Microsoft at 40: 5 Successes, 5 Failures - InformationWeek

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4/9/2015
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Kelly Sheridan
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Microsoft at 40: 5 Successes, 5 Failures

In honor of Microsoft's 40th birthday, InformationWeek reflects on the successes, failures, and lessons learned that built the company as it stands today.
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In 1975, 19-year-old Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and teamed up with his buddy Paul Allen to revolutionize the history of computing. Shortly afterwards, Microsoft was born with the mission of putting a computer in every home.

Four decades and three CEOs later, the company has evolved into an empire that continues to dominate personal computing around the world, albeit while dealing with issues of middle age. There may not be a computer in every household around the world, but Microsoft is markedly closer to achieving this goal than it was upon its inception.

The celebration of Microsoft's 40th birthday is one that marks many decades of hard work and the great triumphs and disappointing failures that came with it. After all, you don't evolve from a tiny startup to a billion-dollar enterprise without a few setbacks.

[Windows 10: Redstone Update in 2016]

We learned that when Microsoft succeeds, it makes a splash. From the inception of MS-DOS to the widely applauded Windows 95, to the current development of Windows 10, the tech giant has made clear that it's a force to be watched. Its software has become a staple of businesses and consumers throughout the world. 

However, with great success come great failures. There have been times that Microsoft has arrived too late (or too early) to the game when trying to pin down the next big tech trend. Sometimes it completely missed the mark, and consequently suffered as customers fled in favor of competitors like Apple.

In celebration of its 40th birthday, former CEO Gates wrote an email to employees running the corporation that he has since left in the hands of successors Steve Ballmer and, now, Satya Nadella as he focuses his time on philanthropic efforts. Gates briefly reflected on a largely successful history but also noted, "What matters now is what we do next."

We've spent plenty of time pondering how Microsoft's current projects will affect its future. Will Windows 10 appeal to a global audience that mostly trashed its predecessor, Windows 8? Will Windows Phone ever see growth in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung? Will Satya Nadella's "mobile first, cloud first" vision carry Microsoft into a successful future?

Let's take a break from speculation and reflect on how Microsoft grew into the company it is today. On the following pages, we'll look back at some of the moments that built Microsoft -- and some products that, perhaps, should have stayed ideas.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
4/11/2015 | 1:05:44 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
ME was a transitional o/s. It was really there for folks who needed backward compatability with pre Win95 applications. XP resolved just about all those issues as did the changes to the protocols MS issued to developers for their applications running on future versions of Windows. I agree with you, Vista was not a problem for me but more for Corporate IT. But Win8 is a disaster.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
4/11/2015 | 12:59:53 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
Win 8 not a failure? It is a very poorly designed GUI. I do not think I have found one person who likes it. At least with Vista the GUI did not radically change and all the problems were fixed with Win7. But even years after Win8's release, people are still refusing to buy a PC with it installed. Instead they are opting for Win7. From what i have heard, Win10 is going to allow the user to select the GUI. That certainly is an acknowledgement that Win8 is a failure. That and the start button on Win8.1!
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
4/11/2015 | 12:00:48 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
Eventually old computers have to be upgraded or replaced. When that time comes, many will complain about the OS that eventually needed the upgrade. Vista was a big change from XP. People didn't like it. Windows 8 was a big change from 7. Many didn't like it. It's is actually a very good OS that pushed some changes people weren't ready for. Perfect? No. But a failed OS? Certainly not.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/11/2015 | 11:29:45 AM
40 years of leassons learned
Kelly,

Really great article. Kudos on being able to reduce the list of both ups and downs to just 10, since if given freedom, we can easilly write books on the subject...Good Work!

From the list of the "downs", it goes to show that a company can try to venture into trying to produce it's own design, but you have to consider the voice of the customer. You can't simply put a product on the shelves and assume people will accept them, and even more in such a competitive environemnt where other companies will bend over backwards and back to assure a good consumer experience.

I stronlgy agree that Windows 10 is microsoft listening, and applying it's leassons learned. I've been using Windows 10 as a dedicated HTPC, and I absolutly love it. To the point that I ordered a microphone that has greater capacity just so I can ask Cortana from accross the room.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/11/2015 | 11:25:21 AM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
@jagibbons,

I concur...ME was by far the worst! To the point that even booting up it would fail.

I personally liked Vista, I saw it as a step forward (which Windows 7 was able to take to the finish line). One thing I know Vista caused major headaches for corporate IT was that the requirements to upgrade to Vista was greater than existing machines on XP. So a system upgrade would entail new hardware. Thankfully with Windows 7, company laptops were able to push updates overnight versus issuing new laptops.
hho927
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hho927,
User Rank: Ninja
4/10/2015 | 4:53:12 PM
Re: where do you leave Enterprise IT tools?
I'm not impressed by MS server admin tools. Unix/Linux has better server admin tools. The only different is windows offer GUI which makes so many windows server administrators dump because they don't really understand the underneath.

I'm not impressed by visual studio either. It's slow and buggy and mostly is for windows platform.

Where is visual basic now?
hho927
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hho927,
User Rank: Ninja
4/10/2015 | 1:43:56 PM
DOS was bought
Not created.

The list is limitted.

I would rank: best) windows 95, office suite(word,excel, powerpoint,etc), slq, windows nt (server),exchange, xp, xbox, kinect

worst)windows 3.1, windows mobile, kin phone, zune mp3 player, windows me(vista,8.1), activex (IE), surface rt
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
4/10/2015 | 12:53:38 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
In the business space, Vista was definitely a problem. At least until the first big service pack came out. After that, it was a decent OS. I would argue ME was far worse than Vista, even on day one.
NedH549
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NedH549,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/10/2015 | 12:32:37 PM
Re: Tough Critic
What?  No mension of VISTA??
fuller_douglas
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fuller_douglas,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/10/2015 | 11:39:21 AM
Microsoft at 40
There is no mention of Datacenter products. What about Windows Server, MS SQL Server, IIS and Exchange? A huge number of companies run their businesses on these products. Of course there have been misses here as well. SharePoint has never delivered what it should have
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