5 questions for Microsoft

1 Aug

Do a Google search with the string “Microsoft surface sales” and you will see that the Surface has drowned and continues to drown! Need more facts? How about this –

  1. Microsoft has sold just 1.7 million Surface, whereas in the same period Apple sold 57 million iPads! iPad sold 33X times Surface.
  2. Microsoft earned $853 million and has written-off $900 million due to unsold inventory!

The figures reveal everything. For a tablet which came out as the next iPad competitor, its anything but that.

Since Apple created this category, dominated and continues to do so, many manufacturers have entered, many have exited. This is innovation at best and some may also say first-mover advantage. Though Microsoft had experimented with Surface few years prior to release of iPad, just that Apple innovated and rest is history. Apart from iPad, its the like of Samsung and Google with its range of Nexus which is actually selling quantifiable amount of Tablets. Rest like Blackberry, Asus, Lenovo to name a few just have a presence but haven’t been able to reach a mass scale. Their lack of success or that of abundance of failure can be attributed to many factors. Except Apple and Blackberry who had their own OS, rest all were based on Android.

Then a year back, Microsoft entered the fray with its “Surface” range of Tablets based on their flagship Windows 8 platform. I saw the launch event video and I felt this had promise. The hardware design and specs were quiet good, the keyboard in the cover was a neat value add and their OS being Windows which was used by millions of computers both personal and enterprise, their existed a certain level of familiarity. One small glitch, during the launch event itself, one of the tablets on which Steven Sinfosky was giving a demo on, stopped working and he calmly(kudos) replaced with another one. When you are Microsoft, launching a product and that too as an iPad competitor, these types of glitches is unacceptable. Shows callousness in preparing for the event. Steve Ballmer the face of Microsoft as its CEO was unimpressive.

Anyways…overall it was a well received event.

And then…few days after Steven Sinofsky the brain behind Windows 8 quit! Questions/speculations/rumors started floating. Then news came that one variant of Surface wont have this, one wont have that. Delays in shipping, delays in production.Then there were rumors that on old mobile phones(2011, 2012), there wont be updates and so on. These kind of news are not the best way to get or build trust or to sustain an already depleting trust bank.

So here are my 5 questions for Microsoft –

Why Steve Ballmer still?

Microsoft, you were a legend in computing for almost two decades. Things have changed dramatically in the last 5 years. Ballmer is unable to accept and acknowledge this change. You need to change him with some one else to continue being the legend, however remote that may sound. He is not only out of sync, but he comes across as an arrogant and a rigid person too! You deserve a better face of your brand!

Why not a good app-ecosystem? 

Lets face it, I have more apps on my phone (iPhone incidentally) than software on my laptop running Windows 7! And if you want to be in the tablet/mobile OS space, you need to have a solid app-catalog! Like what Apple and Google have. That’s the reason why these two are doing well and that’s the reason why Apple is still more favored due to its awesome solid App store! And considering your clout in the industry, why is it so difficult to reach out to say top-100 apps developers and get them to your app-store! You are good with business and earning money. Build a good economic model for the developers.

Why so blind?

In a developing country like India, desktop/laptop sales grew meager 1% whereas sales of Tablets grew 400%. This is the golden age of Tablets! This is the age of mobile devices. This is the age of devices other than desktops/laptops. If you are unable to gain traction with your Windows platform why not bite the bullet and join hands with Android and offer a choice on your Surface! Or build a kick-ass mobile device yourself! Do something, stop wearing shades which are showing a world which doesn’t exist anymore.

Why not rethink the hardware business?

There was a time when Microsoft hardware was looked as a premium device. All my mouse be at work or home are all Microsoft ones! My keyboard is Microsoft! Surface showed what you are capable of it! Capitalize on it, go beyond. Why not build a really cool phone, why not build variations of Surface with different screen sizes! Why not a Microsoft Smart Watch or a device like a JawBone Up. I am saying use the powerhouse of talent you have at your disposable, not to forget deep pockets!

Why forgetting your past?

For whatever reason, almost everyone I know is using Windows on their desktops/laptops. They may have second devices running Mac, tablets on Android/iOS, but they do interact with Windows on a daily basis. Microsoft, you have brought computing to the world. You have been instrumental in putting computers on everyone’s desk. You have a glorious legacy. Yes your present is gloomy and the future even more so, but if you can thrive for the last 20 years I am sure you can thrive for many more. Windows is by far the most complex application ever developed on this planet. Who doesn’t know of MS Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint! I recall there was an interview of Steve Jobs in 2010 when he was asked how does he feel when Apple took over Microsoft in market cap and he said it feels surreal! This is what you are made of. Reclaim your past and build a future like you did many years back!

 

Anirudh

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