Whenever I hear people discussing Microsoft, it usually doesn’t take long before somebody mentions that the Redmond-based giant is like a huge oil tanker. It takes a while to turn such a huge company around and get it back on track. When Microsoft stumbled after the dotcom boom and couldn’t even produce a viable browser to compete with the open-source offerings of Mozilla, quite a few pundits assumed that the age of Microsoft was about to come to an end (the less said about the disaster that was Windows Vista, the better).

Microsoft Today

Flash forward to late 2010. Windows 7 is a huge success. Internet Explorer 9 has the potential to be one of the best browsers on the market. Windows Phone 7 is about to be released (and after seeing it in action during a short trip to Redmond earlier this week, I’m convinced that it will be a huge hit). Bing is bringing much-needed competition to the search engine market. Windows Live is becoming a great little social media aggregator for its users and a central hub for all of Microsoft online consumer tools. Hotmail – as much as it is ignored by the tech press – is still one of the most popular email services on the planet and continues to quietly innovate. The Windows Live Essentials desktop tools can easily hold their own in comparison with Apple’s tools. The Office Web apps easily beat the offerings of Microsoft’s competitors in both design and functionality.

What’s interesting is that most of these apps and services are only one or two iterations removed from really horrible products like Windows Mobile 6.5, Internet Explorer 7, Live Search.

Turning the Tanker Around

Spending some time earlier this week on the Microsoft campus, I couldn’t help but think that this is a very different Microsoft from the company we all loved to hate not too long ago. Instead of trying to build its own Facebook clone, for example, Microsoft is using Windows Live to aggregate other social networks. Just ten years ago, Microsoft would have never done that. Windows Phone 7 isn’t just a copy of the Android and iOS operating system and neither is it some weird adaptation of a desktop OS. Instead, Microsoft developed a vibrant new user interface based on its experience with the Zune (a good device, no matter how it failed in the marketplace) and the XBox.

Of course, there are still areas where Microsoft struggles (and the Kin was quite a disaster), but it’s hard not to think that the tanker has now turned and is sailing ahead at full steam.

111 comments
rubixmind
rubixmind 5pts

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5pts

Great post... I wish they had made a better attempt to change their image. Windows 7 is great and although Windows Phone 7 looks to excellent but why call it Windows Phone? There are all kinds of experiences and feelings tied to Windows and Windows Phone and yet this is something new.

If they really wanted to start new they should have ditched the "Windows" name from the phone.

Bsafcik
Bsafcik 5pts

I guess I just don't get it. Apple makes great products, Google makes great products, Microsoft makes great products. Everyone likes what they like. I am not a fan of Apple. I think the devices look great, but hate the interface (just a preference). I love the Android. I find it more fun to use and I like having different vendors to choose from. I am very excited to see WP7. I think it will be a nice additional to the market place. It is truely different from what is out there. Will it succeed? Time will tell. Is it a move in the right direction? Absolutely. Microsoft is making changes to bring it's business focus back to include the general consumer. If you think that is a bad thing or it is too late, so be it. Most people would have said too little too late when Apple started their come back. Look at them now. They continue to put out great product after great product. More importantly they have a hold on our wallets with word of mouth advertising. Your friends have it so you have to (speaking abou the iPad here). It is the best? Is it innovative.....? That can be argued. It is slick looking and fun. You bet! That is something that PC vendors (MIcrosoft or Android) need to "get". If you make it look nice (meaning the packaging) and fun (what you can do with it). You have a winner. Microsoft will do both. Are they playing catch up? For sure. But so is everyone. Apple is capitalizing on their winner. Why shouldn't they. But Google/Android is coming on strong and Microsoft saw their mistake and is correcting it. Nothing but good times for us (the consumer).

Mike
Mike 5pts

"The Office Web apps easily beat the offerings of Microsoft’s competitors in both design and functionality."

wrong.

