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I’ll let you guys into a little secret, as long as you promise not to tell… some of the writers at MakeUseOf hate Microsoft with a passion. There, I said it. I know it’s unfathomable and unpalatable, but it’s true. I won’t name names, but please remember to check out the Technophilia podcast every Wednesday.

It’s very easy to hate Microsoft, a lumbering corporate giant that built a monopoly and then sat on it raking in the money. But Microsoft is still capable of creating great things — Windows 7, Xbox 360, Kinect, Office, etc. — and is still one of the most important companies in the world.

However, Microsoft is undoubtedly facing some serious challenges in the future, both in the short-term and the longterm. And how it should go about tackling these challenges forms the basis for this week’s We Ask You column.

This Week’s Question…

We want to know, Where Should Microsoft Go From Here? Steve Ballmer recently announced his retirement in the near-future, an event which Yaara is already polling your opinions on Are You Sad About Steve Ballmer Retiring? [MakeUseOf Poll] Are You Sad About Steve Ballmer Retiring? [MakeUseOf Poll] Steve Ballmer has been an icon of this company for more years than I care to remember, and one of the most controversial figures in the tech world throughout. Is his retirement good for Microsoft?... Read More . Ballmer’s retirement will be happening at a time when Microsoft is seeking to change the company structure and focus to be, arguably, more like Apple.

This suggests Microsoft is at an important crossroads. Depending on the way the company heads, both with the choice of new CEO and decisions made about the culture at Redmond, then Microsoft could either become a dominant force Is Microsoft on the Verge of Greatness Again? [You Told Us] Is Microsoft on the Verge of Greatness Again? [You Told Us] 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... Read More once more or keep losing ground to its competitors.

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So, we want to hear your thoughts on the current situation at Microsoft and what the company should do going forward. What kind of CEO should Microsoft hire or promote? Should they keep doing what they have been doing or actively seek to break out into other product lines and areas of business?

Should the company stay as one huge corporation or should it instead be broken up into more specialized companies? Should Microsoft set its own course for the future or continue reacting to moves made by Apple and Google? Should hardware play a bigger role in the future or is software where Microsoft flourishes?

Drawing Conclusions

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told UsOne reader will even win Comment Of The Week, which will be included in the follow-up post! What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to necessitate a discussion. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to the MakeUseOf readership. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: ToddABishop

  1. Yves Legault
    September 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    How about Microsoft...
    1- Walking away from troubleshooting their softwares on their customer's back?
    2- Letting programmers do their jobs?
    3- Getting rid of all those fossile patches bloating their softwares?
    4- Stopping the creation of new internal standards for the unique sake of keeping customers captives?
    5- Getting out of anti-democratic "free deals" with schools?
    6- Realising that it is no match with Apple or Open-Source?
    7- stopping this endless brainwashing campaign they call "marketing"?

  2. TomHatesMS
    September 2, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Most of the things that could be optimized regarding MS products have already been said in previous comments.
    I can only add my personal point of view that supports most of the criticism posted here.
    I am certainly a MS hater. I love innovation as long as it improves my productivity. Windows 7 was the final product that at least did not mess with my productivity, but only after 'customizing' and fiddling with a lot of its deep down settings.
    The 'new' office products are trash. Productivity certainly is a result of intuitive user interface, but ribbon menus do definitely not fall into that category, and my productivity decreased quite a bit bec. of all the 'lost' features, that made my life easier in office 2003.
    Windows 8? Well, this is where our ways do part. If and when I will need a new notebook in the near future, it will definitely be an Apple or some other good hardware, which I can use with Linux. I will use Windows XP or Windows 7 virtually, if I really do need to use software, that I can only run on Windows.
    MS hardware? Since I have no use for an XBOX, I cannot think of any reason why I would ever buy any MS hardware.
    And last but not least: I do not trust MS. They are buddies with the NSA and I despise people, who give away my privacy so easily.

