Can Microsoft Survive Without Windows As Its Cornerstone?

Microsoft - New Internet Explorer Main Pic
Microsoft - New Internet Explorer Main PicA 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?


  1. This reminds me of the day when if you wanted to search, you bought a subscription to Yahoo.

    Now Google is a verb.

    Today you buy a copy of Windows. But you also use Android (and most versions of Linux) for free.

    Just as soon as someone introduces a really good open source replacement for Server, I see no need for Windows. As open source things progress, I also don’t see the need for the very expensive Apple, either.

    I see a sea change within ten years. Maybe.

    I see Microsoft in a losing battle because they thought their business model would last forever in an industry where many things don’t last 5 years.

    • Today nobody buys a copy of Windows, it comes preinstalled on your computer and is often customized for that particular hardware, thus saving you the work of having to install and configure the OS, whilst sourcing the drivers for your hardware on your own. This is not an easy task to do especially with (free version) Linux which either lacks the particular drivers or has many incompatible options.

      Anyway open source has been progressing since the early 80’s, it’s not something new, Linux has been around for 25 years so that ten years prediction is unlikely given that Microsoft has survived this long. How have they survived? They have pivoted and diversified their business model, the days of Microsoft being only an OS and office suit vendor are long gone (I believe they changed their business model even before the 90’s), other companies which relied on operating system license’s as their sole business model have like died out, think Suse, Novell, SCO (Santa Cruz Operation), this business model isn’t something which is only now starting to die out, it has been dead for quite some time. Microsoft is a big name in the enterprise, Microsoft Server and MSSQL are enterprise products, people who want a free open source alternative have had the various Linux distro’s and PostgreSQL/MySQL all along, those who use Microsoft’s products do so for the support service which you’re not going to get from any free open source product. Microsoft has also expanded their business into gaming consoles, tablets and mobile phones, Windows is definitely not their cornerstone even though it was what we associate them with mostly.

      What history has shown us is that Microsoft knows how to survive of course that is no guarantee that they will still be around after ten years but there’s a good probability they will. Google, and other web services/social network companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, are at risk of losing their business model: advertising, the market for advertising could very well disappear in the next ten years as business realize that it is mostly an expense which brings no value (seriously how many of us actually click on ads). Google knows this hence why they are also trying to diversify their business (like Microsoft) and are moving into the smartphone business, Google is now a smartphone manufacturer, and is even trying to move into the ISP business.


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