“Shrinking market share.” These three simple words are enough to make any top-level executive quiver. But what if you are Microsoft? Do you shake in your size 14 corporate boots as your market share diminishes?
Let’s sort buzz from facts. The word on the street since early June is that Windows 9 will be freely distributed. But how can a tech giant, a virtual dinosaur in the tech-sector ever expect to satisfy earnings demands by offering a free OS?
We need to look backwards to see forward. Though many with Linux blood coursing through their veins will not agree, as technology began to permeate the highly wired and always-on society we live in, Microsoft really was the only game in town. Sure, there were variants of a few non-mainstream operating systems, but the majority of the masses cut their tech-teeth on Microsoft products.
From aggressively priced EDU software licenses to Office installation CD’s that were handed around like a bowl of mints, Microsoft products were the backbone of technology through the 1990’s. For users not wanting to shell out several hundred dollars per seat for Office Professional, alternatives like Star Office were there, but never really gained foothold. Microsoft owned the tech space and knew it.
The Tech Landscape has Forever Changed
Even the futurists of a few short years ago would have been hard-pressed to visualize the world we live in today. For the first time since the dawn of the Technology Age, users have real alternatives to Microsoft.
Enter the Google Age. The Android OS is now a multiplatform experience that users can take advantage of seamlessly on a wide range of portable and not-so-portable devices. Syncing with relative ease, user data and browsing history can be accessed on a Chromebook, Android Tablet or an Android Smart Phone.
The user interfaces are easy to use and intuitive. Without the added overhead of a software licensing fee, technology is more affordable than ever. And so we circle back to Microsoft. As the world continues its trend toward increased mobility, the smart phone market now shows that the Android OS has captured 44.6% market share compared to a 2.4% market share for Window’s phones. (Data source: The Gartner Group).
The bigger picture is that there is now an entire generation of users who have been brought up in a world no longer dominated by Microsoft. Don’t write Microsoft off yet. Leveraging cloud-based solutions may be the key to their resurgence. According to Mukul Krishna, global director of the digital media practice at Frost & Sullivan, “Where people store more and more data on the cloud and use more and more applications on the cloud, that’s where Microsoft is going to make the most money.”
As Windows 9 will have an embedded feature set that supports the Cloud, they clearly have the clarity of vision to change with the times. But is Microsoft really getting desperate? Giving away an OS whose development costs can be measured in billions might just be a bit more telling than most people realize.
About David A. Grant
Technology writer David A. Grant has been watching the tech landscape change and evolve since its inception. Back in the day when RAM wholesaled at a dollar per megabyte, and an 8GB hard drive was considered overkill, David was turning screws in a DEC Alpha Linux shop in southern New Hampshire, grateful that Al Gore had invented the Internet as we know it. He continues to watch and report on industry trends and changes.