    What can MS do, to regain its glory? Nothing. I am pretty sure that most people have enough of this untrustworthy, arrogant company. The users want one thing, MS does something entirely different instead. They used to get away with that kind of behavior like 10 years ago, when there were no real alternatives to MS. But today? Hell, there are so many alternatives, most of them very user friendly, most of them NSA-free, many of them free of cost. So, bye bye, MS!

  3. Will
    September 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I wrote about it in detail the other day, but my belief is that Microsoft needs to hire someone who hates Microsoft to replace Ballmer. That is, someone who has spent the better part of his life fixing their crap for people, and understands the frustrations and problems with their products from the perspective of the trenches. Someone who is not jaded by the lifestyle of a corporate CEO position. Someone who has ideas about making things that people want and will use. That person should be me!

    http://www.willchatham.com/work/hey-microsoft-i-heard-you-need-a-new-ceo/

    • Lisa O
      September 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      *cough*. That kind of CEO would help indeed. I agree, only those who are not disilussioned by Microsoft's past glory could rebuild the company.

    • Dave P
      September 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      That isn't a bad idea. A controversial one, perhaps, but not a bad one.

    • dragonmouth
      September 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      "Someone who is not jaded by the lifestyle of a corporate CEO position"
      Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      As the result of the 1994 Congressional elections, there were 100 brand spanking new Representatives (almost 25% of the House) heading for Washington, DC. The Republicans even issued a manifesto "Contract with America". American people were expecting significant changes because of the influx of so many idealists unspoiled by the political establishment. Within few months all these people were co-opted into that establishment.

      So, I'm sorry if I look at your offer with a jaundiced eye. To make the difference the next CEO would have to have complete control over MSFT and Bill Gates would never allow that. If he does not have complete control, the next CEO would have to butt heads hard with the founder, owner and still the face of MSFT, Bill Gates. From what I hear, Mr. Gates one ruthless SOB. I can think of only one or two people in the entire world who would have a chance of prevailing in a toe to toe with Bill Gates. Unfortunately these people are neither on the short list nor are they willing to serve.

      As Dave says, it's not a bad idea, probably the best thing for MSFT at this point. In theory. In practice it will never happen.

  4. dragonmouth
    August 31, 2013 at 12:52 am

    "is still one of the most important companies in the world."
    Only self-important. They may be a company with one of the highest market capitalizations, although Ballmer, during his reign, reduced that by a lot. The days of "When MSFT sneezes, the computer universe catches a cold" are loooong over.

    "Where Should Microsoft Go From Here?"
    Down the toilet, for all I care.

    The first and foremost action on Microsoft's part should be to change the monopolistic, predatory corporate culture. They should become kinder and gentler company. They need to learn to play nicer with others. A few years ago there was a suggestion floating around to break MSFT up into three companies. At this point of their existence, MSFT is an iceberg that cannot change directions easily. They should seriously consider a breakup of some kind. It would make each piece nimbler, quicker to respond to the exigencies of the market. While it took MSFT months to respond to Apple's introduction of a GUI, it took them years to come out with the Windows Phone following Apple's intro of iPhone.

    MSFT is a software company, not a hardware one. They should quit trying to come out with gadgets and concentrate on their core competence which is developing software. But I guess that ties into changing the corporate culture.

    • Dave P
      September 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      From what I've read a break up of the company into smaller pieces is one possible scenario. It creates as many problems as it solves though, surely.

      I think you're right that the culture needs to change, and I suspect that's the biggest reason Ballmer was forced out/gently persuaded to retire gracefully.

    • dragonmouth
      September 2, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Yes, there are problems any time there is a break up, spin off or divestiture. However, plowing along, maintaining status quo, will create bigger problems for MSFT down the road, especially if they keep on making acquisitions. They have to slim down somehow to be able to react more swiftly to actions by their competitors.