Musiclovr
Musiclovr 5pts

don't care what you say about it - I love my Zune. I had an iPod and it just did not work for me. I like the Zune music suggestions in marketplace - I have found some incredibly cool bands because of this, and not just American bands. I find that unlike Pandora, I am able to get more variety. Yes there are other music services out there that are not too dissimilar - but Zune is simple to use and I never have to do any more than search and sync.

Edison Carter
Edison Carter 5pts

Another comentary that should really not be in the 'News' catagory. Like many 'blogs', 'Opinion' form a 'vocal' set of consumers may not represent reality, let alone the 'rest of us'. I consider the source and would not consider this writer as a worthy 'News Source'

Silner
Silner 5pts

You'd have to say though, where mobile is concerned, they've travelled so far in the wrong direction the race may already be over by the time they catch up.

McAkins Online
McAkins Online 5pts

Wow, MS really need to do something about these haters, it rather abnormal how much hatred people have for a company than championed the industry most of them work in. Loosen up people, its not a matter of life and death! Or is it? :-))

5pts

Well, Microsoft is too late with Windows Phone 7 (no relation to Windows 7). Its lunch was eaten by Andoid.
Its browser will hold its own for a while.
Bing search is me-too.
Hotmail is me-too too.
Azure to me-too for MS die-hards in the cloud
Sorry. I can't agree.

Julona
Julona 5pts

" Internet Explorer 9 has the potential to be one of the best browsers on the market"
Hmm considering there are may be 5 'on the market' it is already in the top 5!

dartdog
dartdog 5pts

1) I find it interesting that the most "favorable" comments about MS are all anonymous
2) MS earnings continue to suck therefore it's stock price is moribund
3) It's "research" arm has produced little in the way of shipping innovation
4) This blog is built with Opensource WordPress, Not MS software
5)Comments here are powered by an innovative start-up "Disqus" which is built on Python, and Django open source software
6) Few if any of the "hot" network start-ups use ANY Microsoft tools mostly all use open source
7) Did not check, but I'll bet this Blog also runs all Linux hosting

So maybe the tanker is turning but as someone else observed here, who cares!

Zylstra555
Zylstra555 5pts

Just ten years ago, Microsoft would have never done that.
10 years ago, Facebook and other social networking sites did not exist, and the few that did were not popular. I'm not sure I understood, or identified, your conclusion to this article.

SaratogaSam
SaratogaSam 5pts

Not too mention their cloud computing strategy, which is comprehensive in the PaaS world, unlike their clunky competitors

Dsherr23
Dsherr23 5pts

I suffer somewhat under Vista, but not enough to warrant a great migration in the middle of producing my work!

Allan
Allan 5pts

I do like the Office Web app's, but the print support still needs a lot of work sadly. Nice start, and the great look and feel of full Office, but the print support is it's big killer currently I've found for many customers.

Live Essentials are great. And Security Essentials is just simply fantastic! Only problem case with the Essentials family is Live Mail, which is just to focused around tying users to Hotmail and confusing terminology for new users with "sync" instead of "Send and Receive". Yes a smaller button, but many of the general public get utterly lost in that as daft as it may seem.

IE9 looks interesting. Will be quiet intriguing to watch and see how it's picked up by users but from the work so far, it looks a nice turnaround from earlier browsers.

WinMo7 (yes I know it changed it's name but this is simpler) is also looking very intriguing. I was holding back to buy one but couldn't suffer Symbian any longer so went to Android. It's going to be a very hard fight to get a place against it, and the developer support which is what many phones these days is mostly about. Not being a phone, just a mobile application device. Think the biggest point outside dev support will be how often it progresses with annual or twice annual upgrades? and are these going to come through pathetic lack lustre upgrades through mobile providers like those which curse the state of Android. Or will MS keep a firm control and issue upgrades to everyone centrally which would be a huge blessing for it. Guess we can but wait and see, and hope they get the move right to add a bit more competition into the market.

