Greg's bite: the decline and fall of Microsoft
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Greg's bite: the decline and fall of Microsoft

By Greg Mills

Those who read Greg's bite regularly may have noticed I tend to dump on Microsoft and the pope of Anti-Mac, Steve Ballmer.  It seems I am not alone as numerous articles have come out lately which confirm my observations, exactly.  Some have speculated that Microsoft will actually go belly up even after Ballmer is forced out. They are riding the Windows PC Operating System monopoly into the ground.

Microsoft has been chronically late to respond to new markets and have been ridiculously smug about it. Recently, the clown of high tech, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer went on and on about the Vista Windows 7 smartphone OS being early? My question for Mr. Ballmer is "early in what respect?" By the reckoning of those in the best position to know, Mobile Vista 7  is about three years behind the Apple iOS.  

That is very late to the party Mr. Ballmer, not early. Considering Apple is not sitting on their laurels, as they seem to do a lot at Microsoft, the target for innovation in smartphone OS development is anything but static. By the time the copycats at Microsoft manage to emulate new features in the iOS platform, Apple announces an upgrade that again puts Microsoft back again.  

From the time Bill Gates retired and put Steve Ballmer in charge of Microsoft as CEO, the market cap of Microsoft has been reduce by half. That is not an exaggeration. With a hammer lock on the mundane but lucrative PC operating system, it is hard to imagine "screwing up a stainless steel ball bearing," but with enough energy and money doing the wrong things, it can be done.  

Microsoft copied the highly successful iPod with the dismal failure of the Zune. Just for laughs, I asked my 11-year-old daughter if she would rather have an iPod or a Zune for Christmas. Her response was, "Daddy, what's a Zune?" Imagine the poor little Gates children, doomed to have a Zune while the other kids get iPods or iPads for Christmas. Perhaps we could take up a collection to provide a iPad for the Gates children.  

Imagine being technologically deprived with your dad one of the most wealthy people in the world. Excuse me, I have to go for a Kleenex to dry my eyes. Perhaps Microsoft will gift the Gates kids a Mobile Vista 7 phone since they are giving them away to all the 94,000 Microsoft employees. Hey what's a couple of smart phones for a good cause?

Microsoft is losing almost US$2 billion dollars a year getting Bing off the ground. That endeavor is an attempt to compete with Google in the search market. Advertising is the key to making money in search. Bing is making some headway, but is not setting the world on fire, by any means. I like Bing only for image searches. Clicking on an image icon opens that image for closer inspection, but going back to the search, Bing will throw you back anywhere in the search results, so you have to scroll up and down to figure out where you were, instead of going right back where you were...

Then Microsoft copied the highly successful iPhone with the Kin phone that was so poorly received it was quickly withdrawn from the market three weeks from its launch. The XBox is still losing money hand over fist, the Windows OS is losing ground to the Mac OS and now the make-or-break Mobile Vista OS seems to have not wowed the market, despite the advertising splurge. Microsoft is in deep trouble.

With repeated failures in attempting to follow Apple's success, the stock market has punished Microsoft severely. When the launch of Mobile Vista 7 was announced a number of high tech stock analyst have blogged that Microsoft, being three years behind, needed to "hit the ball out of the park" to not lose its last chance to even be relevant in the mobile market place. While Mobile Vista 7 is graphically engaging, it offers little new in the way of compelling features not seen in the Apple, Android or other smartphone operating systems. That means it is really a sink-or-swim situation for Microsoft and Mr. Ballmer as CEO.  

The future of computing is certainly in mobile platforms, and Microsoft not being ready has hurt its own situation as well as not supporting the usual hardware partners who are clamoring to launch flash memory, touch screen tablets that can compete with iPad. If you build PC computers, you normally depend on Microsoft for the operating system. Oops, there isn't a viable slate OS available unless you write it yourself.  Note: just running Windows PC operating systems on a slate shaped PC is not going anywhere. 

To Apple it is like a dream come true that they caught Microsoft and the PC hardware makers sleeping at the switch. With a giant void in platform software to run slate commuters running small but fast flash memory, the PC hardware folks are really out of luck competing with Apple's iPad. I discount Microsoft's attempt to move Mobile Vista 7 to the slate computer platform, but fully expect Google to do it convincingly with the Android OS.  It is a matter of time and, fortunately for Apple, that means this Christmas season iPad is "the only game in town" for those wanting a slate computer.

The massive advertising campaign launched by Microsoft to insure Mobile Vista 7 succeeds can only go so far. A lot of bloggers have speculated that savvy consumers are going to hold off to make sure they don't buy a new smartphone that will be orphaned when Microsoft abandons the mobile market. The market for used Kin phones on eBay can only absorb so many obsolete phones. The severe lack of Mobile Vista 7 developer support is also telling. Why build apps for Windows Vista 7 when you are not sure it will be around for long? Developers are pretty smart about choosing a platform to support.  

All this is not lost on Apple. By the time Google launches its Android OS for slate commuters Apple will have already launched iOS 4 for iPad (expected this month) raising the bar again. If Google is able to launch an Android Slate OS by spring time, iPad 2 will hit the streets and steal the thunder, again. Apple is very unlikely to loose its momentum and vast advantage in slate computer market share, manufacturing capacity or it's hammerlock on the world's flash memory supply. That's Greg's bite for today.

P.S. If anyone at Apple is reading this, adaptive spelling in word processing apps should use another color for computer substituted words from the dictionary. These word processing apps catch words you spell or typed slightly wrong and guess what you intended to type.  If these inserted words were red for example, entirely wrong words would be apparent. If you go on a few sentences the color could return to black.  

(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; His email is gregmills@mac.com )

 
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