      BTW - "break up" does not mean totally separate, independent entities. The new companies could be autonomous but wholly owned subsidiaries. Microsoft can become a conglomerate, like many large companies.

  5. Jim
    August 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Last chance, if they base Windows 9 on a Unix-Linux OS and make it open source, they can still sell their other products like Office. They would accomplish two things, make programmers (Linux) make improvements and programs available to Micro-Linux, and have their phone platform compete with linux like Os's like Android using the same apps and having their proprietary programs available to all Android and Linux users. Sounds preposterous, but think, if you can't beat em' join, or become irrelevant!

    • xyz
      August 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      If they give their OS to Linux then Windows will become so much resource hungry as today's Ubuntu versions are. It is better as it is. Let it be in MS's hands. I don't use Ubuntu just because it is unnecessarily thick. So much eye candy features which runs slow. (I know there are xUb. lUb.)

      • Jim
        August 30, 2013 at 11:46 pm

        I meant that Microsoft has to adopt an Open Source mentality, where they produce their Windows Os as and become Linux. Not Microsoft Windows but Linux Windows. A winlinux system.

        • dragonmouth
          August 31, 2013 at 1:27 am

          "I meant that Microsoft has to adopt an Open Source mentality"
          Over Bill Gates's cold, dead body. It was Mr. Bill who originally came out with the pay-for, proprietary software for PCs model.

          As far as Open Source and specifically Linux goes, only Mr. Bill and select few insider know how much open source/Linux code is already incorporated into Windows and other MSFT products. While switching to Open Source would improve the security of Windows tremendously, Bill Gates and Microsoft cannot allow that to happen because that would reveal how much of the existing code was "borrowed" from others.

  6. MakeUseOf TechGuy
    August 30, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I'm gonna forgive that snark, because you plugged us.

    But come on, it's so easy to hate on Microsoft. They just keep screwing up in every possible way. Pathetic branding, pathetic products, and CEOs that make for hilarious videos. I only hate on them because there's just so much material!

    You know what I'd like? A windows designed for gaming. Something super optimized and minus all the crap Windows 8 and system services that aren't needed. I'd buy that. An Xbox that actually innovates with immersive technologies, not by connecting to my damn cable box. I'd buy that. Less money spent on stupid adverts and product placements, and more money spent on making products worth placing in the first place. Listening to feedback and doing something about it.

    Latest hilarious example: people know Surface RT tablets suck. Instead of making them better, they're dropping the RT branding. Genius!

    • likefunbutnot
      August 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      The product you're describing already exists in the form of hyper-customized modded Windows distributions that are available on shadier parts of the internet. I have a Windows 7 install that will run acceptably on Pentium 3-class machines with 128MB RAM.

      But for the most part, nothing that modern versions of Windows does (with the possible exception of Windows Defender) interferes with gaming. I guess you could go down everything listed under Services.msc and make a yes or no decision as to its continued operation, but any really big offender as far as resource utilization is going to be some third party security application that you voluntarily chose to allow on your computer in the first place.

      Otherwise, yeah, what you're really talking about is probably addressed with content delivery systems like Steam that just sit on top of Windows and serve as a gaming browser, or a closed system like Xbox.

    • Dave P
      September 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      But you guys DO hate Microsoft, so what are you moaning about lol.

      I have to say Microsoft is particularly bad at branding, but then putting a lower-case i in front of every product name isn't exactly magnificent marketing now, is it.

  7. Xoandre
    August 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Microsoft has made some huge mis-steps when it comes to the core PC user.

    First, way back in 2005, they decided to alter their Microsoft Office GUI and replace the toolbars that everyone in the world had known for decades with Tab Ribbon bars that were huge, clunky, and missing dozens of features that I, personally, used all the time. Those buttons and features have since been completely REMOVED from WORD and EXCEL. Due to this, I switched to OpenOffice and now use LibreOffice, which has the original Word style toolbars and all the features Microsoft decided they did not need anymore.

