Is Microsoft on the Verge of Greatness Again? [You Told Us]

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It feels to many of us – though clearly not all – as though Microsoft is at a crucial point in its history. If it turns one way then it could enjoy a glorious future full of successes in all fields; the other…and it could be sidelined as Apple and Google dominate proceedings with innovation in both hardware and software.

In recent years Microsoft, as great a company as it may be, has given off a turgid stench suggesting its best years are behind it. But with Windows 8, Windows Phone, the Surface tablets, the next Xbox and Kinect, Outlook, and Office, Microsoft is looking keen, nimble, and ready to reach the dizzying heights of undeniable greatness once more. Or perhaps not. Last week’s We Ask You was your chance to opine on this topic.

Is Microsoft On The Verge Of Greatness Again?

We asked you, Is Microsoft On The Verge Of Greatness Again? Once again there was a very good response, with dozens of MakeUseOf readers answering the question. The range of opinions was vast, from people who felt that the question was unfair as Microsoft is already great, to those who feel Microsoft is effectively done as an industry leader.

There aren’t any great conclusions to be drawn from the discussion apart from the fact that everybody has a different viewpoint on Microsoft and its current position. In the same way that people’s opinions of Apple, Google, and even Facebook differ wildly. Microsoft is certainly in great shape financially, but having money in the bank isn’t everything.

Comment Of The Week

HannibalCat, Phouston, and Qwerty all made fine contributions to the debate. Comment of the week goes to Bruce Thomas, who won with this comment:

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When I got my first personal computer, a Compaq 18 lb portable, Microsoft had little name presence other than for DOS. I used Wordstar, Lotus 1-2-3, and dBase II, but the company where i worked didn’t trust PC’s, so in financial planning I had to use timesharing programs and run things through data centers.

While working at a Fortune 500 company, I demonstrated how we could do our planning using Lotus 1-2-3 cheaper and faster than using GE’s GEISCO. We cut $50k per month from our budget as a result. Meanwhile, Microsoft was developing desktop software, not just programs, but suites of programs. Frankly, I preferred my old programs individually over Microsoft’s products, but Microsoft was relentless developing programs that worked together, with more features after every release. They also worked on the connectivity between mainframes and desk tops. Just as IBM PC’s became ubiquitous in corporate offices, Microsoft powered the productivity of those computers. Their Office Suite eventually blew away the competition, so now Microsoft Office is standard on most corporate desktops.

Microsoft is big, maybe too big. They tried to be everything to everybody, and some of their attention was directed away from their bread-and-butter business in corporations, and put into games and gadgets. I’m certainly not criticizing them for going into other computing areas; with all their wealth, who could resist new adventures? However, without the design genius of a Steve Jobs, some of their innovations were novelties, not products. Their focus turned from customers to products, and they lost credibility.

In the personal computing world, being nimble and adaptive is rewarded, while being stiff and corporate is derided. A reputation of being difficult to work with, whether the customer is a corporate accountant or high school student writing a paper, means trouble. It means if an alternative comes along, it will be considered.

Microsoft, for whatever reasons, missed the communications, music, PDA, and tablet trends. They were in the neighborhood, but without valuable real estate. Their only hope is to re-integrate their products, and Windows 8 is the response. Microsoft must find a way to get Windows 8 into corporations so they will continue to use Office Suite software. I recently worked for a company that still uses XP because of so many legacy software applications. Every Android or OIS unit sold chips away at Microsoft as an alternative to their lack of customer response.

In my mind, has corporate Microsoft turned to the customer or the products? As a thirty-year user of Microsoft products, I haven’t seen indications of them being customer-centric. I’ll be watching. I could use a new computer and a smartphone.

With this comment Bruce reveals his personal experiences with Microsoft and its products over the years before opining on where the company stands today and where it could stand tomorrow. Of particular note are the references to Microsoft missing the boat on certain products – which Apple then exploited – and the company’s need to re-integrate its products. Which is what Windows 8 is tasked with doing.

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

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