Microsoft, up until the past few years, was always considered the pinnacle of technological innovation in the realm of consumer products. The name itself would strike fear in the hearts of technology executives of all backgrounds; a wolf amongst sheep. However, Microsoft’s name has become a punchline amongst today’s technorati, a joke about the diminishing marginal returns on putting all your eggs in one basket as far as innovation goes, a formerly dominant company becoming a plodding kludge. Recent history of Microsoft has been rife with missed release deadlines, delayed products, and cancelled features, to the point of disheartening consumer and enterprise users the world over.
The rest of the tech market has moved vastly quicker than Microsoft has. Between 2006-2008 Apple introduced the iPhone, Amazon introduced AWS, Google brought about Andriod, and Facebook debuted its News Feed. Those innovations alone encompass a great deal of innovation in their wake, making those four companies the “quadrumvirate of tech” making some comment that Microsoft simply no longer belongs on the list of top tech companies.
However, Microsoft has always had the critical ingredients for success. Consumers want always-portable, always-available, always-usable data across all our devices and applications, allowing us to constantly be in touch, productive, or entertained depending on our mood. From Office to XBox, Microsoft has all of the individual tools and products it needs to fulfill all of our wildest tech fantasies. Yet, by the same token, Microsoft has seemed plagued with constant inefficiency and political strife which inhibited the company from permanently establishing itself as the key brand in the tech market; a position that has been usurped completely by a dominant split between Google and Apple.
However, as Bob Dylan once said, the times they are a changin’. Sampling from some recent news out of Microsoft’s camp in the past few weeks, it seems Microsoft is making a push to become relevant again. Recently Microsoft announced that it launched Office across all devices, including on iPad and Android to some decent acclaim. Additionally, Microsoft is building a very disruptive startup lab headed by a well known executive from DARPA to take on the likes of GoogleX. Bing is now responsible for nearly 19% of all search queries in the United States, slowly pushing against Google’s dominant search engine market share. It’s even making Skype group calls free as of just days ago.
Most importantly however, Microsoft seems ready to embrace the cloud. Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, published a letter a month ago outlining a renewed focus on positioning Microsoft at the center of this new cloud based world by creating a “cloud for everyone, on every device.” Almost over night it seemed that Microsoft was finally ready to make the next big push by harnessing its full energy, it’s $20 billion in revenue and $5.66 billion in Q1 net earnings that it had announced only days ago. A Microsoft with a strategy, a vision, is a deadly force in the race for tech supremacy, a race that’s comparable to the US/USSR cold war arms race at this point. All four of the quadrumvirate are highly vulnerable at the moment due to the market convergence created by similar products that depend on devices and the cloud. Continuous engagement is at the heart of these companies’ strategies, and consumers are salivating over a new entrant into the market.