.
Apple won't stay long a the top
There is absolutely no need to battle to re-top Apple's market cap, it isn't a good business strategy and the valuation will naturally regain first place mid-term. And with today's market volatility a yo-yo situation could develop.
Apple has enjoyed tremendous growth with the iPod but it is now a mature market and there is no significant growth to be had.
Apple has enjoyed tremendous growth with the iPhone but Google is a significant adversary, and after years of stupidity Microsoft will soon bring a worthy alternative to the market & surely Nokia will sometime get a decent product again.
Finally Apple has again a tremendous success with the iPad but there are already very very interesting alternatives designed.
So I guess Apple will soon reach a growth plateau and it will be much more difficult to sustain today's fantastic growth.
Microsoft on the other hand is much more diversified so growth, while probably less spectacular, should be less at risk. Microsoft profits dwarf Apple's one and will continue to do so for many years.
Also contrary to what you write Microsoft is absolutely right to invest and to make big bets and while you say they are followers if you know anything about Microsoft is that most of the time they are dedicated enough to go from follower to dominant player in most fields they choose to play in. As usual 80% of the bets will fails but what counts are the 20% that win.
Some would say that Bing already is at least as good as google's search engine. The Xbox, while a big money looser in the beginning, is doing well. Yesterday's Zune failure is tomorrow's Windows Phone 7's success. Microsoft research is developing tremendous ideas and some will find a place in the market in the end.
say it often enough, and you will start to believe it
"if you know anything about Microsoft is that most of the time they are dedicated enough to go from follower to dominant player in most fields they choose to play in"
Most? Not even close. They owned desktops, for some years, and abused that to ram other products down unwilling throats. I actually think a little humility might be good for them- eating crow over Vista improved Windows, after all.
Ah, Young Grasshopper...
If you had started in the I/T field 25 years ago when the dominant players were IBM OS2, Novell Netware, WordPerfect & Lotus, everyone was doing development with Borland tools and no one ran critical business apps on anything but a mainframe you would show a little more wisdom instead of blind hate for anything Microsoft.
Yes, MS has entered a few markets only to flounder, fail and pull out. But they have had just as many where they went from upstart to dominant player - through innovation, aquisition or just plain determination to keep improving until they came out on top. And lets not forget that Apple did not invent the GUI, the MP3 player, the smart phone or the idea of a small tablet computer. Much like Microsoft they saw an market niche with potential growth and tried to make a better product. Competition is good.
Will the Zune, Windows 7 phone or XBox dominate or fade away? No way to be sure, but I wouldn't be scheduling any dances on Microsoft's grave just yet.
When was OS/2 ever dominant? And it was a joint MS/IBM thingy. MS killed it by not bringing an Office version out for it. You have no clue whatsoever! They killed the rest in a similar fashion, go and read about it ... MS "never" had the better tech, only better leverage ... now, though, they are losing leverage ....
MS can no longer use Windows to force their tech, cloud means anybody from anywhere can do anything ... no need for Windows .... soon MS will crumble!
Then again, if CTO folks had brains, they would have already migrated at least their file servers to Mac OS, because for 1k you get unlimited users ... so maybe MS will prevail, but only because CTO's are as thick as oxo gravy!
Apple will extend its lead
Microsoft has real problems because its products are mature. Who really needs a new version of Office, Exchange, or Server? Companies can keep what they have and soldier on for years without upgrading. The only new licenses needed to be bought would be when buying new hardware, and many times not even then.
Plus, Microsoft has shown little ability to improve Windows, Office, etc. without bloating the software, forcing dramatic increases in hardware requirements. Microsoft is NOT diversified, not for a company of its size. It has three profit centers, which are all related, and nothing in the mobile devices market which anyone wants (Windows Mobile is a joke). Microsoft also can't get out of its own way when updating/redesigning/changing its software – it seems to do everything design-by-committee-and-focus-group, much like GM did in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s – during which time GM went from being the auto industry's powerhouse with 60%+ of the US market to barely surviving with less than 25% of the US market.
The iPod market is not topped out. It won't grow at the pace it did 2-5 years ago, but it's still growing. The iPhone and iPad markets will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and the iPad is redefining personal computers and devices. Competitors won't be able to keep up with Apple because of patents and innovation which Apple can deliver and third party companies can't, because Windows and Android/Chrome simply can't be as seamless and integrated as the iPhone OS is.
HP has the best shot, but I have yet to see HP actually develop good software, so I doubt it will be able to take WebOS and make it be a true competitor to iPhone OS.
