How Microsoft lost the wireless smartphone wars


Why, if Microsoft is such a successful company, has it failed in wireless and smartphones over the last decade? Sure, they still lead in operating system wars with Windows and software like Word, but that may have as much to do with lack of real competition than the more important customer satisfaction. So why has the company having so many problems in wireless?

If we pull the camera back, we can see the wireless and smartphone wars have claimed many victims over the last decade or two. Ten years ago, the smartphone space was led by Blackberry and Nokia. Ten years before that it was Motorola. All have now fallen to the bottom of the list as Apple iPhone and Google Android entered and rapidly grew.

Apple iPhone growth curve may be cresting

Apple is also recently struggling with iPhone growth. This is a company which is built on the iPhone. Apple nearly went out of business in the 1990’s, but when it launched the iPhone twelve years ago, they started their re-birth. Now they are the largest company in the United States.

However, recent numbers may be revealing that growth is slowing at Apple.

Microsoft is a story of a powerful company with seemingly brilliant leadership before it was broken up by the US Government in the 1990’s because of anti-competitive behavior.

In the early years, this was a small and scrappy entrepreneurial company which had to rob Peter to pay Paul. Then it quickly grew into one of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

What happened next? The same attacking behavior that helped put them on the map, should have been reined in as they became dominant. It wasn’t. And because it abused its strong leadership position, it was eventually taken apart by the US Government.

That’s when their trouble started.

Microsoft praised for ingenuity when they were young

Their behavior when they were young is what was needed to keep them alive in the early years. However, as they grew and became powerful, they needed to change. But they didn’t change. They didn’t moderate. They kept using the same bully tactics to bury competitors.

That bully behavior worked when they were young and small but backfired when they became powerful and did not moderate themselves.

Their behavior was their strength and their weakness. Over time, the young whippersnapper grew into a bully that had to be taken down by regulators. If they had moderated themselves, they might never have been broken up.

Microsoft broken-up by US government for same behavior that built it

Their leadership which was caused in part by their ability to bundle together Windows with other software like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more, and their leadership in web browsing with IE or Internet Explorer, were all factors in what built the company into a powerhouse.

After the breakup, they simply could not get their act together. Sure, they were still the powerful company they had grown into. Sure, they had loads of cash, which gave them much more time than the average business to try to create the growth wave they once had when they were smaller.

However, it seems new businesses Microsoft tried to move into, failed. That failure has not ended and in fact may be spreading. As it seems to be spreading with Apple.

Microsoft tried but couldn’t succeed in smartphone wars

The fall has been very dramatic and almost unbelievable. The Microsoft IE or Internet Explorer business was once the primary search engine in the world. They owned the space. However, that leadership made them lazy. They had no one to compete with. They took forever to issue updates, but even those were more for security and less on innovation.

That’s when competitors like Google and FireFox stepped in and took over in the search business. It’s like the rug was ripped out from beneath them. Microsoft has been struggling ever since.

They tried to reinvent the search space again with their Edge browser. That’s where they put their time and efforts. However, Edge didn’t take off like they hoped. Google had the edge and was innovating too quickly for Microsoft to ever catch them.

Microsoft tried and failed in wireless smartphones

They tried wireless over more than a decade. They started with regular handsets, then moved into smartphones to compete with new players like iPhone and Android. They could have been successful. After all, they are Microsoft. They have tons of users who could have all been wireless users.

The truth is iPhone and Android completely changed the wireless smartphone space. So, success and transformation can and did take place. Just not with Microsoft. They had the user base. They just didn’t have the ability to deliver what the world wanted.

They had the smarts. They just didn’t have the pieces of the puzzle that made the difference. They didn’t have the innovation or the connection with the user. They always wanted to do things their way. They never got close to the user. They never thought they had to. After all, they were Microsoft. But that’s what is hurting them and has been over the last decade or two.

Microsoft struggled with many different ideas which simply missed the mark. This went on year after year and never got any better.

They ultimately lost these two battles for search engines to Google and wireless smartphones to Apple iPhone, Google Android and Samsung Galaxy.

This was a painful lesson to learn. Just because a company is very successful in one area is no guarantee they can duplicate that success in other areas.

New problems with Microsoft Word: missing “Recents” file

Word has some real problems lately. Twice in the last month, the “Recents” file vanished. That means there is no longer a list of recent files you have worked on. So, you have to remember where each file is stored in a massive directory. If you are like me, you’ve been building that enormous list of files for decades. There are thousands of them.

The problem I am experiencing is with Word on MacBook. After asking lots of different people, I have learned that this has been a problem for many others for quite a while. Many people have experienced this problem, more than once. Just not all at the same time.

Areas where Microsoft is disappointing users

So, these are some of the areas where Microsoft is really letting their users down. When we think about Microsoft, we think of a large and powerful corporation. While that may be true, it is also a company that can’t seem to shoot straight. And users are noticing.

The problem is Microsoft is too insular. They are not close with users. They put out what they want to put out whether the user wants it or not. That has been a mistake from the beginning. And it is not changing.

These problems could continue to develop into a real growth problem for the company. These are areas that are screaming to be fixed, before it’s too late. Microsoft is a giant. They aren’t going away.

However, growth is what is key for them going forward. I have learned over the last several decades, this is who Microsoft is. Can they fix this growing problem, or will they simply throw in the towel like they did with their smartphones? The next step is up to them.

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