Microsoft is still a household name. Bill Gates is obviously well known. Windows is still the most famous operating system for PCs. X-box 360 has become a leading name in the fast-growing video game market. Somehow, though, Microsoft doesn’t seem as dominant as it used to be. In fact, I would argue that Microsoft is becoming almost totally reliant on Bill’s last major foray for Microsoft, the X-box.
Fifteen years ago, when I was in high school, Microsoft was the tech industry’s master. Windows was still innovative and Windows 95 was about to change how personal computing was seen and done. Be it the operating system or the games like Minecraft shaders, Windows was really the only dominant force in this industry. But this wasn’t going to remain the case. Over time, we witnessed the evolution of Apple in terms of operating system and Playstation in terms of gaming.
I still remember when my high school chemistry teacher began telling me about Linux. Still, to this day, I believe the Linux craze was just that, bordering on insane. But the cracks were beginning to show in Microsoft’s armor. Within a few years, PDAs became popular. Microsoft was there though and produced some of the first personal tablets. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it was a business-only field. Doctors and lawyers carried them, and Palm went away quietly. But the laypeople didn’t, quite literally, pick up on the idea.
Smartphones quickly began running the handheld computing field. Once again, Microsoft was late to the table. They did show up, but by allowing other companies to dominate the playing field, Microsoft lost out on its chance to dominate another market. BlackBerry first ruled the roost and was then beaten out by Apple. Now, Google’s Android is considered the major force in handheld computing powerhouses.
Now, Apple has been resurgent in home computers, whether it is desktops, laptops, or the “magical” iPad. Google has become the search engine of choice, a major name in free web-based email and document support, and is also taking a leading place in the tablet industry and cell phone market.
S o where does this leave Microsoft? Steve Ballmer talks about the wonder of Microsoft Kinect for the X-box 360. It is an exciting story, to be sure. X-box performed excellently during the last quarter of 2010, outperforming its rivals. But, in the computer industry where Microsoft became a household name, there really is little to brag about. Windows phones have not taken off like hoped for. Yes, the occasional show highlight is there, but check any tech site and you will see the excitement building for iOS 4.3 or a new Droid phone but little mention of Windows-based phones. The tablet industry was expecting major news of a Windows 7 tablet, but instead got a wait and see the response on the possibility of a “powerful Windows 8 tablet.” Home-based computing systems have cooled significantly. Most shockingly, to me, was the realization that Microsoft was recently bypassed by Apple altogether as the second-largest company in the world.
What we wind up with is the case of an industry giant that has over the years sat on its laurels, copied other models, improved upon them, and then dominated. Unfortunately, the world of technology has begun to change so quickly that sitting and waiting may not be the answer anymore. Microsoft needs its own “magical and revolutionary” device if it doesn’t want to be completely passed by. The hare is sleeping at the wheel and a WHOLE lot of turtles have zoomed ahead.