A number of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) observers were shaking their heads at the seeming backsliding of new Microsoft CEO during the company’s recent Windows 10 roll out. In his short roll out speech, Microsoft head honcho Satya Nadella said that Microsoft’s goal should be to move people from simply needing Windows to loving Windows. Some people had a problem with this line of thinking because they argue that this is precisely the corporate mindset that led to Microsoft missing the boat on some of the most important consumer technology shifts in the past two decades.
How exactly did Microsoft screw up by focusing too much on Windows? Let’s just stick to the big ones. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched the iPod. Microsoft took quite a while to get a clue. Apple launched the iPhone. Microsoft launched its own Windows-based OS. Apple launched the iPad. More of the same Windows-based strategy from Microsoft. Not surprisingly, Apple and Google Android went on to dominate the smartphone and tablet markets. For all of Microsoft’s Windows fanaticism, it has a tiny smartphone and tablet market share. To add insult to injury, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bet a lot of corporate prestige on Windows 8 being the OS that would link all devices, from kiosks to enterprise devices to tablets to computers to the Internet. For all its grand Windows-based ambitions, Windows 8 was a bust.
Microsoft was supposed to get a fresh start with Nadella. He came from the company’s hot cloud computing business. He also got Microsoft observers excited because he announced Microsoft Office for the iPad. He seemed like he got the memo that Microsoft is now operating in a post-Windows world. Well, his statement regarding people loving Windows 10 might make people reconsider whether Nadella truly reflects a changing of the guard at Microsoft. The next five years will be crucial for Microsoft. If it doesn’t reinvent itself to become more relevant in the Mobile Age, it might once and for all fade into irrelevance once the age of local software and paid OS is over. Does Nadella have the right attitude for the necessary sea change?