The evolution of Microsoft

The evolution of Microsoft

The BUILD conference is coming soon and there’s a lot of pent up anticipation about Microsoft and all the new tools and features they will unleash upon us in September.

As TheNextWeb pointed out today, the stakes are really high.

It did however get me thinking about Microsoft and how far the company has come. More impressive though is the radical transformation that the company is in the middle of now.

Microsoft is evolving and moving from a company that makes software to a company that makes your life better. Big difference.

In the very beginning, Microsoft had an idea to build an Operating System to allow the average user to productively use a computer. They would now be able to edit documents, to print files, to store information and all this without knowledge of the basic (no pun) command line languages.

The success of Windows led to the success of Microsoft Office and Windows Server.

Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office and Windows Server have been tremendously successful but were pretty narrowly focused. Once again, they made individuals and enterprises more productive but really didn’t touch lives outside of corporate settings.

While Microsoft Office was available outside of a corporate environment, no one I know was excited about using PowerPoint during the weekend or manipulating Excel spreadsheets during a party, once again, the focus was productivity.

Enter the internet
Enter the internet
Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer

The rise of the Internet and Internet Explorer was the beginning of a change for the software giant. They made a browser for people to do…..anything with.

People could check email or just surf for fun or both. The landscape had changed but it took a while for Microsoft (and to be fair, a lot of other companies) to catch on.

We all know what happened next as Google, Apple, Facebook and a lot of other companies quickly caught on and leveraged the power of the web very profitably.

It seemed that Microsoft was caught napping and was watching these other companies go by without being able to mount a satisfactory response.

Now however, if you look closely, you start to see the outlines of a very strategic response.

Xbox kinect
Xbox kinect

It all started with an experiment of sorts – The Xbox. The tremendous (and lets be frank) unpredictable success of the gaming platform was the first major validation for Microsoft that they could be a fun vendor as well.

The second piece of validation came from the Kinect. Consumers loved the Xbox camera and the revenue came roaring in. Once again, people were using another Microsoft fun product, outside of the enterprise and not (necessarily) related to productivity.

Microsoft Bing
Microsoft Bing

Then they rolled out a Search Engine – Bing and they absorbed (more or less) Yahoo for search. Now people were searching the web with a Microsoft product and once again, it’s cool, fun and not (necessarily) related to productivity.

The challenge now was to move from being a company with some cool products to a company that literally changes lives every day – like Apple or Google.

This is the next phase for Microsoft – to weave together a seamless tapestry of technology platforms, phones, tablets, browsers, cameras, games and software applications. Basically – Windows Everywhere.

Not just to have a bunch of cool tools but to enable easier and more productive lifestyles.

In many ways, Windows 8 will be at the heart of this effort and I have to say, it’s ambitious, impressive and makes a lot of sense.

These tools all have to easily work together to create a seamless experience. They have to inspire thousands of developers to begin stitching apps together that will work on multiple platforms.

They have to be tools that actually enable people to be more productive in their lives and not just their work.

If you saw the BING demo during WPC 2011, or you saw the XBOX Kinect demos, you know that Microsoft get it.

They know what the task at hand is and in some ways, they are actually (gasp) thinking more strategically than Apple or Google.

The stakes are high and the road to success is long but ultimately I am excited about the attempt.

This is in a sense, the best and purest part of being in technology – literally planning out how to make the lives of millions better.

Time will tell but I am happy that Microsoft seem to be (finally) on the right path.

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  • Wayo Man

    I absolutely agree. Very well written…

  • Aalhasan

    when widows 8 release ?

  • Konanyao

    You finally get it ?
    Their strategy is extremly ambitious and if it succeeds Microsoft will be very successful in the years to come.
    People love to hate Microsoft and Ballmer, and to be fair they deserve a part of this hate, but Microsoft under Ballmer has been very profitable and has released some of the best products and come with the most ambitious strategy ever.
    I think that Ballmer is a better manager than Gates and that he has learnt to rely on the right people (sinofsky for example) to compensate the fact that he is not a visionary himself. Now if he can hire a better VRP than himself and boost Microsoft marketing, he will become the best CEO possible for Microsoft.

  • Vivienne McDonald

    Terrific article – and I do hope you’re right! We’ve been waiting for a long time for Microsoft to actually listen to the people and give them what they want, not just what  boys in the back room think is needed.  Be interesting to see. 

  • Tunez1

    Well although I completely agree with you, you made one small mistake !!! you made Microsofts evolution chart BACKWARDS !!! shouldnt it be going the other direction ?  Just curious
    ” Enquiring minds wanna know “