The Trouble with Microsoft.

As a purely ordinary PC user, i.e not a corporate or business user, I thought that I would put my views forward as to why Microsoft has missed the boat somewhat and allowed others to pass them by in the ‘keeping up with trends’ race. First of all, I feel that every corporation or manufacturer, in whatever area they are, needs competition. Without competition, you would simply stagnate, there would be no one to ‘keep you on your toes’ to encourage you to be innovative or imaginative. You would tend to sit on your laurels because you would be the only one available to your customers, and they in turn would have no other avenue to compare your products with. There would simply be no incentive to improve.

Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, if you had the market all to yourself, you would have little need to listen to feedback from your customers, what they would like in the way of improvements, the future avenues they would find useful, so feedback would not be as important either, you could just move in any direction that you as a business felt was right or suited you. Which users feedback should you listen to as a huge business anyway? The one’s who make you the most profit? Or have done in the past? In Microsoft’s case, this has tended to be the corporate user simply because they were the ‘cash cows’ as they were the largest PC users, and also needed Microsoft’s Office Suite.

The ‘none corporate’ user were in the minority, not a lot of none corporate users owned their own computer in the past, but now things have changed. Slowly over time, we the ‘ordinary’ none corporate user have grown in number, we own PC’s, laptops, iPads, smart phones, and our needs and wants are no where near the same as the corporate user. We want to share, form communities, make friends online, share stories, photos, communicate, and be able to sync instantly our files and photos across our devices without hassle, as long as we have okayed that sync.

Because Microsoft was listening to the wrong audience, they have allowed themselves to lag behind the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook, who haven’t been as concerned about concentrating their listening to the feedback from their corporate users. Today technology has a different set of users, still growing in number, whilst the corporate user, at least in my neck of the woods, is still stagnating and falling behind by still using Windows XP as their operating system, probably because of the cost of re-training their workforce to use a new version of Windows. In fact, I would imagine that there are more none corporate users who have made the leap to Windows 7, and will do the same with Windows 8. It could also be the same story with MS Office as well, but as I am not party to sales this is only a guess on my part.

So where does all the money come from now? The large corporate user, or the ever growing number of ‘ordinary’ users? If you are only looking and listening in one direction, you miss the ability to listen to the requests from the other direction, and can end up lagging so far behind, that it’s going to be hard going to keep up.

(I’m only a Granny, and this post is my personal view of why I think Microsoft need to take a long hard look at who’s feedback they take notice of.)



About technogran
A granny and a geek? You bet! Still trying desperately to keep up with it all.

15 Responses to The Trouble with Microsoft.

  1. Gary Jones says:

    Could not agree more. Decades ago when I first started in the computer consulting business I could pick up the phone, call a toll-free number and talk to real people who were most helpful. Not these days. Microsoft has become more and more insulated from their customer base.

    Over ten years ago I was working at a computer company, dealing mostly with small to medium business. I saw numerous companies that could not afford to build their own in-house infrastructure. I also saw the rapid growth of high speed and wireless access. I worked with a company who were willing to build a data center and fund the hardware to support shared servers. Clients would have encrypted access to their data through the internet and would pay monthly fees based on their needs and, most importantly, actual usage. I didn’t know what to call it at the time, but it was what we now call “cloud computing”.

    A unique part of it was that clients would have access to programs like Microsoft Office, which they would pay for on a pay-per-use basis. So, the small electrical contractor who needed to do a quote would not need to invest in the entire Office package; instead they would pay a few dollars to use the program for an hour.

    I prepared a detailed proposal on the concept and approached Microsoft. I got all the way up to a senior manager of licensing, who told me Microsoft would NEVER consider sharing their software under this basis. My, how things have changed. There were many other aspects to this concept, like authenticated email and data backups and much more, but they scoffed at my ideas. Today they pay the price. Well deserved.

    • technogran1 says:

      Thanks Gary for your thoughts on the matter. I am trying (as a simple none corporate user) to explain how and why MS have missed the boat, always seem to be ‘lagging behind’ and part of my explanation is that their eyes have been set firmly on the corporate user and what they want to the detriment of their other users.
      Others who are more ‘on the ball’ are far more innovative and listen to (and market research no doubt) what most users want to use all this new technology for, and its not sharing documents or using the cloud to store it all in either, I wouldn’t trust the cloud with anything important and I’m a simple Granny! Servers go down, hackers abound, what company would put anything up there in their right mind?
      No, we want to use the Internet for sharing photos, stories, comments, making friends, forming communities, that’s the direction its all going, miss that and you’ll be left behind.

