Microsoft sits on the edge of a product launch that is clearly the most important in the company’s history. Windows 8 is the biggest change for the company since Windows 95. There is no way to exaggerate the critical nature of this product. The new OS with Windows Phone 8 represents the company’s biggest GUI bet since the Start button. This comes at a time when the company’s traditional hardware partners are facing market pressure from the commoditization of their products and of course the juggernaut known as the iPad. Windows 8, and more broadly, the GUI formerly known as Metro, is Microsoft’s game for the next decade.
As might be expected, many of the company’s cheerleaders and haters are out in full force. Pundits can and will attest to the possibilities of the new operating system. However, what might be more useful is looking at Microsoft’s other make or break moments. The upcoming launch is far from the first time Redmond has fought with its back against the wall. A retrospective look at these moments, and their careful evaluation, could provide a better, ahem, window into the company’s prospects this winter.
#1 Browser Wars
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer debuted in 1995 at a time when Netscape Navigator completely dominated the browser market (and the future of computing). It was an uphill struggle for the company to achieve feature parity with Netscape, but the real tipping point in the competition was none other than feature set, browser speed, or anything else used as a metric in today’s browser wars. had nothing to do with it. ,
When the push struck, Microsoft flexed its tremendous muscles and began freely bundling Internet Explorer with every copy of Windows. The ubiquity of the operating system translates to the ubiquity of the browser. Netscape just couldn’t compete; The company relied on Navigator as its primary revenue stream. Internet Explorer was free and pre-installed, Netscape was neither. game, set, match.
#2 Subterfuge against Linux
Although Microsoft’s fight against open source software has decisively shifted towards Android, Redmond still enthusiastically fights Linux as well. It’s clear that Windows hasn’t faced a serious threat from Linux in the consumer market since the early days of netbooks. Nevertheless, once Windows was (to some extent) tuned for Atom processors, it crushed life by the grip of Linux’s commercial foot in the market. Before Microsoft thought it appropriate to misinform some blue-shirted employees about Linux.
The same cannot be said of the server market, where Linux is decisively led by Windows in market share, if not revenue. Microsoft generates additional revenue from the market by entering into closed-door patent deals with smaller companies that use Linux on servers.
These smaller firms cannot afford litigation with Microsoft and are essentially forced to pay for patent licensing agreements for Microsoft patents that are allegedly infringed by open source software. Of course, Microsoft is far from the only company fighting its battles in the courts these days.
#3 Microsoft attacked by Apple’s digital music revolution
In 1999, a free music software called Napster changed the world. But it was Apple that made huge profits from the discovery years later. The iPod’s smart hardware design, deep software integration and powerful iTunes Store combined in a value proposition and convenience factor that was unmatched in the industry. Microsoft had no answer for the revolutionary product. It took Redmond four years to respond to the iPod.
The Zune was like iTunes and the iPod in that it was a PMP combined with a powerful, proprietary piece of desktop software. The similarities ended there, the Zune never made much headway in the consumer market, despite strong effort.
While the hardware was lame until it was discontinued last year, the Zune brand was quietly killed off just this week.
The opposite was true for the enterprise. The final piece of Zune hardware, HD, was the coming party for the ‘Metro’ user interface that will come full circle with Windows 8 next week. The Zune may have been a commercial failure, but it laid the groundwork for the company’s current transformation. ,
#4 Bing’s Guerrilla Resistance to Google Domination
Microsoft’s search strategy by 2009 was certainly confusing. Early attempts and iterations of MSN Search and Windows Live Search failed to gain much traction in the market. A new brand and Yahoo! An ambitious deal with! Which will see Microsoft powering Yahoo’s search results.
When Live Search was replaced with Bing, the new Restoration product was decent and was gifted with a great marketing campaign. Bing is a growing search engine, but sits at around 16% market share when combined with Yahoo’s tech (which sees little revenue from Microsoft) accounts for half of Google’s roughly 66% market share in Microsoft desktop search. is close.