Microsoft – When did they become an also ran

Being someone who has just reached 35, I can clearly remember that no conversation about computer in my lifetime was ever held without Microsoft coming into the picture. My first experience was with DOS and later with Windows 3.1. Then came 95, 98, XP, Vista and 7 (Yes I deliberately left out Windows Me. Too big an embarrassment).

With XP being installed on 95% of the computer, it seemed as if Microsoft will sit on top of the heap for quite a long time. Slowly but steadily Microsoft started flexing its muscles and try new things XBox, Windows Live, Sharepoint, Silverlight etc. It seemed as if Microsoft just wanted to kill every other company in the business. Microsoft was trying to capture all the markets and kill all the bigwigs. During this period slowly but steadily an old foe, whom they had given a new breath of life ( was slowly building some products which would soon become mainstream. Yes it was Apple with its iPod.

iPod was a huge success beyond anybody could imagine. Within few years they captured most of the market for portable MP3 players. It was helped by the mistakes made by companies like Sony. iTunes was a terrible piece of software but was a great companion to iPod. By 2006 they were making huge money with these devices. But that was the time when mobile phones started coming out with MP3 player functionality. Everybody expected Apple to take iPod to the next level by venturing into the mobile phone market. 2007 saw the release of the first iPhone and mobile phones were not the same again. It set new standards of usability and brought in such a cool factor. There were some people who couldnt see how it was going to change the mobile phone market. One of them was Steve Ballmer ( It is OK if an analyst makes such a mistake but not when you are the CEO of a competing company.  Ballmer soon joined Michael Dell in the history books for misquotes about Apple.

Bill Gates was preaching about tablet computer for long time. Microsoft and co made many attempts at mass market tablet computer but sadly none clicked. 2010 turned out to be the turning point when Apple introduced iPad. Initially dismissed by many as just a large iPod it soon clicked and went onto sell more than 15 million units in 2010. Bumper sales with good margins made sure that Apple made lots of money. This helped them dislodge Microsoft from the throne it was occupying for long long time as the most valuable tech company.

Meanwhile Microsoft was fighting a losing battle against Google on the web front. It was losing search market and also losing all the gains it made in the browser market. It invested huge money and resources in fighting with Sony and Nintendo. Vista came out and it was a big disappointment. That was followed by Windows 7 which got good reviews but many people were of the opinion that Windows 7 was what Windows Vista should have been.

Mobile OS is another area where MS was losing out. With better processors and emerging technologies, smartphones were becoming mainstream. Apple with iOS and Google’s Android was setting the market on fire. Suddenly the old bigwigs like MS, Symbain and Blackberry were found wanting for innovation. MS went back to blackboard and came out with Windows Phone 7. Unfortunately the result is less than spectacular. The Samsung update fiasco was really bad press which only made things difficult.

Tablets have changes a lot since Apple introduced the original iPad. Multi-core processors and innovative OS has made them good enough to replace the desktop or laptop for most people. MS sure cannot afford to lose out this market as it would be bad for its dominance on personal computing. They cannot count on the revenue from Office to keep growing as Google is busy attacking there with Google Apps and Chrome OS.

Microsoft in the next few quarters will have to fight on many fronts like desktop OS, mobile OS, gaming console, enterprise application etc. Steve Ballmer’s success as a CEO will be judged by how he leads MS in the next few years. They surely dont want Google and Facebook to overtake them in market valuation. Interesting time ahead and I sure dont want to be in Ballmers seat.




Andoird Tablets

Update : Xoom has been priced at $799 for 3G + WiFi and $600 for WiFi only. That sounds good.

I am waiting to see all the android based tablets coming out and I must say that the last few days have been exciting for me. First the Motorola Xoom and now Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (Did anyone get paid to name it ? Will they change screen size in the next model?).

Motorola Xoom was listed for pre-sale at $1200 on the best buy website. While we still dont know if that’s the price or whether it is just a place holder. Whatever the case may be, it did create a lots of news on all the geeky websites. Most of them said “dead on arrival”, a view to which I have to agree, provided it sells for $1200. Motorola is not a brand which can price itself as exclusive. They are not Apple, Bose or Bang & Olufsen. They are yet to earn their right to be exclusive.

While the Motorola pricing was disappointing, I am more upset with Samsung Tab 10.1. They have removed the SD card storage and dropped HDMI out (I believe we will have to buy an expensive proprietary cable). From being a standout product, they have become another Apple wannabe. Now if iPad2 comes out with SD card support (unlikely), Sammy will be doomed.

Irrespective of how things turn out, this will be an interesting year for all the gadgets lovers. Cant wait to see it unfold.

Nexus S – Worst managed product release

Nexus S was supposed to be the flagship phone for Android 2.3 a.k.a. Gingerbread. Nexus S was released just in time for the Christmas season but sadly the sales numbers have not been great. I think Google really messed up the release of the phone.

Nexus line of phones are normally used the so-called geeks who know their product. I know few people who bought Nexus One and they absolutely love the product. When the first rumours of Nexus 2 (later known as Nexus S) came out, most of them were quite keen to get it. Feels good to be on the latest version of the software. But when the final product was announced, the geeks were less than impressed. Everybody knew that CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and MWC (Mobile World Congress) is round the corner where the first dual core phones would be released. This meant that Nexus S would have its place as the latest and greatest Android phone for just over a week. That is not good for a phone which you are trying to sell as your flagship model.

Matters were made worse in the UK by bad pricing. They announced it at £549.95 and later dropped to £429 before the release. The fact is that it should never have been £549 for an item priced at $529 in the USA. Rather than saying that it was a price correction, they went ahead with the price drop story. A price drop for an unreleased product is hardly a good news.

I feel that Google should have not released this as their flagship product. They should have waited for another few weeks and selected a dual-core Tegra based phone as their next version of Nexus.

Looking at the initial pricing of Motorola Xoom, I am not sure if they have learnt the lesson. It is heavily overpriced by playing into the hands of Verizon. I really hope that Samsung tab is upgraded to Honeycomb. A sub £400 tablet with latest version of the OS will please some shoppers like me who are out looking for a tablet.

DLNA AirPlay

During the last few days, I have been surprised by the number of people who are talking about AirPlay. They are totally “blown away” by the concept. These are not ignorant people but educated people who know their devices. But I am surprised how Apple is able to sell ideas to them with such ease.I walked into a group of iPhone owners talking about this. I asked them whether they know anything about DLNA. None of them had any damn idea. I said all the devices which I bought in the past 2 or so years, are DLNA certified. This means I can easily stream/transfer content between various devices without worrying about manufacturer.I was one of the people who bought the original iPhone. I also owner the iPod. I was almost on the verge of buying a MacBook Pro before I decided to go for a Sony Vaio. (It is not that I am a big fan of Windows 7 but Viao is perfect for all my needs and I have no issues when I use it with Ubuntu. ). WHat really upsets me about Apple is how it takes an absolutely fine standard and then modifies it so that people can use only the way Apple wants it. All you can decide is whether you want 2G or 4G RAM. I love to customize my devices. Be it my laptop or mobile. I love having custom widgets on my phone. I also can write my own apps and install it without jail breaking the phone.