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12/30/2013
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Kevin Casey
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7 Mistakes Microsoft Made In 2013

This was a pretty good year for Microsoft with some big customer wins. But these seven missteps were just dumb.
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Hey, Nobody's Perfect
If you're looking in Microsoft's rear mirror, you could describe what you see in a whole bunch of ways. One adjective you probably won't use for the company's 2013 is "quiet."

It was a busy year even by Microsoft's standards. From Windows 8.1 to Xbox One to the Nokia device business acquisition to Office 365's continued growth to Steve Ballmer's (somewhat) surprising retirement announcement -- not to mention that whole NSA spying thing -- it seemed each week brought a new wave of headlines out of Redmond.

There was good news. Office 365 had some big customer wins and seemed to solidify the future of the Office franchise. Xbox One appears to be a hit. The Azure cloud is expanding globally. The Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro are sold out, and even if there's some inventory management magic behind the demand, it still makes a good headline for the Monday morning PR roundup. So 2013 wasn't a lousy year for Microsoft.

But, hey, let's face it. It's more fun to pick apart a company's shakier decisions and flat-out mistakes. So that's what we're here to do.

"Frustration" might be a more apt term than "mistake" in some cases here -- as in frustration with Microsoft's apparent belief that a Microsoft customer can't also be a Google or Apple customer. Google doesn't mind acknowledging that the competition exists. "In the next couple of weeks, you'll be able to download a new version of the Google Search app on iPhone and iPad," the company wrote in a recent blog post touting the company's Hummingbird update. "So if you tell your Nexus 7, 'OK, Google. Remind me to buy olive oil at Safeway,' when you walk into the store with your iPhone, you'll get a reminder." See that? Dogs and cats, living together. (No human sacrifice or mass hysteria, either.)

A related frustration is the 2013 marketing push that insists the world craves "one experience" for everything we do, as if we were living in a dystopian novel. And while we're on the topic of frustrations, Microsoft needs to stop communicating with consumers and businesses as if they were investors and board members. "Devices and services" might perfectly describe Microsoft's vision of its future self, but when was the last time anyone said, "I think I'm going to go buy some devices and services today"? Apple, by comparison, doesn't sell devices and services. It sells iPhones and music (and other stuff).

Sometimes frustrations morph into tangible mistakes -- pretending, for example, that Office devotees don't use iPads, a head-in-sand strategy if there ever was one. As our own Michael Endler reported in April:

Forrester analyst Dave Johnson told InformationWeek in February that Microsoft could reap greater returns if it stops protecting Windows and starts treating Office as a multi-OS platform. In an interview conducted just before the Outlook RT rumors hit, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi offered similar sentiments, saying that because Office for iOS represents such a massive opportunity, it is 'only a question of time' until Redmond finally makes its move.

The time for that move was 2013. Alas, it didn't happen, so it's on our list.

Not on our list: There's a whole lot of wait-and-see stuff happening in the Microsoft universe at the moment, from the ongoing search for Ballmer's successor to the Nokia acquisition to the next evolutions of Windows 8.x. It's too early to pass sound judgment with so much to be determined on those fronts -- the CEO seat perhaps most of all. We'll have to revisit those at the end of 2014.

In the meantime, click the image above to dive into a slideshow on last year's mistakes. Got your own bones to pick with Microsoft's moves in 2013? Let's hear them in the comments.

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who covers technology affecting small and midsized businesses.

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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. 
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.

 

 

 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Moderator
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).
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.
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).
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.
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?)
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.
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. 
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.
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