November 7, 2018
The Return of Microsoft
Whether you love them or hate them, anyone who has worked with a computer knows the name Microsoft. Founded in 1975, it rose to dominate the personal computing industry, particularly among IBM PCs. Although they have had a few hiccups in their history, they continue to be one of the world’s most important producers of computer technology.
Microsoft was originally created to produce BASIC Interpreters for the computer Altair 8800. By the mid-80’s they had expanded into the entire line of IBM’s personal computers with MS-DOS. Following some of the mouse-driven operating system of Apple computers, Microsoft introduced the world-changing Windows, which continues to lead the way in operating systems today.
In 1990, Microsoft rolled out Microsoft Office, which compiled several individual productivity programs, such as Word and Excel, into one comprehensive package. Now, not only were computers sold with a Microsoft Operating System pre-loaded, they came with additional Microsoft software to aid in personal and business applications.
The popularity of Microsoft Windows spread quickly across the world as an international technological innovation. With the advent of the internet and world wide web, Microsoft began to capitalize by limiting activations of Windows to one copy per processor. Through the following 15 years, Microsoft would be hit with a series of lawsuits dealing with the monopoly-like status Microsoft held on the computer industry. Their widespread popularity had created a backlash of customers who wanted more control over their own computers and felt that Microsoft, with their restrictive licenses, was keeping them out.
This was the era of Windows XP, the next generation of Windows which utilized a greater connection with the internet, better securing the computer against online threats, and also against customer tampering. This was also the year that Microsoft ventured out into the gaming platform market with the Xbox. While Windows continued to rival Apple software, the Xbox became a significant contender for Microsoft’s new rivals – Sony and Nintendo. In addition to this expansion into the gaming console industry, Microsoft began to offer multiple versions of Windows NT in response to the lawsuits and allegations they faced.
While the Titan of Microsoft was monopolized by lawsuits, new contenders began to arise with innovative, web-based technologies. Google conquered the search engine industry by storm, Amazon began to emerge with physical and digital books that would scoop up an entire online retail industry, and Apple shifted its focus from desktop and laptop PCs to the creation of music, phone, and tablet devices. Microsoft fell behind, and these new computer industry competitors emerged. They launched Windows Vista as a gambit to get back in the game, but pushed ahead too early, the new OS proved too buggy and bogged down processors, which ended up causing Microsoft to lose even more footing in the computer technology industry.
By 2008, Bill Gates had stepped down from his role as co-founder and CEO and then retired from the position he created as Chief Software Architect, but he continued to stay on in a key advisory role on essential projects to Microsoft. Between 2008-2009 Microsoft made a swift move to get back into the game by launching their Azure Services Platform, Microsoft’s first entry into the cloud-based computing market. Following that, it launched the Microsoft Store, the first Microsoft-branded retail store (to compete with the Apple Store). Finally, they rolled out Windows 7, which reworked the concepts of Vista and added in accessibility features and performance enhancements.
Microsoft also took a dive into the phone market as well, introducing the Windows Mobile OS and creating the Windows Phone. Within a few years, they brought out the Windows Surface – a tablet computer that ran a new version of Windows. Windows 8 was an innovative OS, designed to run both on PCs and tablets. Unfortunately, all this was not enough, and on July 19th, 2013 the company suffered a loss of $32 billion as investors sold their shares due to poor sales of Windows 8 and the Surface tablet.
During these challenging years, the public criticism of Windows products grew harsh, but the business world continued to utilize Microsoft products such as Office (which continued to become more and more cloud-based) and their hidden gem, Microsoft Azure. Azure, along with Windows Server 2012 and 2016 began to be used in several important ways.
The first new project, Microsoft Azure Information Protection, was implemented to help corporations transmit sensitive data between their servers and various devices. In addition to this form of data protection, they also released Microsoft AccountGuard – an initiative to protect cybersecurity, and also Defending Democracy – a special effort to fight fake news.
The applications of Microsoft Azure have recently grown into artificial intelligence applications. It has been used by Toyota Tsusho to create fish farming applications through research in water management that measures water flow effectiveness by counting fish on a conveyer belt. This process works with the Azure Machine Learning and the Azure IoT Hub platforms.
Microsoft provides training for Azure and its cloud-based (as well as software-based) programs through Microsoft Learn. This is an innovative training system that provides “classes” in multiple formats for various learning styles. Training is offered either online, on-site, or partially instructor-led in a hybrid format. This continued push for business productivity and services, through both Azure and Office Suite products, has not only kept Microsoft afloat during those challenging years… it has brought them right back on top again, as the most valuable computer technology company today.
They have led the way, not only in technological business applications but in the marketing of their software as well. While they faced lawsuits for their restrictive access methods in the late ’90s and 2000s, Apple, and other computer companies began to use similar techniques to promote multiple purchases of their software. With services like Office 365, Microsoft has moved much of their productivity services to the cloud and taken the next step in monetization of these programs. No longer are you required to purchase separate access codes for each device you use these services. Instead, you are charged a monthly or yearly subscription to use the service at all. This means the financial value of each program or service continually grows over time – whether it is being used or not.
Microsoft has had its challenges in the public market, but it has more than made up for it by steadily supplying the corporate business world with the innovative technology they have needed to move forward. Given the choice of B2B (Business to business) or B2C (Business to customer) markets, it would seem that Microsoft has made the better investment.