  2. Lost in France says:

    Very true.

    They lost their way, there is a famous quote, I believe by the head of IBM, when he said he could not see any need for people to have computers at home.

    You are right, my work lap top runs XP. They are only now just starting to make the move to Vista. I ask you Vista!!! Think I would prefer to stay on XP or jump to 7. Vista was a disaster. I like 7. I use it on my Netbook. Along with the latest version of office.

    It used to be that at work you had the best computers. the IBM machines. AT and Xt and so on. God I feel old, and at home you only had the Sinclair spectrum or Commador 64. Now it is the reverse. My personal computing power far exceeds my work.

    As you say other companies recognised that the private market was the big one and have cashed in big time

    • technogran1 says:

      I’ve been astounded to realize that we home users are so much more in advance of the large corporations such as the NHS etc in our usage. Asking why they aren’t moving on to Windows 7, its the prospect of training all the workforce to use the new operating system and of course the cost involved. Who would have envisaged this turn around that it would be the single home user who leads the way whilst the large corporates lag behind?

      Thanks for your reply Lost in France and you have hit the nail on the head. The personal user is now king with new technology, and their needs and wants should be paramount.

  3. Geoff Coupe says:

    Large organisations are like supertankers – their infrastructure takes a long time to turn round.

    I had an appointment with my bank manager this week, and during the discussion he was using his office computer to access the bank systems. At one point we saw a “green screen” application that dated from the 1960s running on a mainframe. It was still being used to handle customer investments.

    • technogran1 says:

      I quite believe it Geoff. But if the corporate organisations are not updating their technology, then where does your profit come from and who’s feedback should you be listening to? Obviously large corporates do not use technology (or want to!) in the same way that we none corporate users use it.

  4. Seika says:

    There used to be state religion. Win the king (justifying the monarchy, express ticket to heaven, etc), and the subjects will follow the religion, either because of the king’s charisma, or the king’s army.
    Nowadays, things are not as easy because the target is millions of souls to convince instead of just the key figures 😀

    Talking about non-professional that doesn’t get money from using computer. I don’t have to answer to anyone other than myself if I want to buy ridiculously expensive watch. I won’t have to present solid numbers backed by metrics that proof the watch will make me see profit gain in certain time frame. And if I got bored with it, I can just get another watch and throw the previous watch to trash without caring about deprecation or return of investment. 😛

  5. Greg Edwards says:

    I agree with several of the points in your article. Like any company, Microsoft need stiff competition to drive their innovation. A prime example is Internet Explorer. Between 1995 and 2000, Microsoft delivered 6 versions of IE. Once Netscape was out of the way, they had no real competition, and IE6 reigned for over 5 years, despite being one of the most insecure and incompatible browsers in history. Within the last 4 years, Microsoft has delivered IE7, 8, and 9 (which is awesome, BTW), thanks to innovation from Mozilla and Google threatening Microsoft’s dominance in the arena.

    But you claim that Microsoft are deaf to the average consumer, and I beg to differ. In fact, there are a couple of issues at play here:

    Microsoft are a pretty conservative company. Historically, they’ve preferred to let other, smaller companies innovate and work out the kinks in new technology. Then they come in and stabilize, scale, and mass market it, often acquiring the upstart in the process. That’s how most of the Microsoft Office products came to be. The same is true for Bing; they saw what Google was doing, bought an innovative company called Powerset, and figured out how to do it better. Most importantly, they made strategic partnerships all over the place, from media organizations whose maps are powered by Bing, to mobile phone vendors who send all their search traffic through Bing. It’s working, Bing is gaining share from Google every month. I think it’s set to happen again with Skype and Windows Phone. I’m not worried about Windows Phone 7 surviving against Apple and Google. It’s off to a slow start, but time and again Microsoft has proven its ability to succeed over the long haul. They may not be as quick to innovate, but their long term solutions tend to get things right structurally.

    Until recently, Microsoft have been under some stiff anti-trust sanctions from the US Government, as well as the EU, which have limited how their various business units could inter-operate. Frankly, I’m astonished that they’ve managed to remain a viable company. But now that some of those sanctions have expired, I think we’re going to see a lot more logical integration of features in Microsoft’s products.

    You talk about how they should be listening more to consumers, but let me ask you this: in your lifetime, how much money have you *actually* spent on Microsoft’s products and services? You’ve probably owned a couple of copies of Windows. Maybe you even bought a copy of Office or two, if it wasn’t already pre-installed on those computers. Perhaps you own an Xbox and a few games. That’s what, a few hundred bucks at the most? Meanwhile, an average business might spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on server software, Windows, and Office licenses for their employees. The bottom line is that Microsoft makes most of their money selling software to corporate users, so yeah, that’s who they’re going to listen to.

