A year ago, 2012 looked to be a renaissance for Microsoft. Microsoft was poised to reinvent itself with a number of new products and services all centering around Windows 8. Windows 8 was a paradigm shift for Microsoft away from the traditional desktop to touch based UI’s and mobile computing. Likewise, all the gadgetry that Microsoft was showing off was shiny and new all while the press was giving positive reviews.
And even so, a few years ago, it was difficult to imagine a world without Microsoft. The de facto standard in all things computers was more or less defined by Microsoft from the end-user device all the way to the back-end servers. Windows and the x86 platform were ubiquitous to computing with some version of Windows ran on over 98% of the world’s desktop computers. Most people used Internet Explorer to browse the Internet. Microsoft’s server components dominated the core of datacenters, although “edge” devices such as firewalls and webservers were often times some version of Linux. It seemed that Microsoft had cemented its self as a hear-to-stay technology company.
Despite this positive momentum and legacy of dominance, it seems that Microsoft has been unable to hold the devotion of people who used to use their products. Customers from the core of datacenters to the end users themselves have turned to other computing platforms as alternatives to do the same tasks they used to use on Microsoft products – everything from servers to sending email. In the datacenter, Windows servers are being replaced by purpose-build appliances and service-oriented infrastructure from Microsoft’s competitors. While Microsoft still maintains a large number of instances of its servers installed on these services, the pressure is mounting as alternatives to Microsoft products present themselves as replacements. Corporate IT has been reluctant to move away from Windows, but the consumer markets have seen a monumental shift away from Windows to mobile computing platforms such as iOS and Android. The consumer’s shift away from Windows based computers has forced corporate IT to deal with a bring-your-own-device mentality. The rise in mobile computing has seen Android grow to claim 75% of the global smartphone market and around 50% of the tablet market while Windows based computer sales slip for the past two years.
To make matters worse, the usual pop Microsoft receives from holidays sales around the time it releases a new operating system did not come this year. Microsoft tried to aggressively place themselves in front of consumers with pop-up stores in malls. Sales at these stores were anemic at best all the while Apple’s stores were bustling with customers eager to get the latest Apple gadgets.
All these indicators make one thing clear: the world no longer needs or wants Microsoft. With that said, Microsoft is not going to go out of business tomorrow nor will it cease to be a principal force in IT for many years to come. The possibility, however, does exist that the world will continue to move on while increasingly marginalizing Microsoft as the lynchpin that holds all things IT together.