    Next, they put so much focus on TOUCH-based systems, that Windows 8 is pretty much WORTHLESS to any Desktop Computer user (like myself). I have tried using my friend's Win8 laptop (not a touch-screen device) and gave up after the frustration of having that UGLY, BLOCKY, cubist-nightmare of an interface in my way.

    SO, the future:
    Microsoft needs to utilize the speed and improvements under-the-hood in Windows 8 to create a Windows 9 in 2 versions: Win9d and Win9t. The "nine-dee" and "nine-tee" could be a fun play on words and design for the marketing teams. "9d" would be back to a newly revamped Windows Desktop, that returns to a Windows 7-style interface and STAYS there. "9t" would be an improved version of the Touch-based Windows 8 interface, perhaps with rounded or vignetted corners to the boxy interface?

    Certainly, Microsoft has the new Xbox to deal with, and - as a non-console, only-PC gamer, I have little knowledge of that system, but they should really work on the fact that many of us in the Business and Graphic Design/Animation industries have no use for a touch-based computing system.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 30, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      A lot of UI changes are driven by observations of completely untrained users. I agree that many of those changes are obnoxious, particularly when ~20 years of user experience is being thrown away, but I can also see a compelling case for the ribbon interface; it's a lot easier to see an application's functionality if it's all sitting on a toolbar in front of you rather than being buried in a set of menus.

      When I teach, I try to focus on pattern recognition rather than procedural knowledge. New users tend to want procedural knowledge (go here, do this) and as a result they tend to have tunnel vision about the functionality of the software they use, which often results
      in less than ideal user experiences. The people who have the best experience with their OS and applications are usually the ones who figure out the relationship between common icons and common functions and who are actually able to process the visual cues in a user interface rather than relying on a specific series of steps to accomplish a task.

      I actually think it's a little silly to talk about desktop Windows as a big-picture product at Microsoft. It's part of Microsoft's meal ticket, yes, but it and Office are both essentially finished products that I suspect will only see bullet-point feature changes (and occasional obnoxious UI updates) in the years to come. Microsoft is going to keep refining Windows and Office and people are going to keep using them on their desktops and notebooks. This is not news. Server Windows is a slightly different matter. Windows in a Datacenter is often used as a central point of authentication and for the portions of large applications that for some or other reason require a Microsoft technology ("Somebody wrote that code in VB.NET and we don't feel like rebuilding it."), but in many cases it's still the also-ran to *nix. It's a cheaper fix for hardware virtualization than VMware, but it's not feature competitive yet, either. So there's work to be done there.

      The XBox isn't about gaming. It's a media access device, the all-in-one living room device. The consoles and game development aren't really money-makers, but content delivery and advertising ARE. Microsoft could very well step back from the gaming part of Xbox if the content access and delivery features of the XBox One are widely adopted. That's not to say that games won't happen, just that Microsoft will be content to get paid as the middleman and manager, rather than the developer.

    • Dave P
      September 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      The problem Microsoft had was they couldn't afford to just sit back and do nothing. People wanted something new, something different, something innovative. While you may not agree with the UI changes and focus on touchscreens, there were reasons behind both.

      You make a fair point, but I suspect if Microsoft had kept things the same over the last 10 years there would be another you arguing that Microsoft sucks because they refuse to change anything!

  8. Don Shepherd
    August 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    I have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft too, love when they put out good stuff and hate it when they control and take advantage seemingly without limit.
    But if I was giving Microsoft advice, then I would tell them to look for the next big pile of developer-driven, including open source, EXCITEMENT to get in to. After all, Gates made the original money on a sweetheart deal with IBM NOT because of PC sales per se, but because people were beating down the doors to buy "one of those VisiCalc machines". We're seeing that excitement in Android stuff now, what about Microsoft heading into Android COMPUTING in a big way before it eats their lunch? OMG! What am I saying?

