Week in Review: Rough Times in Redmond
Oof. It's never easy staying on top -- not even for Microsoft, which has dominated
the software industry for so long that it's hard to remember when IBM was the
"evil empire" of technology.
It was bad enough that last week, Google
and Capgemeni got together to try to rope and tie Microsoft's cash cow,
Office. Now, though, Google appears to be going
after Outlook, too, and it's not the only competitor trying to carve out
slice of the e-mail pie. Nor is Google the only Microsoft rival to take
a fresh run at Office, now that IBM
has a free suite of its own.
But, hey, that's competition, and if it leads to innovation (and, in turn,
increased investment in new and improved technologies), it'll be a good thing
in the long run for partners, users and the industry as a whole. Google's Capgemini
link seems to be by far the biggest threat to Office in particular and to Microsoft
in general, but the main theme here is that Microsoft is going to need to adapt
in order to keep Office dominant -- come up with a true SaaS version of the
suite or at least a lighter, (much) cheaper alternative to the current monster.
The proverbial ball is in Redmond's posh, well-manicured court. We await Steve
Ballmer's -- or perhaps Ray Ozzie's -- forehand.
Then there was the real blow of the week, Microsoft's
loss in its appeal of ridiculous antitrust fines imposed by the European
Union. It wasn't exactly unexpected, and it's not as though Microsoft can't
afford to pay for what the EU and a European court determined to be its anti-competitive
But it does complicate matters for Microsoft, its partners and even its users,
given that Microsoft's effort to sell multiple versions of Windows with various
products (such as Windows Media Player) cut out of certain versions wasn't enough
to placate the EU hunger for eating
successful American companies alive. What now? Well, perhaps another appeal
from Redmond -- or perhaps a big check sent from Seattle to Brussels and another
15 versions of Windows launched in the EU. We'll see.
All of this bad news, of course, has the press (generally an anti-Microsoft
lot, honestly, which doesn't do much for impressions of objectivity) absolutely
drooling and gleefully throwing together "this
is the death of Microsoft" articles. Of course, Microsoft lives, and
it's got more money than ever before. And it won't go away, just as IBM didn't
go away after falling off its industry perch in the 1980s. But the question
now is whether Microsoft can continue to be the software industry heavyweight
or whether it'll slip into being just another big player. Everybody's asking
that question, so we know that we're stating the obvious here. But still, it's
a question worth asking.
We're not going to make any predictions on that front, except to say that standing
pat (which Microsoft doesn't appear to be doing) is the worst thing Redmond
can do. What we wonder is whether Microsoft is going in the right directions:
With huge investments in search, advertising, video game consoles, portable
music players and other non-core efforts, will Redmond be able to circle back
around and defend its home turf of Office (still the company's big revenue generator)
and Windows and keep the revenues pouring into its channel? Stay tuned.
Have any thoughts on anything that happened this week? Or last? Or might happen
next week? Send them to me at email@example.com.
Posted by Lee Pender on 09/21/2007 at 1:21 PM