Microsoft (MSFT) has ‘fallen off the radar’ in many peoples minds. Although Microsoft is still the clear leader by far in Operating System (Windows) and Office suite (MS Office) sales, a commonly held perception is that Microsoft has lost it’s way in terms of consumer products and services (MSFT is much more than just consumer products and services). Nothing could be further from the truth.
A Microsoft fanboy hangs on?
First-off a disclaimer is needed; I’m a confessed Microsoft fanboy! I believe that Microsoft, in the past and now, have offered amazing products and services that have made our lives much more productive. I worked with Microsoft products for many years and attained various Microsoft certifications. I’m not one of those fanboys that use a company’s products just because they are made by a particular company; I use an Android phone, have an iPod touch, got the Kids Nintendo DS and Wii, use Mozilla Thunderbird and not Outlook, use both MS Office and Google Docs etc. but I still use and love Windows and various other MSFT products and services.
Microsoft’s new Consumer assault wave
I remember reading an interview with the Burger King (BK) CEO a few years back (when BK was ahead of Wendys) where it was mentioned that BK didn’t mind being number 2 as the media spotlight wasn’t on them as much as McDonald’s (i.e. #1 in an industry tends to get much more scrutiny than the followers). With the rise of Apple and their consumer products as well as Facebook etc. one wonders if the enhanced attention to these other tech companies has suited MSFT.
Chart above from Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism
Whilst Microsoft have been receiving less media attention, they have been quietly working away for their next assault on the consumer market. The three really big products and services that I believe may just propel MSFT forward in terms of consumer engagement are:
Kinect enables controlling of devices through gestures (movement) and speech. Forget touch-screens, Kinect makes touch-screen look decidedly ‘old school’.
Kinect was released for the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console in late 2010 but support within Windows powered devices is near. Kinect currently holds the record for the fastest selling consumer device (yes, it beats both iPad and iPod). If you haven’t experienced Kinect go down to your Xbox seller and try out Kinect, it is absolutely unbelievable.
Skype is nothing new. It is however still incredibly awesome and the acquisition of Skype by MSFT was a great move for all concerned. There are many competitors to Skype (notably Google Talk) but Skype benefits from the advantage of being first to market as well as continues product development and improvement.
The backbone of many of Microsoft’s new services is their Content Delivery Network (CDN) and cloud apps. Windows Azure is the developer and consumer front end for much of this backbone. Of course this type of functionality is nothing new with Amazon AWS being the most widely known of these services. The very positive signals by the likes of Azure is that Microsoft is encouraging external parties to use its infrastructure and even script/code in non-Microsoft scripts and languages such as PHP.
Azure and other cloud services will usually be invisible to consumers however a solid backbone like this is essential for successful services delivery (FYI, Apple apparently use Akamai CDN for iCloud, iTunes etc.).
MSFT – Onward and Upward
The above three products and services are a fraction of the new assault on consumer products by Microsoft. Even Windows 8 before it has been launched is getting rave reviews by some highly influential people such as Don Norman who states ‘I urge you all to try it. You might even want to switch to the Windows 8 platform …, but even if you don’t, you will learn a lot about design by studying what they have done’.
It will be great for consumers if MSFT do well in this space again.