Google will never catch Apple because Google can't ever get the "beta" tag off of its software products. Android is already fragmented, with owners of phones unable to update to new versions of Android (unlike the iPhone). And this is only going to get worse as time goes on. Google is notorious for jumping into a new arena, then getting bored and letting whatever half-baked product it released to sit and stagnate. Android is the next to experience Google's wandering eye.
"Microsoft's research is developing tremendous ideas" – that's funny. What new idea has come out of Microsoft research, ever? Apples R&D developed the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Microsoft developed a Big Ass Table for $10,000 which uses 1980s projector technology. Vista had to drop virtually everything new just to get it out the door years behind schedule. Windows 7 Mobile will be so far behind the curve when it is finally released at the end of 2010 (IF Microsoft makes that goal) that it will be laughed at by any other smartphone, let alone the iPhone.
Yeah, great stuff coming out of Microsoft these days.
Who is this 'Exxon Mobile' and do they use Android?
"Let's be clear here. Microsoft has not stopped innovating. It has been doggedly refining Bing, for example, polishing its engine to bring in useful, related data associated with a search."
I just laughed off my backside. Could you be so kind to return it ?
Bing is a joke which only those use who never had seen Google.
The underlying problem of MS is that their leadership is a 500-pound Gorilla. Able to throw chairs and do a lot of hopping and shouting, but unable to be the intellectual center that Gates was.
Apple's competence is Usability and Design while Google's strenght is the thorough application of computer science and maths to the problem of search and cloud services. "Muddling through" won't fix the problem - the best way out would be to accept defeat in search and mobile phones and stop wasting billions each year.
As long as they don't find a smart and decisive leader again, they are damned to steady decline.
Bing is a joke which only those use who never had seen Google.
Have you used it recently?
I'm starting to find more relevant results through Bing than Google these days - if you're looking for something a little specialist or from a smaller company then Bing is actually beginning to get the edge over Google.
For instance - searching for a particular small company in Shropshire; I knew the name of the company but their website was quite new. A Google search returned loads of business directories (none of which listed the web address) with the company in mind not in the first 5 pages of results... same search on Bing except the result I was after was #1.
Once I'd got the web address, I did a site:domain.tld in Google to see if they'd indexed it and yes, they had - but because the website was reasonably new and hadn't developed a zillion external links yet it wasn't appearing anywhere in the first 5 pages of results (I gave up after 5).
I'm pretty much tech agnostic - I use what works best (for the money) for the given situation. Windows 7 on desktop (since I play games), FreeBSD on the server, my Phone's a Sony Ericsson since it had the best camera for the cash *shrugs* - same goes for search and Google seem to be getting more and more biased to "big" web players these days - making their results, often, less relevant than those from Bing.
If I can't find what I'm looking for on Google, I'll try Bing... I wonder when the tipping point will come that it'll be "when I can't find something on Bing, I'll try Google."
Thinking about pivot points
It's still early days, but looking to the future, we are probably going to see a blend of delivery models for desktop computing, whether in a home or business environment. This isn't about devices, indeed it is more about device independence. Microsoft is investing a lot in this area at the moment while Apple, at least looking in from the outside, seems to be going in the opposite direction - more emphasis on devices and locking devices to specific software and services. As of today, the device appears to be the pivot point for market leverage, but I doubt this is sustainable over the longer term.
The big question is going to be where the pivot point shifts to. You could argue that it moves to the content layer, which would also play to Apple's strengths. My feeling though is that content sources will continue to proliferate so the concept of a desktop, or 'virtual home', that holds the ongoing context for your online and other activities might become the point of influence and stickiness. Right now, the Windows client machine fulfils this for the majority of users, though youngsters could be considered to be using services like Facebook for this.
Whether the virtual desktop is something that will help Microsoft in the battle against Apple in the consumer space is debatable, but the fact that Apple appears to be working in conflict with longer term trends towards open virtualised environments in a business context could be significant.
Did anybody sit down and for a second think...
1) That maybe MS should not try to do everything that everybody else is doing?
2) That there is no next big thing. At least not necessarily. (no new ideas concepts in IT since the 70s)?
3) That there is nothing wrong in doing best what you do best instead of trying to beat everybody at everything at the same time?
Honestly no one has a healthier business software ecosystem than MS does, the FOSS do not even remotely get what WIN/OFFICE/EXCHANGE is all about.