A bit of a disappointment so far has also been tablet. Yes MS created them like 6 years back no matter what Apple may claim. But nothing seems to be occurring when they have the perfect vehicle for it with Embedded Compact 7. Having used Standard Embedded 7 it will be ideal. The OS is tiny, fast, and ideal for quick development of custom solutions. I just can't work out why MS is taking so long on getting fast solutions out the door and into the hands of hardware companies to use. They have the solution. They've had it in various flavours for years. Please just get the stuff out the door!

App Hacker
App Hacker 5pts

I've brought in IE9 into our supported browser matrix. Basically I just about every thing I build works fine except in IE9. There's always something I have to fix so it works in IE9. Just like it was with IE8, and IE7 and IE6. For example max-width settings on containers to which I dynamically add floating elements. All browsers will increase the containing element up to the max width, all browsers except IE9. Such little things popup all the time. So when you say IE9 has the potential to be the best browser, just from what position are you talking from?

Bnlf
Bnlf 5pts

too many M$ haters on this blog. Some ppl hate M$ so much that dont even try the new products before talking about them. Heres something: the new hotmail + active sync sincronization like exchange made me move from gmail to hotmail. YES from GMAIL! sounds odd isnt it? well try it. Second i was always a linux fan and i used to work with it for decades guess what happened when windows vista came live? i never used linux as a workstation anymore and windows 7 just proved the superiority of the OS. It just doesnt have competitors...it too good for the other to catch up. I dont know why ppl still uses windows xp, its crap, old, slow and buggy....why ppl talk bad about win7? prolly never used it. One last thing, windows phone7 is going to be a success because gamers will buy it, business ppl will buy it, developers are going to build appz like mad for it just because its so easy and regular ppl will buy it because it just works!

Gary Haran
Gary Haran 5pts

You've used the word innovate wrong. Innovation is bringing something new to the environment. So far Microsoft is not innovating it's simply modernizing and playing catchup to better players in the market.

The only place Microsoft is truly innovating is with their gaming SDKs. They're not innovating much or at all in other areas.

Ronald
Ronald 5pts

The good thing (and the message behind) is that MS has finally realized it. Tanker has just turned, I'm sure it will speed up very fast, catch up and pass the "light weight" tankers ahead.

Patrick Liess
Patrick Liess 5pts

Funny to read this today. Yesterday - after a long time - i installed a fresh Windows 2008 Server on Amazon EC2. I downloaded an ISO file from MSDN to install it on that instance only to find out that to this very day there is no way to mount an ISO file in Windows 2008.

I mean, come on. Microsoft offers ISO files in MSDN and expects me to install a third party software like MagicISO on a Datacenter Server. What are administrators of large corporations doing? Installing MagicISO Freeware on their datacenter servers or inserting CDs?

And don't even get me started on the alert and warning-window clickfest in IE8 while i try to install firefox on a on a Windows Server.

It's little things like this that makes me wonder if the tanker is really heading my way.

Joel
Joel 5pts

"is still one of the most popular email services on the planet and continuous to quietly innovate. "

Continues

StevenHodson
StevenHodson 5pts

Thanks Frederic for bring out the laugh ptrol I needed a good chuckle this morning with my coffee and the comments to a good post provided just that

Purecaca
Purecaca 5pts

"the tanker has now turned and is sailing ahead at full steam." And therein lies the problem; the world doesn't run on steam anymore.

5pts

Oh wow, OK this makes a lot of sense dude.

www.privacy-web.cz.tc

jimmycrackcorn
jimmycrackcorn 5pts

The iceberg was hit, the hull was breached, the holds have filled up with water...

The tanker has turned?! Microsoft is a sinking ship!! Who cares which direction it's pointed in!

irv
irv 5pts

You're working pretty hard to sell a silly idea. IE 9 is not very good (though there's still time to fix it). Windows Live is completely pointless. No one uses it voluntarily but MS funnels a lot of stuff through it in an attempt to artificially boost the numbers. Windows 7 is a hit mostly because Vista was such a failure. A lot of folks who deferred buying new (MS) stuff because they didn't want to be saddled with Vista are now being forced to go to 7 because the equipment that Xp has been running on all these years is getting old.

