Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Something is Wrong with Microsoft

Microsoft has evolved into a monopoly that dominates software for the PC laptops and desktops. It derives its monopoly power from three sources: Operating system, office suite, and a technology standard. An operating system allows the user to use and manipulate the computer using icons and graphics. Microsoft’s estimated market share for operating systems comprised 93% of desktops and laptops in July 2013, dominated by Windows 7 and Windows XP. Computer users can install a free operating system, Linux, but Linux consistently has a 1% market share or less and remains the realm of computer specialists and geeks. Then Microsoft dominates the Office Software market. People use office software to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and design layouts. Microsoft’s office software dominated 92% of the market in 2013 even though Apache offers Open Office for free. Finally, Microsoft sets the technology standard. As people create and share their work with others, which computer files do they send? Most people have no trouble using Microsoft’s formats for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Would you risk sending your resume to an employer using an Open Office format?

Microsoft has developed into a monopoly. A monopoly does not have any competitors although Microsoft has competitors that offer free software while Microsoft charges hundreds of dollars for its operating system and office software. Monopolies can earn long-run profits. Forbes listed Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, as the world’s richest person until the 2008 Financial Crisis. Now, he consistently ranks second. Monopolies become plagued with several problems. First, a monopoly becomes bureaucratic and stops listening to its consumers. Second, monopolies adapt new technology slowly, and they treat their customers poorly. I have heard Microsoft does have good customer service in the United States.

Microsoft grew rapidly, and users loved Windows XP. Then Microsoft introduced Vista in 2006. Operating system hogged resources, was slow with long boot and shut down times. Moreover, Vista would not work on computers with certain hardware while some software crashed frequently; even Microsoft’s Office XP had glitches. I remember my Word or Excel program would crash several times in a row before it would work. Some functions never worked correctly such as the search function. Microsoft stuck many people with this crappy operating system. After I had bought a new laptop with Vista, I tried to return to Windows XP, but I was missing several critical drivers. Computer manufacturers never go backwards in designing drivers.

Microsoft realized its mistake and released Windows 7. However, most people may not realize Windows 7 is a fixed Vista. Vista turned into a catastrophe; Microsoft had to rename its operating system, moving away from the Vista name. Windows 7 used Aero introducing a sharp, refined look to the operating system with translucent windows and bars. Microsoft introduced the gadgets, the eye candy, to the right of the screen. (I noticed several features of Windows 7 resembled Apple’s OS). Finally, the operating system worked properly. Microsoft fixed its mistake. It would be nice if Microsoft let people stuck with Vista to update to Windows 7 for free.

A monopoly becomes out of touch with its customers. Microsoft forgot its mistakes and unleashed Windows 8 upon the world. Operating system moves backwards! Microsoft removed the start menu from the operating system. Users do not think about the start menu until Microsoft has eliminated it. Without a start menu, the desktop feels alien and useless because everything revolves around the start menu. I became lost, trying to navigate around the operating system. Then Windows 8 turned off Aero, so Windows 8 loses its sharp, refined features, such as transparency and gadgets.

Microsoft has forgotten its customers, or who uses their software. Users must toggle to a separate screen to access their programs. This screen resembles an ugly version of Android. Why copy Android? Microsoft wants to enter the tablet market, and Android has evolved into the premier operating system for tablets and smartphones. These devices use simple processors, where people can view pictures, read e-books and documents, watch videos, and play simple games. On the other hand, a person needs a full-fledged operating system to play games with heavy graphics, write and create documents, process image, etc. Simple processors cannot handle the complex tasks that a desktop or laptop provides.

Microsoft became out of touch with its consumers. First, Microsoft should never restrict consumers’ choices. As a user turns on the laptop or desktop for the first time, let the user choose if they want the traditional desktop with the start menu or the new Android-like menu screen. Windows 8 is better suited for tablets than desktops, even though Microsoft forces tablet software onto customers who use desktops and laptops. Second, Microsoft partially caved into the consumers. It released Windows 8.1 that places a start button on the lower left corner of the desktop that leads to the ugly Android-like screen. Microsoft refuses to return the traditional start menu. Third, Microsoft should improve the operating system if it wants people to use it. Fourth, Microsoft should never impose something new on users without testing its products on test groups. Microsoft has launched two duds upon the world: Vista and Windows 8.

People are leery of Microsoft as they avoid Microsoft products whenever they can. Perhaps Microsoft burned too many consumers with Vista and Windows 8. Managers at Microsoft see the declining PC sales while sales for tablets and smartphones show strong growth. Microsoft released the Surface tablet to compete with the Android tablets and Apple Ipads, but consumers are not buying Microsoft’s tablets. Then Microsoft released Windows Phone 8 for smartphones that three manufacturers use. Nokia offers a whole line of Lumia smartphones. Huawei sells one model while Samsung offers two models. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s sales remain weak. Investors have caught on, and Microsoft’s stock plunged 10% during one trading day in July 2013.

Microsoft embodies a monopoly that became out of touch with its markets and its consumers. Company has failed to introduce new products, and it pushes an operating system that people do not want. In my case, Vista forced me to look at the competitors. Since 2009, I always install a version of Linux on my system next to Windows. I tried Windows 8, but I will return to Windows 7 and wait for Windows 9.

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