Who Woke The Sleeping Giant?

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

People who know me know that I am not a Microsoft lover. I am more on the “hater” side of that argument, but I have always felt that they do some things very well. They always targeted developers and tried to get adoption of their platform. This gave them the monopoly on the desktop operating system that they maintained for years. However, this success did not translate well to the internet. They have tried various things with a search engine, Hotmail never did very well under their stewardship and they could not get into the content production space. This is mainly because Microsoft is a platform company and they make applications and tools that support that platform.

They have been getting attacked on various fronts on the internet. GMail and Yahoo Mail are what many people use for email. Hotmail may still have a lot of accounts, but its reputation for stability and hosting spam accounts is allowing the competition to gain. Microsoft Office, another cash cow, has seen extensive competition from the online applications from Zoho Office and Google Applications. This competition could have been squashed long ago, but Microsoft has a tendency to think they know better than everyone and figured the online application was an interesting idea but not a good one. Software like Google Gears and Yahoo BrowserPlus enable web applications to store data on the user’s PC so you can still use them when disconnected. In the past few months we have seen what looks like the final straw for Microsoft, cloud computing. Amazon, Google and others have decided to make cloud computing into a utility platform. This may have finally made Microsoft wake up.

Microsoft Awakening

Things changes a little while ago when Microsoft launched Silverlight. Rich applications on the internet are hard to do well, but if you can create a simple platform or tool that works with your favorite web sites and it exists on the desktop, you could have a real winner. Adobe saw this when they created the AIR platform. Obviously Microsoft must have seen the same thing as Silverlight was not that far behind. But that was just the beginning.

With the Microsoft PDC behind us we saw various announcements, summarized by Robert Scoble when he said, “never underestimate Microsoft’s ability to turn a corner“. When they announced that Microsoft Office would be available in an online form, they came prepared with options and a monetization plan:

The “Office Web applications” will be available to consumers through Office Live, a service which has both ad-funded and subscription options. Business users will be offered Office Web applications as a hosted subscription service and through existing “volume licensing agreements”. There will be a private technology preview of the Office Web applications later this year.

Google and Zoho have been given notice that they must innovate or be relegated to niche status. When you play on Microsoft’s turf, they do not play nice. You can ask the many applications and platforms that have withered when Microsoft decided it wanted to win a fight.

I am going to keep an eye on Microsoft for a while. With all of their new service and application announcements, they have done something different than is their norm. Most of these announcements coincided with the actual launch of a beta. Their is no 6 month waiting period for a beta or pre-release product. Microsoft came out with their guns blazing. Steven Hodson is cautiously excited:

I might be a cranky old fart but I have been around long enough to understand how businesses can go through cycles. Some succeed and come out the other end a better and stronger company – other donโ€™t. there is something happening within Microsoft and there is a real sense of of something big happening within its hull. I believe that Microsoft is on the road back and I think that there are going to be a really interesting future ahead for those that follow Microsoft or use their products.

I too am cautiously excited. I am not excited that Microsoft is doing well, I am excited that another big player is embracing the new hyper-connected world. The competition between the likes of Microsoft, Google and a host of others means that innovation could be coming very quickly. This could lead to a very exciting time.

One last note of caution to all of those companies who are now competing with Microsoft. Beware, someone woke the sleeping giant.

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23 thoughts on “Who Woke The Sleeping Giant?

  1. the noise from “Gears” woke the sleeping giant, pipes.yahoo.com smoked em out, and Zoho definitely damned Dynamics. One could have said Microsoft was definitely not leading the “Web 2.0 Revolution” And although we understand that businesses do go through cycles, insatiable Internetters have become savvy social beings. Microsoft WAS missing out on key growth from the social netwokring and web application sector.

    One could say Microsoft got it’s SecondLight during the 4 day Professional Developers Conference. (So I was told) Microsoft was abuzz for Azure, Live was the life of the party, services like mesh.com or foldershare.com highlighted the direction Microsoft was going with webware and I am sure a developer (or two) reached for his inhaler after Microsoft gave out a copy of the next version of their operating system, Windows 7. Microsoft was ready to take on the competition. With new ideas , technology and services, Microsoft definitely paved the path to a whole new level of “WoW”

    Start with windowslive.com , if you are a Developer, check out Codeplex, Microsoft’s open source project hosting web site.
    Want to start a business? office.live.com
    create games and mashups with popfly.com

    Yes, the sleeping giant has been woke, but the competition will continue fighting back. Consumers are the great benefactor of a countless number of web goodies.
    Are you ready for whatโ€™s next? So am I.

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  2. Microsoft is a follower kind of company. They will never be a true inventor, all what they did was purely following other companies steps.

    Interface, following Apple.
    Rich internet application follow, Google and Adobe.
    Application, microsoft office is getting worse and bloated on each release.

    They might be a Giant, but a sloppy and stupid giant. Agree with you that they have woke up, but woke up after othe giants step on their forehead.

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  3. Yes finally they came to their senses!!! I am positive that YAHOO will be acquired since the Google/Yahoo deal has died. I think Jerry Yang is stupid, he needs to be replaced by David Filo.
    This will be MS next Gargantuan steps Chrome+MS = Google/MS partners then MS+YAHOO = YAHOO(run by MS) finally WINDOWS 7 = 10years more of new and exciting development (multi-touch, cloud computing etc.)

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  4. Ok, it’s not their fault, their alarm just went off a couple of years later…
    Microsoft is apparently sleeping in a couple of fronts, and show no sings that their alarm will be sounding soon.
    On top of that, they are doing huge mistakes with their operating system, if you can call it that – Vista, in a time when they cant afford to make such mistakes, since at no time in history has competition been breathing down their necks like now. An on top of that, their new OS, Windows 7, is just a revamp of Vista! Instead of fixing the errors, they are just adding new visuals and re-packaging. One day the MS OS will crumble under it’s own weight.
    Wake up MS, the competition is ringing!

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  5. I second the notion that Microsoft is nothing more than a follower and they can’t even seem to do that very well. All they do to the industry is release unsecure, substandard products and are bloated and do nothing more than proprietize their products more. If they do a complete 180 on their business practices it might shock me enough to buy another windows computer, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

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  6. i really like Microsoft, just like i really like Audi. But after the thing you like bites you enough you move on to something new. I drive an infiniti now, and am using ubuntu. Its just sad to see the game of being greedy is turning Microsoft in to a looser.

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  7. We’ve always been awake ๐Ÿ™‚ We’re just more conservative at times than most of our competitors when it comes to press quotes :).

    Interesting read though :0


    Scott Barnes
    Rich Platforms Product Manager (Silverlight/WPF)
    Microsoft

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  8. Scott,
    This is the type of thing we are talking about. 5 years ago, MS would not comment on a blog like mine, only something significantly larger. It just seems like MS has decided to “really” try to throw all its weight into the internet recently, instead of a token effort in a few places.

    In any case, thanks for reading and commenting.

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