Anyone following Apple and Microsoft in the late 90s would have a hard time imagining a headline like this in 2012. ExtremeTech’s Sebastian Anthony examines the upcoming strategies from each company later this year, and summarizes Microsoft’s situation like this:
The problem, of course, is that Windows 8 is a massive, revolutionary gamble that takes Microsoft way beyond its comfort zone. For 30 years, Microsoft has been making money on x86 PCs and servers, and the Office suite of software. With Windows 8, Microsoft is moving to a brand new architecture, giving away Office for free, doing away with the Start button and menu, and generally making a huge mess of the Desktop/Explorer side of things. Adding to this, Windows Phone 7 is limping along, and there’s no real indication that Windows drives users to the Xbox 360, and vice versa. In short, Microsoft needs Windows 8 to succeed on tablets and drive sales of Windows Phone 8… or it’s screwed.
I’m encouraged that Microsoft is striking out in a different direction with Metro and Windows 8, but I wonder if it’s enough. While Apple essentially created new markets for itself and folded that success back to the traditional desktop computer, Microsoft is trying to push the other way with a “Windows everywhere” strategy that is a variation on their old theme. The problem is that Windows Phone 7, while very good, hasn’t gained the traction needed to entice a large user base to “lock in” with the new experience across all devices.
The world began passing Microsoft by in 2007 when the iPhone hit, and the me-too mass market success of Android that followed further marginalized the former Redmond giant. Painted into a corner, Microsoft feels they need to respond boldly with Windows 8, a largely unproven break from their traditional computing approach. 2012 is shaping up to be a very interesting year.