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7 Mistakes Microsoft Made In 2013
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sgbeal
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sgbeal,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/30/2013 | 10:19:49 AM
"The time for that move was 2013. Alas, it didn't happen, so it's on our list."
The past decade, MS has made a habit of waiting 3 years to respond to any market activities of its competitors (e.g. compare the release dates of Google Docs and Office Online). They demonstrated Surface computing YEARS before anyone else and then SAT ON IT, not doing anything with it until 2+ years after Apple, then Android, ran with tablet computing (a very close relative of Surface computing). To be honest, i'm not sure what's keeping MS afloat. They are becoming less and less relevant in the world, quite possibly for the reason the author mentions: that they assume everyone wants a single-platform solution to all their problems. If that's what they continue to believe, and act on, well... so long, Microsoft!
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 11:38:09 AM
Re: "The time for that move was 2013. Alas, it didn't happen, so it's on our list."
And so from this we conclude that Microsoft has great R&D but an inability to see which products are going to be successful or, perhaps, to accomplish the task of taking a product from idea to market. Maybe they've just got scared as they have got larger, and don't want to be seen betting the house on something new. Maybe they just don't have the flair for marketing that Apple does (and, love them or hate them, you gotta give Apple credit for knowing how to create demand).

 

Your underlying point stands then; by playing the follower rather than the innovator, Microsoft runs the risk of losing all credibility in the marketplace and ending up as an "also-ran" in many technology areas, following a well-beaten path behind such behemoths as IBM and Xerox.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2014 | 2:04:52 PM
Re: "The time for that move was 2013. Alas, it didn't happen, so it's on our list."
I hardly think IBM and Xerox is a valid comparison. Last time I looked, IBM is doing pretty well. Not everyone has to make tablets and smartphones to be successful.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2014 | 3:33:53 PM
Re: "The time for that move was 2013. Alas, it didn't happen, so it's on our list."
@TerryB: "I hardly think IBM and Xerox is a valid comparison. Last time I looked, IBM is doing pretty well. Not everyone has to make tablets and smartphones to be successful."

 

I was really talking about leading the technology markets. Microsoft has shown signs of playing catch up in some very significant market adjacencies (mobile and tablets being a good example). They also appear to have lost the plot with Windows 8, though there are signs that they're at least aware and trying to address some of the problems there. In my opinion Microsoft isn't leading the markets for emerging technologies, if I may be so rude as to generalize like that. They are playing catcn up or copy cat, and trying to stay in the game; they run the risk, as I said, of becoming an "also-ran" rather than an innovator. That's not to totally ignore the breadth of what they do, and they aren't like that across the board, but if they can't figure out their mobile platforms, they're in trouble because that's where the enormous growth is.

As to IBM and Xerox being "also-rans", that's exactly what they are. That doesn't mean they can't do "pretty well" - I'm sure that IBM at least has managed to reinvent itself to some extent and is making money. However, do we look to IBM as the market leader and innovator in ANY market these days? No - IBM had great technological inspirations in the past, then the market overtook them. Xerox, like Microsoft, had fantastic ideas and no idea how to take them further (PARC was a truly amazing example of their understanding of the need to innovate, then they notoriously failed to capitalize on a whole string of opportunities). Microsoft is doing pretty well too, all things considered. However, given the tech refresh cycles, I wonder how that picture will change in the new few years.

 

</wild_generalization>
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
1/3/2014 | 11:12:51 AM
Re: "The time for that move was 2013. Alas, it didn't happen, so it's on our list."
I guess whether I agree with you or not depends on whether you are talking about hardware or software/systems. I have not seen anyone else create a system (Watson) that can kick any human's butt in Jeopardy or diagnose illness like a doctor. You are radically underestimating what IBM does today. Apple can't even create map software to get you to right place. Siri is a joke.

Look up who applied for most technology patents last year, and for many of years before that. IBM is not a consumer company, they work quietly in the background.

Not to mention their business computers are still the finest in the world. They've given me a great career since 1985 and will take me into retirement in 10-15 years. Outside of Best Buy, just who exactly has Apple and Google helped? You want to try and make a living writing apps for their stores that people download for free? Good luck with that.

