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!

Owenl1998
Owenl1998 5pts

Or - to affer an alternative OPINION (since you have no evidence) - right.

I think the two million people using them after one month probably think you are wrong - especially since that is about the same number Google managed in 3 years.

(we are talking about actual users here not people with 'accounts')

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward 5pts

1) I find it interesting that the most "favorable" comments about MS are all anonymous
If that really matters, perhaps you could tell us who "dartdog" is? Anyway, here's another anonymous comment...
2) MS earnings continue to suck therefore it's stock price is moribund
MSFT earnings growth doesn't suck: http://ycharts.com/companies/MSFT/eps.
It's true the stock price hasn't moved much in 10 years, but that means the P/E ratio is looking quite attractive right now compared with most tech stocks.
3) It's "research" arm has produced little in the way of shipping innovation
No need for quotation marks: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/press/fastfacts.aspx and you can now pre-order some new Microsoft Research Innovation for delivery in November: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmhEDvQnA_U.
4) This blog is built with Opensource WordPress, Not MS software
Who cares?
5)Comments here are powered by an innovative start-up "Disqus" which is built on Python, and Django open source software
Who cares?
6) Few if any of the "hot" network start-ups use ANY Microsoft tools mostly all use open source
Used to be true, but is changing: http://www.bizspark.com/one/Pages/default.aspx
7) Did not check, but I'll bet this Blog also runs all Linux hosting
Who cares?

So maybe the tanker is turning but as someone else observed here, who cares!
Quite a lot of people should care, but because it's a good thing, not a bad thing as you seem to think...

McAkins Online
McAkins Online 5pts

Just give you feedback to the developers, they will like to hear your problems. That is why its called a beta, you have the opportunity now to influence its development.

Yeah, right ...
Yeah, right ... 5pts

"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 [...]".

You are either:

a) A shill,
b) An idiot, or
c) (most likely) both of the above.

aaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaa 5pts

Talk about a fanboy... Hotmail is totally crap and slow, and Windows 7 is nothing special, that's why people still use XP. And how can XP be slow if it's actually FASTER than 7? Lol! Fanboy confirmed.

Andrew Crook
Andrew Crook 5pts

>Innovation is bringing something new to the environment.

In that case Apple is not an innovator, apple has copied a lot from small software houses and there is the concept of Mac OS .. cough! as see at xerox parc

Its funny that both Apple and Microsoft hired parc employees dont you think?

Steve Hall
Steve Hall 5pts

The "Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel" app (that you can use to mount ISO virtual volumes) has been available from Microsoft for over 10 years and is available for download at: http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/b/6/7b6abd84-7841-4978-96f5-bd58df02efa2/winxpvirtualcdcontrolpanel_21.exe

Note that this tool has been referenced in several places on MSDN and particularly in the MSDN Subscriber Downloads for many years at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/aa948864.aspx

The following shows how to use it:
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/mount-cd-dvd-disk-images-using-a-portable-app/

Note that when using it on Vista/Win7 there's two gotchas described at: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/charles_sterling/archive/2007/05/14/virtual-cd-rom-control-panel-on-vista.aspx (Mark it's compatability as "Windows XP SP2" and run as Administrator...)

I too would have liked this to be integrated (out-of-box) with Vista/Win7/WinServer. But then a bunch of people would complain about larding up Windows with "tools that no one uses/needs". It's a Catch-22 for Microsoft...

Mussab101
Mussab101 5pts

And actually, Hot mail IS the most popular email service on the planet!

5pts

thank you

5pts

I always aim to please, Steven :)

Wise3804
Wise3804 5pts

LOL! Even the most advanced ships today run on steam. Nukes supply the heat to the water which runs the turbines. Therein lies the problem: People who think they have open minds are actually the most closed-minded people I've met. Microsoft funds the most advanced research facilities in the world. They may not get it right the first time, no doubt (I'm big enough to take some cheap shots .. go ahead..) but they're pervasive and tenacious and they will continue to press other companies with vigorous competition. They're not going away and I'm glad as a tech user that this just means that product innovation will continue to happen or companies will cease to exist.

rojo
rojo 5pts

wow. really?

dartdog
dartdog 5pts

I don't usually "feed the trolls" but 1) you can Google me or look at my Disqis profile. I am Not anonymous, 2) the earnings are flat if you exclude stock repurchases ie. no investment in the business has resulted in any earnings.
The rest does not deserve comment

FanBoysAreDumb
FanBoysAreDumb 5pts

Look who's tallking, mr MS hater in person. XP is way, way worse than 7, Hotmail is much better than GMail (I use both), and although MS has a lot of stuff to improve all around you're the one showing who's a fanboy here, dude.

Van
Van 5pts

The Xerox Parc GUI development is true but Apple built on the idea and built something far better than was at Xerox - they built and improved a whole lot. The Mac OS was far better than what was at Xerox - which is why when Xerox shipped their own computer it was such a flop - fewer features and overpriced

Microsoft on the other hand had to actually license the GUI and graphic routines in 85 from Apple and Microsoft didn't take an idea of GUI and make it better like the way that Apple did with Xerox.

Microsoft simply tried to lift the Apple OS.

Monkey_Junk
Monkey_Junk 5pts

That may have been the case 5 or 6 years ago, but not now. I had a Hotmail account that I hadn't logged into for 7 or 8 months... when I did, just the other day to check out the changes I'd heard about, everything was still there. I'm now in the process of switching back to it as my primary account (I'll eventually close out my Gmail account).

Guest
Guest 5pts

Hotmail has one crippling flaw that you may have overlooked: they delete your mails if you don't log in for a month or two.

That's all. I personally can't think of a *worse* email service to use, simply because of that one flaw. The rest of the service is nice enough, but if I can't trust them to store my mails, I'm out.

Andrew Crook
Andrew Crook 5pts

err no, both Apple and Microsoft employed the creative talent from the same Xerox project. The whole business of Microsoft copying Apple is complete and utter FUD. Both companies got hold of the IP from Xerox employees in fact if the same thing happened today neither would get a way with it. Its a bit like Mark Zuckerberg's former employer claiming that he was working on a Facebook style project for them before Facebook was born and that they owned the IP. On another note who owns the rights to code the company or the programmer is a age old question that used to give people headaches in the 80's.

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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 […]