Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Demise of Microsoft and RIM

To stay on top of the world of technology, a company needs to be bringing new ideas to the market and reinventing itself. For example, take the cases of Yahoo and MySpace - two ground breaking Internet technology companies in their heyday. Look where they are now. Yahoo, the once darling of the Internet, did not seem to know who they were and the direction they were going. Yahoo's home page is a mess of services that seems to be piped in from Internet sources.  All I wanted was a search without all the rest of the stuff Yahoo was trying to provide and was forcing me to consume. I was a Yahoo user but switched to Google just because of the simpler search home page. Google grabbed the search market by offering a simple yet powerful search engine and then providing additional services to their search clients, some fairly standard but useful – Gmail and Docs, others very innovative – Maps and Earth. When Goggle sees something that they think would enhance their users’ experience, they acquire - YouTube. Let's face it, not all innovations are going to work and as all Googlers know, we are all their beta testers. Some of their innovations have failed but at least they try. MySpace was another great idea that went nowhere. With respect to MySpace, whether it was poor marketing or lack of direction, Facebook came along with a similar idea and drowned it.
Image representing Bill Gates as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

It is this lack of renewal that will take down two technology giants - Microsoft and RIM. If you think about it, Microsoft has not created anything. In the early days, Microsoft made its claim to fame by striking a deal with IBM to have a copy of MS-DOS on every computer it sold. Microsoft did not create MS-DOS. IBM approached Gary Kildall to negotiate a deal with him to acquire his operating system known as CPM. Kildall had philosophical problems with IBM and refused to deal with them. Because Bill Gates was making a name for himself in the new computer industry by writing code for the first personal computer, the Altair 8000, IBM approached him. As timelines were short, Gates bought the rights to CPM and rebranded it as MS-DOS and licensed it to IBM under the name of PC-DOS. With his lawyer father's help, Gates got a sweetheart commission from every computer sold using "his" operating system. (By all rights, if he was still alive, it should have be Kildall who should be travelling the world with Melinda, giving away billions of dollars). With the boom of personal computers in the early 1980's, this commission made Microsoft very rich.

As there is little money to be made hardware, IBM is no longer selling personal computers and Microsoft is a multi-billion dollar organization. Microsoft’s other products are copies of technology on the market. Windows was fashioned after Apple's operating systems and the MS-Office products followed other productivity tools on the market like LOTUS 1-2-3, WordPerfect, and Paradox. It is simply the size of Microsoft that forces users to install its products which are designed to work best in its operating systems that are already installed on computers. Microsoft has been taken to court by smaller competitors to stop them from forcing personal computer users to use their browser.

Microsoft's answer to the booming MP3 player market, Zune, which was released 5 years after the iPod, was removed from the market in 2011. Their recent attempt to break into the cell market is not going as planned and now, with the release of Windows 8, they are trying to break into the tablet market, long established by Apple and Google. Being a follower and an imitator, Microsoft will not be the company that is was in the days of Bill Gates. The cell phone market has long been dominated by companies like Motorola Mobility (recently purchased by Google) and Nokia, who is losing market share to Apple and Google. Now comes Microsoft trying to get in long after the races have begun. They are repeating this error by just announcing that they are getting into the tablet market with their Surface tablet. Once again, the tablet race started with the iPad 2 years ago, which is equivalent to a prehistoric period in terms on technology innovation. With the sale of desktop and laptop computers declining, Microsoft is not going to be selling as many operating systems as they have sold in the past, and as they attempt into the cell phone and tablet market is so far behind, the future of Microsoft is not looking good.
Image representing Research In Motion as depic...
Image via CrunchBase

RIM came out with a very innovative product in 1999. Imagine a product that was so innovative, that you can get your email, answer your phone calls and have a host of productively tools in the palm of your hand. It was a wonderful tool and many people, still swear by it including President Obama, who refused to give it up in spite of it being a national security threat and Oprah who called it one of her favourite things. The problem is that RIM rested on its laurels and other manufacturers took the smart phone idea and ran with it giving us the iPhone and Android phones with hundreds of thousands of apps. They tried to produce other attention-getting products, like the Blackberry Bold and the PlayBook tablet but those products lacked the innovative nature of the original Blackberry. Even with a new CEO, RIM will have a very difficult time recovering from their lack of attention to the demands of the innovative-hungry technology market. They are hoping that their Blackberry 10 will be the saviour of RIM but it appears to be yet another device incompatible with the rest of the suite of productivity tools used by businesses.

The technology market is constantly searching for the next big thing. Microsoft and RIM are both trying to be players in this new technology marketplace using old technology operating strategies that got them to be big players in the market in the first place. Unfortunately, those strategies need to change if they planning to survive. RIM is supposedly trying something new with its new operating system but it may be too late as iPhone and Androids are well embedded in the market. Microsoft has released Windows 8, an operating systems design to be used on phones and tablets in a well-established market, as Google and Apple have a sizeable head. For both RIM and Microsoft - too little, too late.

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