IBM may not be glamorous but are still a backbone in technology for business. Google, Apple and MS can only dream of getting there someday.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 10:33:11 AM
Surface sales
I'd like to have Microsoft give out sell through on Surface. We get the idea of how well a Microsoft product is doing depending on whether they announce sales or not. If it's doing well, they tell us the numbers. If not, then they don't give us the numbers. Selling out means nothing. So far, skepticism over Surface sales seems proper.
DominicG929
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DominicG929,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/30/2013 | 10:58:28 AM
RT name dump a bad decision?
As confusing as it was to have Windows RT, I don't agree with dumping the name.  There are major compatibility issues between RT and 8 (since software designed to run on x86 CPUs doesn't natively run on ARM CPUs), and there needed to be something to denote to customers that they aren't the same.  If anything, they should have called it something more meaningful, like Windows Tablet.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 11:34:08 AM
Re: RT name dump a bad decision?
You're right that the need to keep a distinction because of incompatibility. Of course, they kind of created their own problem here by trying to make everything look exactly the same on the surface (no pun intended) when underneath they're really not. 

 

Interestingly, Apple has the same logical issue of a tablet/phone platform that runs different software to the laptop/computer platform, yet seems to manage this much more gracefully. Perhaps while iOS is a limiting factor in the "pseudo-laptop" capabilities of the iPad, in the same way, dumbing Win8 down enough that it will work on other form factors was a worse idea.

 
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
1/1/2014 | 9:06:02 PM
Re: RT name dump a bad decision?
@DominicG929

Windows tablet is too broad for a name to be effective setting apart the difference between the tablets. Aren't both the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2, Windows tablets anyway?
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 1:06:42 PM
One more
Announcing Steve Ballmer's retirement before his successor had been appointed.


My suspicion is that the reorg was decided upon before Mr. Ballmer decided to retire early, but that wouldn't be public knowledge.  I'm guessing that the board gave him an ultimatum shortly before the retirement was announced (the other alternative being dismissal).

 
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
1/1/2014 | 10:59:01 AM
Re: One more
Ballmer retiring was a surprise? I think that was a long time coming, if you ask me. 

Steve Ballmer was never a technical guy. He was a businessman. There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't feel like he was the best fit to lead the company after Bill Gates' exit.

Hopefully Microsoft will hire a technical person to run things going forward. 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/1/2014 | 12:36:02 PM
Re: One more
I definitely agree that he was the wrong man to lead MS, partially because of his lack of technical interest or understanding, but mostly because of his apparent paranoia, lack of self-control, and lack of ideas on how to compete in a market that's not rigged in his favor.  I fully expected him to be ousted in the wake of the Vista debacle, but it appears that he retained the confidence of the Board anyway.  His appointment as President of MS was Bill Gates' single biggest mistake.


I do think it important that the head of a technical firm have a technical background, not because anyone seriously expects him to do programming or design work, but because it's hard to come up with the answers if you don't comprehend the questions and it's very hard to manage technical specialists when you don't understand how they think or what they do.  To that extent, a newly graduated MBA with a former career as an auto mechanic would probably do a better job managing a technical firm than a veteran corporate executive with no technical background.

 
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
1/1/2014 | 8:55:52 PM
Re: One more
A successful CEO must be a businessman, there is no doubt for it. But as a CEO of a high-tech company in a fast evolving and hectic business environment, this is not enough. You must have bother business and technical acumen. It's not necessary for you to under technical details but at least you should have the interest in technical stuff and technology trends. I have no intention to have aspersion on Ballmer. But I do have the same doubt - would he be the right person for this challenging position?
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 1:09:35 PM
Office for any tablet is dumb
I don't understand why folks get so bent out of shape that there is no full features office suite for tablets. Who in their right mind uses a tablet with a soft keyboard to do any office work? I can see some decent file viewers and maybe even a special app for slide shows, but beyond that I cannot see any point in office apps for any tablet.
millardlatimer
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millardlatimer,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/30/2013 | 1:49:06 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Due to a myriad of pre-existing restrictions, a tablet might be the only option for an employee. They could also be using a bluetooth keyboard. Given the light hardware requirements for basic word processing, it doesn't seem too much to as for at least a lite version of Office for tablets. 
anon5060085694
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anon5060085694,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/30/2013 | 2:43:10 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Who said anything about a soft keyboard? One can use bluetooth keyboard with tablets just fine.
awebb199
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awebb199,
User Rank: Strategist
12/31/2013 | 6:39:02 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Look, Microsoft is already working on Office redone as a "modern" Windows Store app.  That is higher priority than supporting iPad users who are already made that choice with the understanding that Office was not available.

Articles that say that not doing X is a "mistake" often forget to consider what wouldn't get done if they did X.

Office is bundled with the new crop of Baytrail tablets like the Dell Venue 8 and so it is not expensive anymore.