Sorry. You just aren't making your case.

5pts

The Windows Phone 7 Kool Aid is getting ridiculous. They've caught up in a few basic areas and made a few nice UI innovations of their own but Apple and Google are still years ahead - rolling out tablet ecosystems, advanced functionality (integrated video calling, wireless AV connectivity, video editing) and far more established marketplaces that will make WP look instantly dated. The hardware isn't compelling- if you've seen an Android device, no WP7 will turn your head. I expect Apple to sharpen the marketing message when (and if) the competition heats up. I expect this to be another Zune - pretty nice actually, but ultimately superfluous to the market and too late.

DavidAFenton
DavidAFenton 5pts

Agreed. I think Windows Phone 7 in particular is going to be a problem for the industry

Really?
Really? 5pts

Really? You must be a member of some sort of self abuse order or cult.

Coldfusionsucks
Coldfusionsucks 5pts

LOL.
Someone just had a big glass of kool-aid!
What a joke.

Guest
Guest 5pts

I was going to bring every point you said, but it looks like somebody else has already done it.

Justiceconder
Justiceconder 5pts

IE9 scores a 55 on the acid3 test! The worst score of all the browsers. Do you live in fairy land?

Nahnah
Nahnah 5pts

Sorry, but Win7 is not "a huge success". On what basis do you say that? Win XP is 65% of the deployed PC base according to Net Applications (August 2010). Win7 has just under 20%. IE9 is a beta, not a reality - Chrome and Firefox are in production. The jury is out on WinMobile7. I hear your aspirations, but I don't agree. The proof is in the market. Presently, the only phone I hear about is iPhone 4, iPhone 4, iPhone 4. My friends and neighbours are all buying them. And the most innovative computing device is not Netbook nor WinPhone but iPad. Good luck with your hopes. I sold my MS shares!

McAkins Online
McAkins Online 5pts

Microsoft is suffering from perception or the so called Mindshare issue. The competition has damaged Microsoft reputation by spready FUDs for years about Microsoft. Take for example the damage caused by Apple's Switcher ADs? We said then that MS shouldn't take it lightly, you can't afford as a company to let someone ruin the reputation you've built for so long. A lie repeated long enough becomes the truth.

Psychology shows that people aren't capable of independent thought these days, they believe anything they see on TV and social media sites. Now MS is reaping the results of their stupid policy of "We don't comment on other people's product". It will take years to repair the damage done by the assasination of charachter perperated by MS competition.

Just look at how horrible people's reaction is to anything Microsoft, it bother on psychosis the reaction you get when you mention anything Microsoft. People treat MS as if it is shit, while MS is the most innovating company at this moment. MS should sack its PR department and start over to build its name again. It has been damaged beyond repairs if you ask me.

Anders Olme
Anders Olme 5pts

Hmm this blogpost doesnt render well on iphone :(

Ben Pappin
Ben Pappin 5pts

This is a poor analysis. Saying that Microsoft is about to dominate the software tech market again. Simply because they are finally getting a set of products that are not holding back innovation is like saying GM has fewer weak car brands now so they will dominate again.

Sorry it doesn't work that way. The landscape has changed from 15 years ago. There are companies that are more innovative and that is what tech needs. As most large competitors are not willing to take Microsoft on in the business software market, they have a base to collect assets and test new markets at their leisure. Not to say that one or two of the mentioned products will not be a success. I just means that they are dominant in the office and are flexible to create demand in other areas.

They will not come close to as dominate of a position as they have in the past.

Googledas
Googledas 5pts

Did you forget your medication?

Googledas
Googledas 5pts

Did you forget your medication?
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Googledas
Googledas 5pts

Did you forget your medication?
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  1. […] September 24, 2010 Over at his personal site, Frederic Lardinois of ReadWriteWeb is comparinf the world’s biggest software company to a massive tanker that’s turned and is moving ful…. He points to Windows 7, Windows Phone 7, Internet Explorer, Bing, the Office Web Apps, and Windows […]