Microsoft isn't the kind of company that most folks would associate with the Internet. The software giant has been offering operating systems, browsers and office-productivity suites for years. These products are the foundation stones of its operation and the main reason why it generates billions of dollars in revenue each quarter. For its part, Microsoft has stayed true to its software roots.
The company has time and again said that it believes Windows and Office are central to its operation, and that won't be changing anytime soon. To some extent, Microsoft is right to follow that strategy. The software market is still strong for the company.
But soon enough, that will change.
The Internet is today's battleground for Microsoft. As more companies start moving their operations to the cloud, Microsoft will need to be prepared to welcome them and keep them paying Microsoft for all the services they need.
So far, Microsoft has done a few things to prepare its operation for the Web, including launching Azure and improving Bing. But it needs to do much more if it wants to succeed on the Internet. Google is waiting, armed and ready to destroy Microsoft. Without the right strategy in place, the software giant will be just another victim of the search company. This is what Microsoft must do to succeed on the Web.
1. Get in on the cloud
The cloud is the future of the Internet. Microsoft knows it. Google knows it. And the enterprise knows it. Now it's just a matter of when the vast majority of users will start relying on the cloud to handle their operations. Luckily, Microsoft has brought Azure to the Web, helping to bolster its online business. But it needs to do more. The company needs to start to ramp up the rhetoric and make it clear that if and when companies and consumers want to move to the cloud, it will welcome them. Google is currently ahead in cloud-based alternatives. Microsoft cannot allow that to continue.
2. Stick with Bing
Bing is one of the most important aspects of Microsoft's Web strategy. The company's search tool has been gaining market share over the past year. It has caused Google to re-evaluate its own plans and come up with a new search design that looks awfully similar to Bing's. Going forward, Microsoft must keep the pressure on with Bing. Its search engine is striking a chord with Web users and its many other related services work extremely well. If Bing succeeds, Microsoft will succeed on the Web.
3. Evaluate Google's strategy
It's important at this juncture for Microsoft to see what Google is really planning to do on the Internet. As much as Ballmer and Company don't want to hear it, Google is the leader on the Web. And that won't be changing anytime soon. Realizing that, Microsoft must be a step ahead of Google in every space. The only way to know if it's ahead is to evaluate what Google's Web strategy really is. Admittedly, it won't be easy, since Google typically keeps ideas close to the vest. But Microsoft must try. If it lets Google innovate beyond its own plans, it will spell trouble for the software giant's online chances.
4. Start acquiring companies
Microsoft needs to start acquiring companies. With billions of dollars in its coffers, there is no excuse for why Microsoft hasn't been acquiring Web companies as often as possible. The reality is, Microsoft doesn't understand the Web nearly as well as Google. But there are several Web firms that do get it. And they could be a valuable addition to Microsoft's Web efforts. Exactly what companies Microsoft should acquire is up to the company. But bolstering its search and Web services with feature-packed sites would be a good first step.