Microsoft Is Broken: Time To Pick Up The Pieces

Microsoft is in big trouble.

The company hasn’t been a force of innovation for what seems to be a decade now. In that timespan, Microsoft has produced only two or three great product that has been deemed innovative: Windows 7, Xbox, and Auto (aka Windows Sync). Apart from that, I can’t think of anything else from Microsoft that is worthy of being mentioned.

Compare that with Apple (Microsoft’s largest competitor). The company has produced iTunes, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, Apple TV, Macbook, Macbook Air, iPad, and, essentially, a whole bunch of other products and services that have put Microsoft to shame. Furthermore, every product released by Apple is expected to be a success, and, in most cases, usually is. When is the last time anyone ever said that about a Microsoft product?

Admittedly, Microsoft does have a decent lineup of products:

  • Windows 7
  • Bing
  • Office
  • Azure
  • Windows Live
  • Zune HD
  • Xbox 360 / Xbox Live

Unfortunately, close to half of the aforementioned products have had lackluster performance while others have yet to reach their full potential. None of these products are remarkable by today’s standard, because there is something else out there that could easily replace any of these products

Yet there are still many other areas that needs to be addressed as well, and soon.

One area of focus that is concerning is mobile. Microsoft has flat-out dropped the ball in the mobile arena. While its competition — Research In Motion, Apple, Google, and Nokia — have been working hard to create new and innovative platforms to build their future from, Microsoft, to this day, is working with ancient technology that, only up until recently, was usable with your fingers (before, a stylus was necessary). Essentially, Microsoft is moving far too slow in this face-paced mobile world we live in.

Office has always been Microsoft’s strong point, but as the world moves to the Web, Microsoft has been stuck in an offline world where Microsoft’s Office is the king. While Office is still, admittedly, an essential tool for businesses around the world, other offerings from Zoho, Google, and others are emphasizing the power and importance of these applications being in the cloud. Microsoft is working on it, but for the longest time, Microsoft has been far too complacent and, as a result, has lost customers.

And rounding out some of the more serious issues is the fact that all of Microsoft’s products are extremely fragmented and separated. It is a serious issue. Seriously, who know what Microsoft services are available on the Web? By just glancing on Bing.com, there is no specific mention that Microsoft has features like e-mail, calendar, and other things of that nature. There is no place to access all these products and services that I know about. There is no unification and connection between these products. It’s a huge mess!

 

The Solutions

So let’s talk about how Microsoft can fix some of these glaring issues.

Windows Phone 7, for starters, is a step in the right direction. If you haven’t heard, Microsoft’s latest attempt at mobile is shaping up to be something quite spectacular. The interface for Windows Phone 7 looks stunning and truly unique, something that the company needed to do if it had any hope of a future in mobile. That said, there is no telling how consumers will react, but the general consensus seems to be positive. Let’s just hope Microsoft markets the hell out of this thing and brings in plenty of third-party developers. (It will also be interesting to see how Microsoft’s Kin phones will turn out.)

Touch-based user interfaces are, quite obviously, something that people desire. If Microsoft stepped up to the plate and, instead of using Windows 7, created a dedicated operating system or user interface for touch-based devices, it could help Microsoft improve consumer adoption of their touch devices for the touch-happy consumers of the world. Apple did it with the iPhone OS, and that obviously worked out quite well (especially with the iPad turning out to be a hit). So why doesn’t Microsoft take a page from Apple and, like Windows Phone 7, create an amazing and unique user interface for touch?

Microsoft Courier — since we are on the topic of touch-based interfaces — is also looking like a strong contender that might attract a wide-spread niche of creatives craving a tablet to help them create and brainstorm. There isn’t an incredible amount of information about the Courier available quite yet, but from what I have seen, it looks far more appealing that the iPad does, specifically because of the types of activities I am interested in. Unfortunately, it appears that not even Microsoft knows who this product is going to be aimed at. But if they can get it out the door and into consumers hands, it could end up being a winner.

Integration of Microsoft’s products would also help the company significantly. As it stands, Microsoft has so many products — so many that I won’t bother to list them — that are spread across the Web. Having numerous products isn’t a problem; instead, the problem is that people can’t easily find and access these products. Google, for example, presents all of their products and services in a simple interface that is accessible in two or three clicks. Microsoft, on the other hand, is a complete mess with no clear central point (although, we are sure Bing will end up being that centerfold, especially with Microsoft’s commitment to the cloud). Why not approach this issue with accessibility in mind? Why not create a dashboard that allows users to understand their account, products and services, and information streams in a glance?

Cloud services being the focus of Microsoft for the future also is not a bad bet. As a matter of fact, it is probably the best bet Microsoft could make. However, while moving to the cloud is great and all, it doesn’t seem like many of Microsoft’s innovations in the cloud so far have been targeting consumers. Instead, they seem to be after businesses, corporate organizations, and developers. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is the consumers who are going to drive Microsoft forward in the future. Everyday consumers are the ones that Microsoft need to win over if they want to be innovative in the future.

 

Innovation

Innovating, finally, is one of the most important things Microsoft can do to stay relevant in the future. We have seen some signs from Microsoft that the company is finally starting to get the picture, but it has come far too long after it should have.

The company is no longer invincible as it once was; times have changed.

But with all this in mind, it is clear that Microsoft is currently reinventing itself in many ways. And while I don’t expect Microsoft to win over any brownie points with the public quite yet, I think that the steps the company has taken so far shows that Microsoft can still be relevant to the everyday consumer in the future.

But it is vital that Microsoft follows through with their plans and, more importantly, never stops innovating!

Written by James Mowery

James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist and entrepreneur who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.
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