    • dragonmouth
      August 31, 2013 at 1:08 am

      "Gates made the original money on a sweetheart deal with IBM NOT because of PC sales per se, but because people were beating down the doors to buy “one of those VisiCalc machines”. "
      VisiCalc was written for the Apple II DOS. Only after it proved to be a success was it ported to MS-DOS and later Windows.

      Gates made the original money on extortionist, monopolistic contracts with PC makers that forced them to pay Gates for each PC shipped, whether it had MS/DOS/Windows installed on it or not. Those contracts effectively precluded any other operating systems from being used. The only exception was Apple because they were/are vertically integrated and control every facet of their universe.

  9. Panos L
    August 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Even if it not always obvious, there is always a master plan behind it all. The fact that Steve Ballmer is retiring will not change things much.

    Microsoft has never tried to be always the first in the market or the fastest or the fanciest. It has always sought to be the last one standing or at least among the few. Regardless sidesteps coming from various groups within the company it will remain always a software platform company. It has done well so far been among the few and in some areas the only one standing.

    I think Microsoft will go the only way that is left.With the convergence of the desktop to the cloud it will provide its platforms from all devices in the same way. It is already apparent that this is the case.

    In doing this they have to focus on being affordable and at the same time respect the privacy and precious dollars of the one person that made them great: the average user.

    As the real and virtual world converge they should focus on how to bring proven gaming technologies into the everyday life making things easier for everyone.

    • Dave P
      September 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      If you're a fan of Microsoft you should hope Ballmer's retirement will change things. It's well-known that Microsoft has lost its mojo of late.

      I certainly don't think Microsoft is going to disappear anytime soon, but the company is becoming less important, no?

    • Panos L
      September 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      Hi Dave

      I am not necessarily a fan of Microsoft. But I have come to realise that if they want to go after something they will do anything to get it.
      Their muscle in the corporate sector is still sizeable. I do not think Ballmer did a very good job at dealing with the factions in Microsoft but he was always the one trying to pick up the pieces. They will need to do a lot of work to rebuild their trust with the developer community especially after the fiasco of just shelving Windows Mobile. They got punished for it.
      Bt I think in retrospect they decided to loose for a few years in order to bring all their platforms at par. I think they are in such a position and it looks like the descendants of windows 8 coupled with the cloud technologies makes them the best bet at the moment against others that excel vertically.

  10. KK
    August 30, 2013 at 8:15 am

    What is the purpose writing comments and suggestions on Microsoft right here? Would they listen to us? NO.

    • Dave P
      August 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      In that case you should avoid commenting anywhere across the Internet. Nothing practical is ever done as a result of online discussions.

      This is just an interesting debate amongst a group of geeks and nerds who like to opine on technology. Nothing more, nothing less :)

    • xyz
      August 30, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      This is not for MS but just a discussion. Same like on news channels who discuss but practically nothing is ever done.

  11. Jonathan A
    August 30, 2013 at 3:49 am

    I think Sony should make their own OS and take Microsoft down. Unlike Microsoft, Sony knows how to satisfy their users.

    • Dave P
      August 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      A Sony fanboy? A rare breed indeed!

  12. IdontlikeMUOloginsystem
    August 30, 2013 at 3:39 am

    I don't know why people hate MS. What they did to you?

    ---
    MUO login system should be a dead simple page. Just with two blank fields with no extra clutter at http://makeuseof.com/login and then I will be happy to come here to comment.

    • Dave P
      August 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      We use a third-party for this now, so it's not directly up to us how the system works. Having said that I'll be sure to pass your comment on to the people who oversee this side of things.

    • MakeUseOf TechGuy
      August 30, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      It's two blank fields on a popup, or one click Facebook login. Is that so difficult?

      • likefunbutnot
        August 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm

        I count three fields for every post. It's obnoxious and Facebook is an unacceptable alternative. I understand that you're trying to address forum spam, but while not offer some kind of qualified local sign-on for responsible participants?

