Microsoft has major potential, if only...
I've written it dozens of times and I will probably continue to do so (maybe even more times) because quite frankly I really think that Microsoft does manage to create some very impressive software environments. Were they late to the party when looking at common aspects such as multi-user? Sure. Did they come in late when it comes to better security, separation of userland and kernelspace and rolling all of that into a user friendly manner?
But looking at Windows 7 I also think its fair to say that eventually they did manage to do just that. And when looking further, the management components, I also think that their whole MMC (Microsoft Management Console) is plain out impressive when looking at all the stuff you can do there. From controlling your firewall to managing certificates (on a user, service or system level), and all of that can even be applied to remote computers or servers too. Before I discovered PowerShell I actually used an MMC module which I had set up myself which contacted all my in-house servers and allowed me to easily check up on their event logs. All from one program.
Even Windows 8 and Server 2012, which I personally despise due to the Metro interface, has made some significant progress on this field. Which, despite my personal opinion about these products, is impressive.
Office? LibreOffice is coming really close now where basic functionality is concerned, but having a whole programming environment at your disposal (VBA language & full IDE) which allows you to program on an "office level" (full access to the whole office suite, not merely the program you're working with. I can 'do' stuff in Excel or Outlook even if I'm basing my software on Word) is pretty darn impressive too.
Service management? Either you check 'm out using the GUI (which is, you might have guessed is, is powered by MMC) or use commandline tools such as sc ("service control"). Need to check if the service behind your shares is still up? Open a DOS prompt: "sc query lanmanserver" and wham.
And that's not even mentioning other interesting software such as Microsoft Expression Web (discontinued) and/or Visual Studio. Both of which can be used completely free of charge, even for commercial purposes.
If only they would put their money where their mouth is. They have a huge infrastructure (once again something I consider impressive) when it comes to the "Microsoft community" if you will (dunno of that's the official name). There are dozens of fora, many websites will conduct periodic surveys (it sometimes can even get annoying) and for most products they even maintain official means for the end users to respond to the software (for example by allowing them to send in suggestions).
Its all there. Not always as easy to find perhaps (but then again..) but still there.
So here comes the hard part: why doesn't Microsoft pay any attention to what the masses have to say? It has happened time and time again on a lot of different platforms. From Visual Studio 2012 (in which I also participated) to Windows 8 and Office related manners. Thousands of people who vented their opinion, and if you went through those (huge) threads it became pretty clear what the general opinion regarding a product was.
For the record: Even with something as the Office Ribbon it became quite clear that people were divided, that there wasn't a clear like or dislike. Heck, even though I dislike the environment with a passion I'll have to admit that the same applies to Skype. In general people like Skype, simple.
So what does Microsoft do with this major customer feedback? Absolutely nothing. At least that's the impression they give out. Sure; I wouldn't be surprised if there are people within Microsoft who are tasked with customer feedback and customer relations. But it doesn't get nearly as much attention as it should have. Worse yet; as soon as it becomes clear that the masses really do not like a specific feature or option (for example because it gets tens of thousands of votes and comments, in an area where a few hundred reactions is common) then Microsoft doesn't seem capable to adapt. In the many cases I've seen so far the initial "solution" was mostly driven by a single person who merely so happened to work for Microsoft and thus could also only do so much.
So a long story which basically boils down to: Microsoft needs to wise up and start realizing that they no longer live in a world where there's only Windows and Office. There is no more expectation of a large customer base simply because said customer base has no alternatives to begin with. Because they do.
Microsoft should realize that the massive popularity of tablets is something they could easily have created themselves. No, I'm not talking about the Windows tables or Metro, quite the contrary. I'm talking about a growing amount of people who got totally fed up with Windows (esp. during the Vista and Windows 8 days) and started looking for decent alternatives. Preferably something cheaper than Apple while still easy to use. Enter the tablet...
If people massively cry out for a start menu then give them a start menu. If you don't then I'm pretty sure that you can start preparing for the next major cutback.
If Microsoft doesn't wise up here, if they don't start becoming a competitor instead of a dictator-want-to-be then they are heading for a lot more trouble.
Something I personally really hope to see will never happen, but if they keep this up...