4 Popular Misconceptions About Microsoft
Many people are Apple fans. Many others do not like Microsoft. That’s completely understandable. Apple has dominated the last decade by making products consumers fall in love with.
Microsoft, on the other hand, often seems like a lumbering giant. They have, in the past, been heavy handed, built some lousy, bug ridden products and got themselves embroiled in an ugly antitrust suit. On top of that, Steve Ballmer can really say some stupid things.
However, what is not understandable and what is, in fact, irresponsible, is that many business writers and tech pundits seem to be positively gleeful about trashing Microsoft (and, alternatively, praising Apple) without even a modest effort to ascertain the facts. In doing so, they are propagating misconceptions rather than informing the public.
1. Windows 8 Was Supposed To Save The Desktop
It seems to be a fairly common view that Windows 8 is a big bust and that is often the first premise in an argument for Redmond’s impending doom. Once the dominance in operating systems is gone, business software can’t be far behind. Once that happens, all is truly lost and Microsoft goes into a death spiral.
There are just a few chinks in that theory. First of all, Windows 8 is off to a good start, selling 40 million licenses in its first month and 100 million licenses in its first 6 months. Windows phones are quickly gaining share as well. So what’s the problem?
“Ah,” the Redmond haters say, “but Windows is a desktop operating system and the launch of Windows 8 has done nothing to stop the bleeding.”
Huh? Anybody with any sense at all could tell from early prototypes that Windows 8 was a “mobile first” operating system. It should have been clear that Windows 8 was a move away from the desktop and traditional users would hate it, as I noted back over a year and a half ago .
The truth is that Microsoft dumped the desktop and the mouse in favor of a cross platform operating system designed for touch, voice and gesture. People can differ in their opinions about that, but Windows is certainly no longer solely a desktop operating system.
2. Microsoft Is Losing The Enterprise
The second plank in the “Microsoft is doomed” narrative is that the company is losing enterprise customers. Here again, the evidence is more anecdotal than factual. The most common premise for this specious conclusion is that Google and Apple have been making inroads into corporate IT departments through their mobile devices, where Redmond’s offering has been weak.
That’s it. No announcements of important client defections or failed launches of enterprise products (in fact, its latest acquisition of Yammer appears to be going splendidly). Just some tech pundits who have noticed a lot of people walking around offices with smartphones and tablets that don’t run Microsoft Office.
The truth is that according to its most recent earnings report, Microsoft’s Business division grew 14% last quarter, pretty good for a mature business. Further, its often overlooked Servers and Tools division has put up double digit growth for over a decade and is a formidable enterprise business in its own right.
A more honest assessment would be that, while the enterprise is an incredibly competitive area in which you need to service highly demanding and well informed CIO’s, Microsoft has ruled it for decades. While no one has a birthright, so far there has been no real data to indicate any decline in this area.
3. Microsoft Makes Lousy Products
There is a bit more fodder for critics here, because if one company knows how to put out duds, it’s Microsoft (i.e. Zune, Windows Vista, etc.). But, then again, who hasn’t? Google had a number of products, such as Buzz, that never gained traction and even Apple has crashed and burned a few times (i.e. Ping, iAds, etc.).
Nevertheless, Redmond has also put out some excellent products. Business Insider recently called Excel the best software ever made. The Xbox has been a leader in consoles for over a decade and the new Xbox One is the closest thing anybody has come to a viable home entertainment hub. The Kinect was the fastest selling device ever.
Moreover, even Windows, which is often compared unfavorably to Apple’s OS X, has to perform over a variety of hardware platforms, rather than just one. That makes it more difficult to maintain quality, but gives consumers the benefit of choice. Many see the small difference in performance as a worthwhile tradeoff.
So while it is true that Microsoft has sometimes been able to attain market leadership without product leadership, they’ve put out some great products too and its new ones, such as Windows 8 (the only true cross platform operating system) and Azure, (its operating system for the cloud), bode well for the future.
4. Ballmer Needs To Win Mobile
Probably the greatest indictment of Microsoft has been its poor performance in mobile. What’s more, it looks like it’ll never catch up. According to Kantar, Android currently has a 51% share, iOS 41.9% and Windows a meager 4.6%. However, that’s an increase of 25% over last year and if growth continues, it could be in double digit territory soon. That’s enough for Redmond to get where it’s going.
What Microsoft is really after is the cloud, where it is putting the bulk of its massive R&D budget as well as the Web of Things, where it has already had some success (e.g. Ford Sync). It is this area where the decade long success in the Servers and Tools division will begin to take a central role.
None of this is actually a secret, so it begs the question: “Why do so many pundits delight in trashing Microsoft?” Part of it is probably history. Any company in business as long as Microsoft is going to have its ups and downs and Redmond has had its share of bad moves and predatory behavior. Yet, that doesn’t explain it all.
The ugly truth is that many of the people who write about the technology business aren’t experts about technology or business, but gadget freaks and fanboys (and girls). They read the technology press, pick the facts they like and ignore the rest. That’s not helpful. In fact, it borders on fraudulent.
While Redmond surely has its problems, those who write about the company should seek to inform, not merely opine.