      • xyz
        August 30, 2013 at 10:58 pm

        It's actually "heavy" and takes lots of data to load. It should be like http://kickass.to's login system so simple, fast and realtime.

  13. Tim Brookes
    August 30, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Microsoft could actually try listening to consumers for the first time in 5 years by not providing touchscreen operating systems for desktop computers, not releasing sub-par tablets like the Surface RT at a price level that makes even the less popular Android tablet OEMs laugh and generally screwing the pooch on issues like their Xbox U-turn regarding pre-owned games.

    Three examples where consumers were told what they wanted, three examples of decisions that have made Microsoft look like a completely out of touch company. They seem to have learned after the Xbox One backtracking, but the fact remains that the company is in a mess. Even if the profits "doubled" under Ballmer, much of that was knock-on from his predecessor, and the share prices and profits have certainly levelled off since Ballmer's own plans filtered through the Ker-Plunk like decision making process that goes on at Redmond.

    Despite billions of dollars in the bank and an overwhelming market share, they're not exactly popular with consumers at the moment, and while businesses continue to buy Office licenses like chocolate bars, consumers are far more changeable. Windows 8 is proof of that.

    I don't envy whoever takes over, they've got a couple of years of dismal financial reports, waning market share and huge losses on products like the Surface RT and Surface Pro. I hope for Microsoft's sake they can find another Bill Gates to get the company back on track.

    • Dave P
      August 30, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      I get the feeling Microsoft tried to push its own agenda after witnessing how such a strategy worked for Apple. Unfortunately the decisions made just didn't work, and instead of appealing to new customers only managed to annoy existing customers.

      I don't think Ballmer is much to blame. I think instead it's a sign of a company that is too big and has too many departments working on projects with little or no interaction between the teams. In other words one hand doesn't know what the other is doing.

      I agree, Ballmer's successor is going to have a tough job on their hands. Any ideas who it'll be?

      • Tim Brookes
        August 31, 2013 at 2:36 am

        Apple's strategy worked because they were genuinely creating products people wanted (the iPod, then the iPhone and iPad), reflected by trends (music downloads, a market full of fiddly horrible phone UIs, no decent tablet computers to speak of) and through their sharp design and excellent build quality. Lots of people (myself included) disliked the iPod for its dependence on iTunes, price and the fact that the hardware was nothing special but the software and design made it an instant hit with consumers. They replicated this through the iPhone and iPad, and even with products like the MacBook Air to some extent.

        I'd argue that much of Microsoft's success with the Xbox came purely out of Sony's lack of tact when they launched the PS3. Notice how differently Sony have done it this time. They've pandered to just about every "me too!" want that gamers had asked for. They stole the indie show, they redesigned that arthritis-inducing controller, they said "Yes! You can sell your games!". This is purely because they screwed up royally with the PS3, and Microsoft happened to be there to swallow huge losses on hardware before gaining enough of a foothold on the market.

        I really like the 360, but it's a piece of garbage hardware built on PowerPC architecture that screwed over consumers with poor heat management and pitiful returns policies in the early days. Remember when Microsoft hardware was the best hardware? The Intellimouse, SideWinder joysticks and those legendary ergonomic keyboards. Oh how times have changed. Now we have poorly designed Surface RTs running crippled versions of the world's least popular commercial desktop OS with touch covers that make it impossible to type on anything other than a solid surface.

        I've personally been through two Xbox 360s, and I didn't even own one for the first 4 years of the product cycle. Prior to that I used a housemate's at uni, and yep, that died after about 14 months. The replacement sent by Microsoft (because of a court order, not from the kindness of their coffers) also died a few years later so that friend is technically on his third Xbox 360 (which is only an Elite, so it too will surely croak at some point).

        This is turning into more of a "what the christ happened to Microsoft" rant than Ballmer-reflection, so I'll stop. The fact remains I used to like Microsoft as a company, they seemed to be on-track with products like Windows 7 and even the early days of Windows Phone were promising. Unfortunately the longer Ballmer was there, the worse things got and now I use a Mac, an iPhone and I'm probably going to grab a PS4 before I go for the Xbox One.