MS is on a self-inflicted destruction path, once Ballmer is gone (they will force him to go sooner than later) there's no coming back, they will accelerate the fade away rate. MS is its own worst enemy.
"Microsoft has not stopped innovating..........It's just that with so many of these projects, Microsoft is a follower not a leader."
Spot the logical discrepancy.
Microsoft never had any "vision". They were standing in the right place at the right time. They had it phenomenally lucky, courtesy of bozo Unskilled Management the planet over - their success exactly co-incided with the age of manager-worship. And now it's the long slow lights-out.
Maybe with this concrete off our ankles one day, things might get interesting again.
The problem is...
Microsoft have never been "cool".
Apple are a design boutique first and foremost. The frequent (pointless) statistic of their only having "7%" of the market is utterly misleading: Apple are no more interested in stuffing office buildings with their iMacs than Nike are interested in making formal footwear for weddings. In the markets Apple *are* targeting, they're doing pretty damned well.
No, seriously: check out the stats from the recent OS X release of Valve's Steam. OS X clearly has a bloody sight more than a 7% market share of the *consumer* market, and has done for years.
Many developers who have targeted both platforms will tell you that their OS X sales are often not far off parity with Windows sales. Windows isn't quite the runaway success in homes that the corporate shills would have you believe.
Microsoft's core strengths have always been in the fields of developer tools and technologies. Everything else is just expansion for the sake of feeding their gluttonous shareholders. Windows is primarily a convenient wrapper for all MS' technologies. Even Microsoft Office's success has been primarily due to its integrated APIs. You can customise MS Office in ways OpenOffice's developers never even dreamt of.
But Microsoft has always been a company of nerds. For decades, it was run by one. (Today, it's run by a talentless prancing fool, but nobody's perfect.) That legacy is holding the company back. Once upon a time, the nerd *was* the market, but that no longer holds true. The nerd is the kind of idiot who wanks on endlessly about "open source" and "freedom"—concepts most users care not one jot about.
The nerds have moved on to GNU / Linux, and they're welcome to it. Microsoft are now left with little more than big corporate customers. Granted, that's a big market to play in, but it is not—and never will be—cool.
As far as the consumer is concerned, Microsoft is the Ford of IT. Old, big... and boring. Apple are the Aston Martin. (GNU / Linux is just a bunch of components. A perfectly decent, standard, chassis on which "kit OS" manufacturers are building their usually mediocre, wannabe crud. Though there are a couple of exceptions.)
"No, seriously: check out the stats from the recent OS X release of Valve's Steam. OS X clearly has a bloody sight more than a 7% market share of the *consumer* market, and has done for years."
The point is on the difference between a 'user' and a 'consumer'. Some users think about what they want and then buy it. They are willing to pay good money for want they want. Some users get along with the default and what they can get for free. They do not actively differentiate between the best of breed and the market leader. Almost all Apple users fall into the first group and could rightly be called 'consumers'. A large number of Windows users, especially home windows users fall into the second group. This is why the number of installed units is not a measure of the market for additional sales.
Re : The problem is...
"GNU / Linux is just a bunch of components"
Which somehow provides excellent service on my 6 workstations/servers/laptops & netbook. Does everything I want so why should I give Apple or MS my money ? In any case the workstations often run (for days ) protein dynamics simulations that don't have a Windows version
(I assemble all my own desktops so no MS tax - the latest dual-core only cost £300 pounds )
Re : The problem is...
"OS X release of Valve's Steam. OS X clearly has a bloody sight more than a 7% market share of the *consumer* market"
Is this supposed to justify the 'superior nature' of OSX , that an even larger percentage of users play games than do Windows users - why am I suprised ?
(I think Aston Martin might sue for defamation by the way )
"Apple are a design boutique first and foremost." - that does say it all !
So you don't value design?
That's a very old fashioned view. Design is an important part of all business processes. That's exactly *why* Microsoft have struggled recently. Vista felt cobbled together whereas Windows 7 really does feel (and look) designed. All of the leading products in there respective fields have been designed and styled; cars, electronics, furniture, buildings, even software. Sean Timarco Baggaley suggesting that "Apple are a design boutique first and foremost." is naive at best, and scoffing at design is actually quite immature. Apple are a consumer products company that have a design led development process--hence the recent success. This is not a question of semantics, "Design boutique" is a very dismissive turn of phrase for an essential part of the whole product lifecycle.
Noovation / C#
That's a thinly veiled copy of Java. Their "innovation" was to improve *slightly* on Java.
