We read (and write) it all the time: Microsoft is behind the curve in developing for new technology formats. Redmond's smartphone operating system is an also-ran. Microsoft has no tablet strategy. Google, Apple and RIM are just killing the old dinosaur in those areas.
But so what? Microsoft is still raking in money, and there's still a Windows laptop on almost every...well, lap, we suppose, or desk. The company's server products are going like gangbusters, and even Dynamics is settling into a niche. No big deal, right? Tablets, trick-pony phones and all those toys can take a back seat to real technology.
Actually, that's what we'd like Microsoft to say: that it's going to focus on enterprise technologies, operating systems and the cloud for business and leave the more consumer-oriented stuff behind. But that's not Microsoft. That's not Steve Ballmer. The company wants to be everything to everybody, so it has some sort of presence in just about every technology market in existence.
But Microsoft's roots are still in the old-fashioned desktop OS, and that's becoming a bit of a problem as users increasingly turn to smartphones and (for reasons we still don't understand) tablets, and away from laptops and especially desktops. If Microsoft wants to be everything to everybody, it's going to need to pick up its game big time.
Early returns on Windows Phone 7 suggest that, despite some clever but confusing (are we not supposed to look at our phones?) advertising from Redmond, Android is just crushing. Microsoft's mobile OS. One UK retailer says that Android sales are outpacing those of WP7 at a rate of 15 to 1. Ouch.
But the news gets worse for Microsoft: Gartner recently cut its forecast for worldwide PC shipment growth in 2011, noting that the popularity of tablets is actually cutting into PC sales. And which tablet is the most popular of them all? Well, the iPad, of course. There's not a Windows machine to be found in the tablet market right now, at least not one that's garnering any serious interest.
The tablet thing is especially disturbing because it hits Microsoft right in the financial gut -- sales of Windows on PCs. And, frankly, we at RCPU really didn't see that coming. Everybody's talking tablets now, and not just for reading books on the subway. Businesses are increasingly adopting them, and they're buying iPads. Why? We're honestly not sure, but it's happening.
So, while Microsoft tries to please all of the people all of the time, it's letting Apple (of all companies -- seriously) make a dent in its core revenues. Maybe it's time for Microsoft to shift its focus from phones -- which have never been a massive moneymaker in Redmond, anyway -- to tablets. And it's definitely time for Microsoft to stop trying to win every technology contest and figure out which areas it needs to develop -- and protect -- in order to maintain its position at (sorry, near) the top of the technology heap.
What kind of interest do you have in tablet computers? Have your say at email@example.com.
Posted by Lee Pender on 11/29/2010 at 1:27 PM6 comments
Just a note: RCPU has next week off, so you won't see this newsletter online or in your inbox. As we do every year (although I think we forgot to do it last year), we wish you our traditional Happy Thanksgiving from R-C-P-U!
Anyway, let's finish off the week by running some reader feedback. Although it's not exactly at the heard of our readers' concerns, we just love writing about (OK, making fun of) the Kin, which might be on its way back for a curtain call. Reader Michael, though, says that the Kin wouldn't necessarily be headed for failure again if it were to reappear:
"For kids who want legitimate music (their parents don't want them to pirate) and who don't need a smartphone, the Kin makes sense. My daughter has a cell phone and a Zune (my wife and I each have Zune HDs), but I wouldn't think of getting her a Droid or BlackBerry. It isn't worth $39 per month for data for either. But, a phone/Zune combo with a $15 data plan would be something that I'd consider. Having written that, Microsoft would be better off focusing on getting Windows Phone 7 on Verizon."
Michael, what you say makes sense, which is why we fully expect Microsoft to screw it up somehow if the Kin does come back. For whatever reason, Microsoft has proven itself to be maladroit in the mobile space for a while now. The Kin has the stink of failure all over it. Could it shake it? Actually, we'd love to find out.
Have a comment on anything you've read on RCPU? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll get to it after Thanksgiving.
Posted by Lee Pender on 11/18/2010 at 8:57 AM1 comments
Version 6.1 of Avaya's IP Office communication platform says goodbye Windows, hello Linux. The company claims collaboration, productivity and cost improvements. We'll see.
Posted by Lee Pender on 11/17/2010 at 8:56 AM0 comments
We can imagine that there were days of wine and roses at past Microsoft shareholder meetings. Champagne flowed, caviar gleamed and the whole affair had the feel of a huge gala dinner. OK, so maybe things weren't that fancy...but they were surely better than they are now.