 

 

 
KevinRCasey
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KevinRCasey,
User Rank: Moderator
1/2/2014 | 10:59:40 AM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Thanks for the perspective. I agree that prioritization is important, but I can't get on board with this particular point: "That is higher priority than supporting iPad users who are already made that choice with the understanding that Office was not available."

For one, many of those iPad users made that choice before Microsoft offered a viable, visible Windows tablet. In the bigger picture, it seems to me that kind of thinking helped Apple and Google get off to a huge head start over Microsoft in terms of mobile devices and apps.
awebb199
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awebb199,
User Rank: Strategist
1/2/2014 | 10:24:21 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
I see your side too.   How much would you be willing to pay for Office on an iPad?   I just bought a Dell Venue Pro 8 (64GB) with Office bundled for $320.
KevinRCasey
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KevinRCasey,
User Rank: Moderator
1/3/2014 | 5:50:54 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Good question. I'd be curious to hear answers from iPad fans here: What would you pay for native Office apps on the iPad?

It seems like there are multiple models Microsoft could pursue. Wouldn't native iPad versions make some of the higher-end Office 365 packages (the tiers in $12.50-$22.00/user/month range that include full desktop versions of Office) more attractive to business customers? Similarly, couldn't they offer a version of Office Home Premium for a bit more per year/month that includes iPad versions?

Office for Mac Home and Business runs $219... seems unlikely iPad users would pay that much, but there must be a price that would generate major sales. Would you (and by you I mean any Office user with an iPad) pay $100 to download full iPad versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint from iTunes?

 
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 3:34:32 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
@moarsauce123: "Who in their right mind uses a tablet with a soft keyboard to do any office work?"

I see the value of being able to continue working on documents that you started on a tablet, whether using a soft keyboard or a bluetooth keyboard or similar. Cloud document storage makes working on the same document on multiple platforms so easy, it's a real shame that you can't transparently switch between platforms using software that's fully compatible with the original. It's not for everbody, sure, but I suspect there's a market for it (assuming that it's priced reasonably, and not insanely expensive like Office for PC/Mac, right kids?)
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/31/2013 | 10:04:10 AM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Writing on a tablet is a pleasure if you use a bluetooth keyboard. I see the need for switching between windows PC and tablet.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2013 | 10:17:32 AM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Expensive?  Any family can afford an Office 365 subscription.  Granted, it adds up but I used to spend $9.99/month to add 200 TEXT MESSAGES (yeah -- think about that... 200 text messages!) to my AT&T wireless plan before I wised up and moved my iPhone to Straight Talk.  (ST isn't for everyone but if you are OK jail breaking your phone so you can install software that provides access to the APN settings...)

The subscription supports installing the latest office on 5 mobile and 5 standard devices.  Granted, it isn't FREE but there are options to use Office that aren't insanely expensive like buying Office Pro for every family deivice.  With three kids, that would be painful.  Even over the course of 10 years, 365 is cheaper.  ($1,200 for 10 years of Office on at least five standard devices).
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2013 | 12:22:09 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
@rradina:

Well, I'm not going to make assumptions about what people can or can not afford over a period of time, but I take your point, and it's certainly good value compared to the regular editions I was referring to with my pricing comment.

Remember, this came from the "mistake" of not offering Office for iPad. Who knows with the tie in to the App Store whether the iPad can support being part of the Office365 subscription, or whether Microsoft would choose to do so. Either way, if it's available and it's cheap - through whatever mechanism - it will be a good thing to be able to use.

Although perhaps while we're on mistakes, the marketing of Office365 continues to be appalling. And still selling things like the Office Home & Student edition would not appear to make an awful lot of sense next to Office365, so the message from Microsoft is a very confused one at best.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2013 | 12:48:24 PM
Re: Office for any tablet is dumb
Actually, I recently downloaded a fork of LibreOffice to my Android tablet.  Looks like it does everything but print (and I can probably figure out how to do that with some effort).
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/2/2014 | 12:00:59 PM
Accept that nobody wants a One Microsoft experience
This is a good list. I agree that Microosft needs to stop pushing a "unified Microsoft experience" on people. Obviously, this is what every tech company wants: complete customer buy-in to their ecosystem. What's interesting is that Microsoft does have all the parts -- a client and mobile OS, a search engine, personal cloud storage, productivity suite, tablets, smartphones, Xbox -- but has not been able to tie them all together in a convincing way for consumers, and the company waited too long in mobile. Apple can still pull it off the "one experience", but not Microsoft. And using it as a marketing ploy only amplifies how much the company is out of touch.


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