  6. technogran says:

    Thanks Greg for your thoughts on the matter. If you read my synopsis of the businesses and corporate users over here in the UK, such as our National Health Service to give just one example, they aren’t currently spending a penny on new technology, simply because the biggest majority are still running XP!
    With the present economic climate, they simply can’t afford to move onto Windows 7 and they are probably still using an older version of Office as well, plus as they’ stay put’ because of training costs etc, we ‘none corporate’ users are using new technology in a far different way than could have been envisaged a few years ago.
    Plus, as many more none corporate users own computers, iPads, iPhones and the like, won’t we eventually become the di facto users over time?
    The other biggies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon etc, don’t seem to be doing all that badly by turning their attention to the ‘ordinary’ user rather than concentrate their efforts on the corporate user, who’s needs are not the same.

  7. Pingback: [GEEK SQUEAKS'] – Download Google Books, Google Alerts, Will Facebook Drop In Users and Trouble with Microsoft « What's On My PC

  8. hugh says:

    Microsoft has a very wide portfolio of covering both consumer and enterprise products.
    Apple on the other hand has a very narrow portfolio of mainly consumer products.

    Greg has written most of the sentiment I wanted to articulate.
    Windows Phone 7. Apple cannot do gaming (in a serious way) as MS solved that years ago with DirectX as Apple have no API. MS just get bogged down by not wanting to upset their 2 cash cows, being Windows OEM sales and MS Office Sales. Office is where they are at most risk. I think Microsoft will be more agile and take more risks over the coming years – as their competitors (mainly Google) will drive them to it. Its good news for us, as these large behemoths innovate.

    • technogran says:

      XBox has been a great success for MS I agree, but they were still late to the party. They are cottoning on slowly but surely to the ordinary consumers needs, but they are still really bad and gathering and listening to the none corporate users needs. Most of their MVP’s are corporate users or use their products for work.
      Without the competition from the likes of Apple, Google etc, I don’t think MS would move an inch. They could have been the first with an iPad tablet, the first with a mobile phone with apps etc, and the first with a viable and well used social network and community. Such a shame in my opinion.

      • Greg Edwards says:

        You do realize that Microsoft has been trying (unsuccessfully) to push tablet computing on users for the better part of a decade, right? Ever heard of Windows XP Tablet Edition? The fact is that tablet functions have been built into Windows for years. Windows Mobile had 3rd party apps years before the iPhone was even conceived. MSN and Windows Live have been around since before anyone coined the term “social networking.” Nobody cared. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you approach an audience. If it doesn’t have a lowercase “i” in front of the name, then it’s just not cool.

        True that Microsoft is now playing catch up in several key areas. They’re always late to the party but end up benefitting from other companies earlier forays. They learn what works and what doesn’t, then improve upon it. They’ve insisted that, instead of creating a bevy of different software platforms, each tailored to a different form factor, there will be one Windows to run on everything from PCs to tablets to phones. And you know what? That’s the right attitude to have. Windows 8 is on track to being the realization of that vision. No, it won’t look like PC Windows on the phone, but the guts will be the same, and that’s a huge benefit to developers and end users alike.

        They’re getting their groove back in a big way, and I think all of the moaning just equates to a lot of sour grapes because they closed Spaces, which might as well be Microsoft in your opinion. Just my 2¢.

        • jkavanagh58 says:

          It is funny the bashing Microsoft gets for lack of innovation, yet most of the products getting everyone’s attention where at least fostered by Microsoft. I had an HP tablet years ago… the OS was clunky but most OS’s were at the time, but the bigger issue was the hardware. I felt the same way with Windows Mobile. I am a proud Windows Phone 7 user and I am sorry but I see the same perception problem. I use a Focus, other than user error the issues are always device specific (microSD, updates, etc). I also have the LG, and quite frankly any OS would appear disappointing on the device. Just my 2 cents as well.

          • technogran1 says:

            Yes John, no one’s saying that they don’t get the ideas, trouble is, they then move on and those good ideas get dropped! What’s happened to Photosynth for an example? Look at Live Mesh and wasn’t Windows Live a wonderful community where we were all sharing? Others then run with it, while MS fall by the wayside because they don’t stick with the best ideas, Why? That’s the big question. Then they are left constantly playing catch up with everyone else. Market research and then marketing your product. Listen not just to one group of users but to all your users, even if they are not the one’s who spend the most money!

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