Seeking Signs of Fundamental Change

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-09-23 Print this article Print

At a developer conference earlier in 2009, Microsoft told those in attendance that offering apps for free or 99 cents wasn't what the company was looking for. It wants developers to charge "what the apps were really worth." This was a shot at Apple, which has enjoyed strong support for its App Store by offering so many free or cheap apps.

Microsoft's App Store will launch later this year with an obvious mission: to do what Apple does, but do it a little better.

Windows 7

The same can be said for Microsoft's focus with Windows 7. Although the company is in a dominating position in the operating system market, Apple has done a fine job of delivering an experience that Windows Vista can't quite match. Mac OS X is extremely user-friendly. It boots up in no time. And for the most part it works quite well. Windows Vista suffers from issues that limit many of those functions on the PC.

But with the release of Windows 7, all that will change. Windows 7 now looks quite similar to Mac OS X. It operates with readily available icons, like Mac OS X. And the software's taskbar makes it much easier to sift through open windows than on Mac OS X. I don't think it's outrageous to say Microsoft was inspired by Apple's software. Once again, Microsoft saw its target, examined it and did what it could to improve it to benefit the user.


We can also find similarity to Google in Microsoft's strategy in the search engine space. Although Bing's market share is nowhere near Google's, Microsoft has done a fine job of delivering an experience that's both similar to Google and more innovative than the leader.

Bing has the simple search page with a prominent search box, making it intuitive for people to input a query. Its search results are similar to Google's. But where Bing improves upon Google Search is in all the extras, like social search feature Bing & Ping, and visual search. In both cases, Microsoft once again took what the competition was doing and improved upon it. So far, it has worked-the company has captured about 10 percent market share in the space.

Bottom line

So what does all this mean? Perhaps it means that Microsoft has changed. Years ago, Microsoft did what it wanted and expected everyone to follow. Today, the company is more aware of the competition, realizes what those companies are doing right and is doing everything it can to improve upon that. As a result, Windows 7 is highly anticipated, Bing is gaining ground and there's a possibility that Microsoft's Courier could be a hardware success.

It's an exciting time for Microsoft. And ironically, Microsoft might have the competition to thank for it.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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