Microsoft has dominated the software industry since the mid ‘90s. The company has often been seen by its competitors as the target to beat.
That being said, the emergence of Apple, Google, SaaS and open source has eroded the Redmond giant’s market share throughout the new millennium. Keeping pace with modern trends and delivering an effective business model hasn’t been easy for Microsoft.
After spending a week in Houston for Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 (WPC), I strongly believe it’s the beginning of a new era for Microsoft.
Although Microsoft is rarely first to market, it is often a market disruptor. Its ability to execute has often resulted in market turnarounds and even the elimination of key competitors. We can think of Novell and the introduction of Windows, of Corel/Wordperfect and the introduction of Word, of Lotus Notes and the introduction of Exchange, of Lotus 1-2-3 and the introduction of Excel, of Netscape and the introduction of Explorer… After this year’s WPC, I see four reasons why history will likely repeat itself once more.
1. Unparalleled Reach
Few others rival Microsoft when it comes to engaging users across many different devices and contexts. Think about its offerings:
- an entertainment system (Xbox) that connects to TVs;
- an operating system (Win8) that spans desktops, laptops, tablets, phablets, two-in-ones and phones;
- a hybrid cloud offering (Azure), and;
- a suite of cloud productivity products including a CRM and ERP (Dynamics), a unified communication package (Skype & Lync) and a suite of cloud-based business tools (Office365).
You’d be hard pressed to find another company with this kind of reach. And for the first time – in a very intentional fashion – Microsoft is capitalizing on this unique competitive advantage by focusing on user experience.
2. Creating High Value Touch and Mobile Experiences
During WPC’s opening keynote, Steve Ballmer touted Microsoft’s focus on creating high value experiences based on mobile and touched-enabled devices. Microsoft took a big bet when launching Win8 by revamping the user experience and overall look and feel of the operating system. This shift is forcing independent software vendors to rethink their current roadmap to jump on the touch and mobile bandwagon. Combined with the upcoming retirement of Windows XP, Microsoft is creating a new generation of applications and experiences that will greatly increase the stickiness of its ecosystem.
3. Bringing Enterprise Usability Up to Par with Consumer Products
Microsoft not only laid down the foundation by launching Win8 and set the vision of creating high value experiences; it is also supporting its partner and developer ecosystem to efficiently make the paradigm shift. As announced by CMO Tami Reller at WPC, Microsoft is launching a new User Experience Design competency in January 2014. Through this competency, Microsoft is providing hands-on training and support to ensure that this new wave of Win8 applications is all about quality. As we’ve highlighted in our Usability Revolution whitepaper, consumer applications have accustomed users to intuitive and delightful user experiences. When set alongside many enterprise products, the user experience of these consumer products clearly outperform their enterprise counterparts and Microsoft is working to close this gap.
4. Unleashing Line-of-Business Applications
As Macadamian CEO Fred Boulanger said in his recent blog about WPC, “there’s huge value for businesses to use Windows 8.1 and Azure to create apps that help boost efficiency in the context of a simpler computing experience.” The timing could not be better to create line-of-business applications that truly deliver tangible and measurable business value. Be it a sales enablement app for financial planners, realtors or sales agents, a field enablement app for workers in construction and mining, or an application for care providers in clinics and hospitals, Microsoft has created the perfect storm to unleash line-of-business applications that will truly help grow revenues and reduce costs.
Office365 is Microsoft’s fastest growing product, paced to surpass Google Apps in the next year or two. Also noteworthy is the fact that Microsoft surpassed VMWare in virtualization and Blackberry with Windows Phone. Thinking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Win8-enabled devices, Dynamics and Azure will outperform iPad, Salesforce and AWS, respectively.
There’s certainly big potential for a market shift and it’ll be interesting to see what happens. One thing is for sure, Macadamian will be staying on top of all the latest as we explore Microsoft’s various products and integrate them into our work to offer what’s best to our customers.