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Is Microsoft Still Relevant?

“Well, technology companies either move forward, too, or they die. They become less relevant.”? — Steve Ballmer.

I am writing this post on Windows XP, an operating system first released in October of 2001. It is a good enough operating system which means, for the most part, I endure the experience of running Windows. Windows 7 will soon hit the shelves at roughly $300 for an Ultimate version. I can pre-order a copy. I can line up early for a copy. I can host a Windows 7 launch party.

But I won’t.

The New York Times had an interesting piece on Microsoft. The online version is here. The Fake Steve Jobs provides a less sanitized and more vulgar version here. Some interesting quotes from the New York Times:

Is Microsoft leading the digital era?

For many years, Microsoft and its leaders could make sweeping statements like this with little public pushback. Microsoft embodied the technology industry and was the grand arbiter of the tools people used to conduct business and navigate the digital era.

These days, however, Microsoft has legions of doubters. While it still commands a prominent and profitable position in computing, brand experts say consumers stumble when trying to define what the company stands for and whether it can create a grander technological future.

Is Microsoft relevant?

Critics of Microsoft say it has hugely underestimated market changes and plotted a long and winding course toward irrelevance. It remains too fixated on its old-line, desktop-based franchises, they say ”” too slow, too predictable and too, well, Microsoft.

Can Microsoft build great products?

Executives at Microsoft say it has gotten its house in order, putting an end to delayed, clunky products like the maligned and then ignored Windows Vista… According to a new CoreBrand study, Microsoft”™s reputation and the perception of its management and investment potential have been declining for over a decade, with the drop-off accelerating over the last five years.

Is Microsoft the Evil Empire?

Rivals now simply dismiss Microsoft as a laggard rather than hitting it with the Evil Empire criticisms so familiar in the 1990s. In its place stands Google, which now has Microsoft”™s mantle as a game-changing technology behemoth and is also increasingly perceived as a dominant competitor whose power warrants concern.

Microsoft will be around for a while yet. And hopefully a new leader will drive some much needed change in this company. When the New York Times decided to run this photo of Ballmer as the cover for the story, you know that it is getting time for a leadership change.

ballmer

The Borg Goes Offensive

According to Roger Kay there is quite the sum of money involved in owning a piece of Apple gear. The report titled “What Price Cool?” can be downloaded here. Oh. And since Microsoft “sponsored” the study, I can save you some time reading the report. The fair and objective result paid for by Microsoft is that Apple products cost more money!

The report is filled with brilliant insights like this one warning individuals and companies not to consider migrating to Apple:

With Macs, you”™re out top dollar, but can’t get a package with all this cutting edge stuff now, nor can you add it later, which means you’ll always be behind. How cool is that? Mac users may be paying more for image than substance and investing heavily in coolness that”™s cooling off.

Uh huh.

I agree with Macalope:

Microsoft has boxed itself into a corner of expensive, nonsensical and uncompelling upgrade paths and is behaving like a spoiled child because its customers have started realizing they don”™t have to use Windows. They know it and Roger Kay knows it. If they spent half the time they spend filling out fake tax forms and paying actresses to buy their products actually making a good user experience, they might be able to speak about value with an iota of credibility. But probably not.

A reasoned analysis would show that there is a premium to a Mac over a cheap PC from Best Buy although nowhere near the amounts proposed in Kay’s study. As with most things in life, quality products can command a premium.

Just for the record, I am posting this from the most dominant operating system in use today. You know. Windows XP. The really cutting edge stuff that Microsoft delivered almost ten years ago. With a PC, I know that I will never be behind because it takes so long for Windows to catch up.