        Saying Ballmer isn't to blame is like saying the captain of a ship isn't to blame for letting his crew get drunk and hit an iceberg. He should have been there to give direction, at the very least to the company's flagship product, Windows.

    • Dave P
      September 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      How did Sony mess up with the PS3? I've owned one since the early days and have had no complaints apart from a few missing exclusives.

      The amount of blame that can be directed at Ballmer is arguable. I mean, the CEO of a company should be the driving force, but Microsoft is such a vast machine that no one man can control the whole thing. Which suggests he had the wrong team around him, and as they're staying on, it also suggests that some of the problems will persist.

    • Tim B
      September 3, 2013 at 1:46 am

      How did Sony mess up? The price, the supply, the fact that development for PS3 was always tougher for developers than the 360, a poor line-up of launch titles (and well into the first few years of the console's life), the fact that they waltzed in with a big ugly George Foreman and Spiderman font like they owned the games industry and an expectation that people would just buy it because "PS2". This is BEFORE the whole "storing credit card numbers in plaintext" fiasco which they handled horribly from a consumer POV. At least Microsoft were court ordered to replace Xbox units, which many consumers probably interpreted as "Microsoft are nice for doing that. Good Microsoft." while Sony were at the back of the class trying to fit their whole fist in their mouth.

      In short: arrogance on a corporate level. The "we own Japan, the rest of the world follows" attitude that's always been a problem among Japanese electronics manufacturers.

      This time they've done it SOOOOOO differently. And that's because of how poorly they did it last time round. Can't afford another screw-up like that.

  14. likefunbutnot
    August 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Microsoft is going to wind up as a services company. Everyone is going to write large checks to MS and software will continue to be delivered, but I suspect that it's going to move in the same direction IBM did in the 1990s, toward doing more paid consulting, implementation and management work. Big customers already see that, but I'm guessing they'll figure out a way to scale down or automate to the point that their service offerings work down to small business operations: "Let us be your single point of contact for mobile device management, software as a service and cloud computing operations." is a sales pitch I see working very well in the coming years.

    I'd be willing to bet that some of the consumer tech stuff it's doing now will wind up divested from what is currently Microsoft. There's money to be made in the living room, especially for a company that has closer ties to media outlets than Google, but I think that managing aspect of the business that diverts more resources from the Corporate Computing that is Microsoft's bread and butter. There's a profitable business there, but since we're in the process of evolving special purpose content consumption hardware, there's going to be less reason to overlap than might have been the cast five years ago. I'm not sure where Microsoft-the-advertising-company fits in but I suspect that it's closer to the consumer tech side of things. I think a lot of things that Microsoft does as far as data-gathering are or will ultimately be justified in the name of obtaining datamine-able personal information that can be used for marketing services.

    Microsoft is also going to continue to buy other companies. I think it's going to wind up owning Nokia and probably also the important parts of Blackberry before too long. Microsoft-as-holding-company is another possible future, albeit probably the least interesting path going forward.

    • dragonmouth
      August 31, 2013 at 12:58 am

      "Everyone is going to write large checks to MS and software will continue to be delivered"
      IF the subscription software model ever takes off. But that may be a Pyrrhic victory for MSFT as many users, both private and corporate, will switch from MSFT products to Linux.

    • Dave P
      September 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      They're certainly valid predictions which could conceivably come true. If so it suggests Microsoft will split up into several parts, but doing so could be a risky move.

  15. Shawn
    August 29, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    1. Continue to create a more seamless integration between phone, tab & PC/Laptop
    2. Consistent software updates rather than just device upgrades = Make the device you choose an investment that rather than temporary.
    3. Flawless hardware that people will rave over

    • Dave P
      August 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Great suggestions. The first is especially essential, and if Microsoft could nail the other two then it would be a huge improvement.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 30, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Speaking to #1 in your comment, that is in fact the idea behind the Metro/tiled interface that's now common across current Microsoft platforms. There's some argument as to how successful it is, but in theory it means that someone who is familiar with one will be able to operate another.

