Can you think of a product category where one organization, in an open market, has maintained complete global dominance with 90%+ market share for close to 30 years? The only one that comes to my mind is “Operating System for PC”. Can you think of another?
The other one which comes close is the “Office Suite”.
So, even if you are a Microsoft hater, even if we assume that Microsoft has used all sorts of unfair means to achieve this dominance, you still need to acknowledge that they have achieved something which nobody else in the history has done.
However, of late, Microsoft has been in the news for a different reason. Apple, in the second quarter 2010, surpassed Microsoft as the highest market cap among the tech companies. Now, even IBM has overtaken Microsoft in market capitalization. Coupled with the fact that Microsoft is currently an also ran in the smart phone / tablet segment – it is a fair time to ask “where will Microsoft be in 10 years’ time?”
Here are 4 possibilities.
- It will go the Digital way and seize to exist. [A friend of mine points out that Microsoft is still a first generation company. Bill Gates has steered it so far and immediately after his exist it has started going downhill.]
- It will be like Novell thus barely managing to survive.
- It will reinvent itself like IBM and will remain a name to reckon with.
- It will be like old Microsoft.
I would tend to believe that (3) is the most likely option. These are my reasons:
The Existing eco-system will not want it to happen. How many CIOs will really want Microsoft to go either Digital or Novell way? What about the developers and the partners?
Apart from that, if you keep money matters (market cap, profitability aside) aside – it will boil down to the question “Does Microsoft have the ability to build products which people want to use?”
Let us keep PC Operating System and Office Suite aside and look at other product categories. Microsoft has the ability to come from nowhere and create a product which is among the top 4 in the market.
- Database: It is difficult to think beyond Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 and MySQL. Sybase, Ingress, Informix all fell by the wayside.
- Search Engine: Bing came from nowhere and is the clear number 2 now. It even forced Google to make changes to the UI.
- O/S for handheld device (not smart phone): Windows CE rules – no competitor in sight
- Enterprise web application platform: It is difficult to classify Sharepoint but it is a leader in whatever it does!
- Enterprise mail server: Who is next to Outlook and Exchange server?
- Development platform: For large enterprise the search will stop with Java & .Net. There are some indication that .Net is slowly eating into Java.
- Developer Studio: Eclipse and VSTS – Eclipse having many more extensions but VSTS being more productive.
- Cloud Platform: Amazon EC2, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure – what else? I think after the dust settles it would be a two horse race: Amazon EC2 and Microsoft Azure.
- Gaming Console: Difficult to think beyond Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo [“…from being a nobody Xbox is now the market leader…bundled with Kinect…they are absolutely unbeatable…” – Deepesh]
- Browser: IE still has more the 50% of the market share and IE8 is reasonably good!
- ERP: Surprise, surprise – Microsoft Dynamics comes in 3rd after SAP and Oracle. [see this]
What about the Office Suite in the cloud?
So far Microsoft has been doing enough to keep pace with or remain one step ahead of Google. This is a game Microsoft knows well.
What about Smart phone and Tablet?
Though it looks like a lost cause for Microsoft there is one factor which is overlooked by most people that the technology scenario for smart phone phones changes completely in about 3 years’ time. Just ask BlackBerry.
So Microsoft does have a chance to catch up – maybe through the Nokia deal or may be through some other means – who knows.