One could argue that WYSIWYG in Office was an innovation and certainly the concept of a "horizontal" computer business model was a business innovation.
The "vertical" computer companies simply could not compete against the economics of MS, Intel, Dell, Compaq, Seagate and so on.
I recall using a unix-based word processor called 'Wysiword' the same year wordstar 7 was launched on the 286 based AT. It included a trypeface editor (we hadn't broken the word font back then) and a photo editor & vector graphics tool.
Byte magazine was previewing wysiwyg editors before word 4 appeared.
Bravo by Butler Lampson, Charles Simonyi et al. at Xerox Parc in 1974, 15 years before Office first appeared--on the Mac for those that are interested...
The Candle that burns 4 times as bright burns 4 times shorter. Apple will burn out. Microsoft will slowly descend as all empires do and will need a radical overhaul to jettison it's quint old software production methods and move to FOSS.
The only thing I know for certain is that patience and science pays off.
re: "patience and science pays off"
Hells yes, the science gets done and you make a neat gun for the people who are still alive.
Bing vs Google
Just misspell "valgrind" as "valgirnd" and do that on both search engines. Compare results and see that Bing is crap.
I bet that at least 20 percent of search terms are incorrectly spelt, but Bing fails on that.
Bing == Google
first entry I get is the same on both ... a link to the Wikipedia valgrind article
Try using http://blindsearch.fejus.com/ and see how your brand bais filter really works :)
"Let's be clear here. Microsoft has not stopped innovating."... "It's just that with so many of these projects, Microsoft is a follower not a leader."
You are contradicting yourself there. If Microsoft is a follower then it is by definition not innovating. Personally I can't recall the last time there was any 'innovation' out of Microsoft.
Missing the Boat again
Microsoft have a history of missing the boat and then playing catchup by using its corporate muscle to buy the sea the boats are floating on so that its, often inferior, boat has that sea all to itself.
Trouble is, this time, the seas aren't for sale and are owned by corporations that have (at least) as much clout as MS.
With the likes of Apple and Google already having a massive head start with their state-of-the-art racing yachts, by the time MS manages to whack the decrepit pedalo that is WinMo into something even remotely seaworthy, the race will have already been won.
Microsoft's tactics of the last ten years only hold good if you can afford to muscle everyone, too.
They're going to have to stop sucking, and make things that people want to use, rather than that their boss forces them to use, to stand a chance against Apple and Google.
Same old story
Steve Jobs was an Engineer, So was Gates after a fashion, Balmer is a bean counter. Whenever a bean counter leads a company, it is usually down. Gates and Jobs had vision, Balmer, a bottom line. I don't see MS dying anytime soon, but they have been left behind by Google, Apple, and others. Did people really upgrade to Win 7 because they thought it was good? or because Vista was such a pile of crap?
Inovation? At Microsoft? Where? Its just year on year updates on existing products. Most people in companies could really get by on word 97, but they keep churning out new versions with so many "improvements" and corporate buyers keep buying them. Why?
How long will it be before someone in Asia/China decides to free themselves from the America strangle hold on software?
Microsoft needs to remember its roots, its a software company. So why are they not writing oddles and oddles of great software and Apps for the Iphone, Ipad and Mac (at prices people are prepared to pay). It should be riding on the back of Apple's success. But no, they'd rather go head to head. Silly Balmer.
Steve Jobs was an Engineer, Gates a lawyer and Balmer is a bean counter. Microsoft's only innovation was a legal framework that could be used to control anyone that came into contact with them. An innovation so powerful that it has kept them in clover for decades.
Uh, not quite indeed
Gates used to hack out BASIC interpreters on mainframes. Some of them are still out there. They're remarkably good coding, for the times.
That's the core problem as I see it. It's easy to be disparaging about Microsoft just by writing M$, but what about Apple? Until there's an equivalent, I see no possibility that Apple will fall from grace...
No doubt the dusty old manual entitled "Embrace, Extend & Exterminate" is being tarted up for another fanfare of a launch to lure IS Managers with bulging pockets to spend on the 'next great thing', to discover they fell into yet another trap.
Except for the fact there isn't a lot of cash in their pockets any more.
Ballmer in a turtleneck?
The idea of seeing big fat sweaty and foul smelling Steve Ballmer in a black turtleneck makes me want to barf.
With his head that looks like a bowling ball and his goofball clown antics.
Sorry to have to go ad hominem rather than to just criticize his failed old world style robber baron business tactics, but seriously.