Children, I will tell you of days when computer technology companies envied IBM, Digital Equipment Corp and Sun Microsystems. Each had their own version of Unix and massive hardware to run it. IBM got an idea, if they made a small computer which could run simple software then more people could own computers. IBM worked with Microsoft and others to create the first PC.
We'd still be talking about using our "IBMs" if it weren't for Microsoft better capitalizing upon the market. They stood the most to benefit from IBM's idea and IBM didn't even realize it until it was too late. The lesson was the smaller company with the software on the most systems won.
We all knew computers get smaller and faster. We all knew the computer that took up the whole desk would one day fit in a briefcase and then one day in the palm of a hand. We knew it would happen but we didn't know WHY!
Who would buy these tiny computers? Why would people buy these tiny computers to fit in their hands?
A collective slap on our foreheads as we stared in awe at the first iPhone. Duh! That is the tiny computer in everyone's hands. Apple was ready with a brilliant idea. The iPhone was a game-changer. But the only company ready to compete with Apple was a search engine company? Where was Microsoft?
Microsoft had been making phone software for years before Apple came out with the iPhone, but their approach was like an IBM approach and centered in old thinking. They were competing with Blackberry for mobile email, text, when Apple offered us the web with pictures, sound and video.
So with the phone battle almost lost we should all wonder what will be left. To see Apple's direction we should use iPhones, iPads and maybe Air laptops. I don't disagree, but my checkbook does not offer such options. My option is more like (maybe) an Andriod phone, (maybe) a Chrome tablet and (definitely) a netbook.
Facing the fact that Microsoft will not play a part in the first two devices because if I were to spend the money necessary to buy a Windows Phone and Windows TabletPC I would be in line at the Apple store instead. Price is the main factor keeping me from Apple, but Microsoft devices are not the least expensive and there is no compelling reason to buy them when Google is on the block.
So the netbook, which I will be buying soon, might have Windows on it. I say might because it bothers me my two options are Windows XP (old, insecure and heavy) and Windows 7 Starter (new, can't change the wallpaper and heavy). Why? I know they must charge money for their OS buy why is it the same price to buy a locked down OS where I can only run "x" number of programs and not change the wallpaper or the old and insecure OS? Microsoft, you know what I will be doing with this netbook? Surfing the web with Firefox or Chrome -- I can do that with the latest Linux distro for free and they let me change my wallpaper!
So thinks look bleak for Microsoft. They are expecting brand loyalty and product tie-ins to trump common sense. As things move to the Internet cloud, why pay the Microsoft tax? Microsoft has nothing compelling, just bad copies of existing products.
What can they do? They need to cut losses in some areas, focus on their core and strengthen their brand.
Consumer devices are a lost area. If they have decided that both Google and Apple are the enemy then they need to back out of the consumer device market, they will not have an effect there. They are priced in the middle but offer nothing better than Google who is priced lower. They don't have an application store or an exciting space for developers to make cooler stuff than they can with Apple or Android. In the business handheld area they have been loosing to RIM's Blackberry for years, why would they win now?
Browsers are a lost area. Most of the future computer users will never see Internet Explorer (or only see it long enough to download Firefox, Chrome, Opera or Safari). Why fight the fight to at best tie with the best. If people are willing to go through what it takes to install a different browser it shows that the default browser is not good enough, and efforts to fix that fact still fall short.
Netbook operating systems will be a lost area. Once Google Chrome is out there, Microsoft will have a lot of saber-rattling to do to keep vendors in line. I predict they will risk increased OS Licence fees to offer netbooks preinstalled with Linux-based operating systems. Windows 7 starter is just not good enough to compete. Windows 7 Starter would only kill the versions of Linux from 2003, not modern distributions like Fedora or Ubuntu.
Silverlight: I guess it is not hurting anything, and it is a major part of Netflix's business so it can't be killed. But how many people are developing it? What is the plan? Further pushing of Silverlight to capture Adobe's fading influence is stupid. Since I still hope Microsoft and Adobe merge, I guess keep silverlight, but I am not happy about it.
So here is my idea: Release Windows 7.5...
Starter edition: Get rid of the application, memory and processor limits on starter edition and let people change the wallpaper. Why would you intentionally cripple the performance of your operating system? You are branding the frustration your users feel.
Home Basic/Premium: Why is there the racist/classist division? Anyone should be able to have Basic and then upgrade to premium. The assumption with Basic is that no one can afford Premium in the other countries, while the other assumption is that in "first world" countries everyone can afford Premium.
All editions? Partner with the Mozilla foundation and merge the good things in IE with Firefox for Windows. Default FireFox to Bing and give people a chance to use it. Optimize new Microsoft Web services to look great on the new FireFox (not services that cannibalize existing software like Office). Also optimize these web services to be compelling on BOTH Google and Apple handhelds, thus beating them at their own games. Mozilla will not mind since Google stabbed them in the back with the Chrome web browser. Microsoft developers can learn a lot from the Mozilla culture, and Mozilla needs some cash and strong OS support to push back Chrome, Safari and Opera. Microsoft still has the desktop market share, so it is still in the driver's seat.
This will not fix the damage done, just hopefully stop the bleeding. The issue will be that once everyone's windows laptop dies will they buy a Linux netbook or a windows notebook for twice the price? That is when the chickens will come home to roost.