Is Windows 8 to Microsoft like OS/2 was to IBM?

Back in 2007 I wrote a blog that asked “Is Microsoft like ‘old’ IBM?” That was in the days when the mighty Redmond software factory seemed unable to do wrong. At the end of the blog, I asked:

I wonder how long Microsoft’s good times will last?

I thought it would last much longer than it has. Microsoft is now looking distinctly less mighty and infallible than it used to, that is because it missed the new markets of smartphone operating systems and tablets until they were well established by other companies.

Now I am beginning to wonder whether Microsoft is tracing the same steps with Windows 8 as IBM did in the 1980s when it released the OS/2 operating system?

Remember, IBM brought out OS/2 to try and win back its PC operating system market share from the growing Windows operating system. By that time, IBM had also lost its dominance of the PC hardware market, and it tried to counter that by introducing the PS/2. Both these initiatives followed the tried-and-trusted IBM approach to dominate a market with its own proprietary products.

What do I see now? Microsoft losing the Windows-based PC hardware platform to tablets and smartphones running Android or iOS, and struggling to become significant in the smartphone operating system. What does Microsoft do? Bring out Windows 8 as a touch–oriented operating system, to run on PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

Some people are already writing off Windows 8 as a failure; and a respectable tech journalist has commented:

… consumers don’t appear to be warming to Windows 8 …

Recent statistics paint a stark picture of the health of the PC industry: in April, analyst firm Gartner said that 79,2m PCs were shipped in the first quarter of 2013, an 11,2% decline over the same quarter in 2012 and the first time the number had fallen below 80m since the second quarter of 2009.

The same journalist observed:

 The problem Microsoft faces is far deeper than a simple change in the formula of its software. The entire structure of the computer industry has changed.

Doesn’t that sound like the situation IBM faced in the 1980s and 1990s when the computing paradigm changed from mainframes to PCs?

As I also wrote at the time:

IBM went from being a great tech-oriented company to one run by bean counters; the more I deal as a partner with Microsoft the more I feel that way about them as well.

I believe that still to be true. However, they obviously do have some good techies as the recent Xbox One announcement has shown.

IBM managed to change its fortunes under the leadership of Lou Gerstner. I hope Microsoft do the same.

Advertisements

Mobile marketshare – think regional, not global

When I see smartphone market share reports, like the one from Gartner quoted in the Seattle Times, I wonder if anyone realises that there is a problem with ‘global’ reports.

The reason why I believe global reports are a problem is that they obscure the fact that market shares for this type of technology are not globally uniform, and can be very different between regions.

It’s wrong to assume that  Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century is true. In fact, a recent article that examines Friedman’s view notes:

The world is still far from flat today, and, in many industries, it’s likely to retain its curvature for quite some time to come.

A more detailed mobile market share report shows how the market shares can vary widely by country.

It does amaze me though that US writers seem surprised that the market share patterns in their country are not followed elsewhere – even when the reasons are pointed out.

For technology companies, therefore, check what type of technology your industry is in. Is there significant regional variation? If so, do you know what the reasons are, and how can you address them?