I’ve been interested to read all the coverage over the last few days on Windows 8 and how Microsoft are preparing for a major climb-down in the way the software is designed. The news is almost entirely negative and saying that the attempts to combine the classic Windows software with their new ‘tiles’ design used on mobile devices has led to confusion and a poor user experience.
I actually think that this might be a positive thing for Microsoft. I’ve thought for a long time that Microsoft has been sleepwalking through the huge shift in the industry away from PC’s and software towards mobile devices and the cloud.
The company has sat back and relied far too much on its major cash cows of Windows and Office. At the same time they have been very late into software-as-a-service, smartphones and tablets. You can keep milking major product lines for a time especially if the product is Windows – perhaps the most successful franchise of all time. But the problem is that the bigger and more successful your core product is the more difficult it is to change when the market starts moving away from you.
But now Microsoft’s problems have become so severe that they can no longer just keep ‘muddling through.’ IDC recently announced that PC sales had declined by 14% year on year – the biggest decline they have ever seen since they started tracking the market in 1994.
This is forcing the company to pursue a new strategy and start taking bigger, bolder risks. To my mind this kind of desperate, nothing to lose situation is very often where the best innovation comes from. When you no longer have some to protect it can free the mind and force you to look to the future.
The Windows 8 roll-out is an example of this innovation. It didn’t work but I think it actually makes me more excited about Microsoft’s future.
The company still has lots of talented people and tremendous resources and I look forward to seeing them continue to roll the dice. It may never lead to the kind of resurgence that they are looking for but at least they are giving themselves a chance – something they haven’t been doing for a very long time.