The marriage between Microsoft and its shareholders, once so vibrant, has gone a bit...stale. Hence the decidedly not-party atmosphere at this week's shareholder meetings, in which rumblings and grumblings about the company's long-stagnant stock price drowned out whatever noise popping champagne corks might have made.
There were questions, some more burning than others, about everything from Windows Phone 7 to Bill Gates's sales of Microsoft shares to fund his immense charitable foundation. When pressed about why he was selling shares for charity rather than simply taking them off of Microsoft's books, Gates gave an excellent response, as quoted in the story linked above:
"I think the thrust of the question is, 'Are the current grantees of the foundation more deserving than turning the money over to Microsoft shareholders?' I've made the decision that that wealth is going to go into the foundation rather than being the reduction in the shares of Microsoft."
Good for you, Bill. Seriously. Nobody could ever accuse Bill Gates, of all people, of not being responsible to Microsoft's shareholders, and he should be able to use his shares for whatever purpose he chooses. The fact that he's selling them to pump money into his wonderful foundation is even more laudable.
That little exchange was just a sidelight, though, in the shareholder affair. The real bomb dropped when somebody asked Steve Ballmer about possibly breaking up Microsoft. Both Ballmer and Gates spoke to the topic, offerings answers a bit short on details and pretty long on, "Uh, no." And that's OK with us. (Check out the TechFlash link earlier in this paragraph for their full answers.)
We've never been proponents of a Microsoft breakup. We at RCPU do feel as though Microsoft should focus less on the futile pursuit of consumer hegemony and more on maintaining and expanding the company's enterprise empire. That's not tantamount, though, to saying that there should be multiple Microsofts. We're more interested in a more focused, less consumer-hungry Microsoft.
What we find interesting here is simply that the "break-up" question came up. Not much about what Ballmer or Gates said was surprising, but clearly there is some frustration boiling up from within the Microsoft shareholder base. We're guessing that shareholders are a long, long way from forcing a breakup of the company and will probably never get to that point. But if key players don't like the returns they're getting, they'll continue to make their voices hears.
Maybe the days of whine and thorns, then, have replaced the days of wine and roses in Redmond. Still, while the party might not be what it once was, it goes on -- as will Microsoft, as a single, still pretty darn strong entity. For now, anyway.
Should Microsoft break up? Why or why not? Send your answer to email@example.com.
Posted by Lee Pender on 11/17/2010 at 8:51 AM4 comments
Ahahaha. Please, Microsoft and Verizon. Please do this. Please bring the Kin back.
Yes, that's right. Arguably the biggest flop in Microsoft history could -- although there's nothing official on this yet -- make a stunning return as a feature phone with a cheaper Verizon data plan. We really want this to happen.
Why? Because we enjoy poking fun at Microsoft from time to time here and many of Redmond's recent product offerings have been too good for ridicule. Windows 7 is a huge hit, and even Windows Phone 7 doesn't seem that bad. The various server offerings have been consistently very good, and the specter of Vista is pretty much gone.
Oh, it's not that we want Microsoft, or even the Kin, to fail. It's just useful, we think, to remind the software titan once in a while that it's capable of really embarrassing itself -- and that it shouldn't lose focus on its enterprise product lines in favor of thrusting swords at too many consumer windmills. That last bit is really the main thrust of our occasional jabs.
Besides, bringing back the Kin is kind of like making Ishtar 2, if that flop-movie reference still has any currency. (We could have gone with, say, More Cop Rock, but that's still pretty '80s. Your editor needs to stop watching TV Land.) Maybe it makes sense for the phones to be cheaper and not require such heavy data plans, but we can see a steady stream of jokes headed our way. Microsoft and Verizon, make it happen.
Why on earth would Microsoft try to bring back the Kin? Speculate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Lee Pender on 11/15/2010 at 2:01 PM3 comments
This is probably a whole lot of nothing and really doesn't seem like a big deal, anyway, but you clicked, right? Anyhow, somebody's accusing Microsoft of inflating Windows revenue figures by bringing in numbers from other parts of the company, specifically the Entertainment and Devices Group. Uh, that seems kind of backwards to us. Windows needs help from the entertainment group? Really? We kind of doubt that.
Posted by Lee Pender on 11/15/2010 at 2:07 PM0 comments