      I'm less sure that gigantic chunky tiles that don't address the realities of differing screen types and resolutions is the best choice for that, but perhaps future iterations of products will refine the idea.

      But more to the point, Microsoft is going to have to step away from the hubris of total control of the device and the platform. Yes, it controls the desktop and it's certainly a contender as a game console manufacturer, although as I understand things that's a break-even market for it at best. But it has more or less lost mobile tech, and the way forward that I can see for it is to leverage the business applications and provide that same interface across non-Microsoft platforms.

      Office 365 works fine on Android and on iPhones (it's not allowed on iPads). What's to stop Microsoft from building a "mobile workspace" using either virtual desktops or simply porting a common user interface to sit on top of other mobile OSes? The mobile workspace could be extended and managed from trusted third parties or directly by Microsoft and would give a common UI for support, something that's extremely painful on mobile tech at the moment. This would be particularly handy in a "bring your own device" environment and I see it as a natural extension of the current trend of providing managed virtual machines for corporate desktop computing.

      I could see a Microsoft overlay on Android and iOS as a natural move forward, particularly if it was made as an inexpensive add-on to Office or Sharepoint licenses.

      As for point #2 - I think we're going to get to a point fairly quickly where device hardware isn't going to matter. We're already there with desktops and notebooks; SSDs will be pervasive in a couple more years and at that point the only important distinguishing factor for most users will be the quality of the display or perhaps battery life. Mobile devices have a lot farther to go, but if anything they move a lot faster than their bigger cousins.

      To the third point, Microsoft-branded hardware is largely excellent if you're willing to pay for it. Microsoft's input devices and webcams are first rate, and the biggest problem with the Surface products is that they still cost too much. Surface would've been much more credible if it had been released a couple years before it actually was, and I suspect it won't be given the support to grow into a mature product but I'd take a Surface RT over an iPad without a second thought.

  16. Pratyush R
    August 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Improving their products from its basic phase to an advanced phase, would be a normal daily routine for them.

    In addition, they must think over the collaborative projects over cloud, and adding features like solaborative.com (helping professionals to connect, video-chat and share screen) or acquiring such startups and providing them to users.

    On the other part, Windows tab hardware should be modified and provided with all basic hardware supports to complete all task, like looking into some tabs/phones - it doesnt have expandable memory, Bluetooth, battery life.(excluding Samsung), this would let'em capture the market again. They know how to do it, but they're not just doing it.

    #Win7Enthusiast

    • Rajaa Chowdhury
      August 30, 2013 at 2:14 am

      "In addition, they must think over the collaborative projects over cloud, and adding features like solaborative.com (helping professionals to connect, video-chat and share screen) or acquiring such startups and providing them to users."

      Microsoft has already acquired Yammer. :) Checkout http://www.yammer.com . I guess that should address your afore-mentioned issue.

    • Rajaa Chowdhury
      August 30, 2013 at 2:18 am

      Also, collaboration and videochat for proffesionals is very much there in Microsoft environment since ages with Lync and Sharepoint solutions and now with their cloud environment, the Office365. :)

      • Pratyush R
        August 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

        I just knew the names Sharepoint, Office365 and Lync and didnt know about their features (being inexperienced, I wish I could take back my words, but its better that I'm aware of it now).

        *checked them, I am in dire need of updating myself. Surface has got most of it, but why is it so costly? Slashing their prices by 100$ still wouldn't do.

        But slashing the space occupied by their software over the hardware would do them a lot good and they can come up with 16GB Surface Tablets.

        **(The operating system, apps and Office RT consume 8GB, while the Windows recovery tools occupy another 5GB.)*

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