Microsoft had an inauspicious 2011. The company watched as its chief rivals, Google and Apple, continued to report rapid growth while it struggled to gain traction in the mobile technology market. Windows, while still popular, was under attack from all sides as Mac OS X's star rose and Google delivered Chrome OS in the hopes of eventually dislodging Windows' position as the world's standard desktop operating system.
In some cases, Microsoft's troubles during the year were through no fault of its own. Its competitors simply found a way to offer products that had greater appeal to consumers and enterprise users.
But it wasn't all the competition's fault. Microsoft this year made a host of major mistakes that hurt its ability to gain ground across the many markets it does business in. Going into 2012, the company will need to work as hard to correct these mistakes as it does responding to a host of competitive challenges.
Here is a sampling of the many dumb things Microsoft did over the last 12 months.
1. Where were the tablets?
Going into 2011, Microsoft needed to offer tablets to consumers and enterprise users. But by the end of the year, it hadn't done so. Now, Microsoft is saying that it will bring Windows 8-based tablets to the market in 2012. But based on its history, many critics are wondering if it will follow through on that promise.
2. Let Google cement its lead online
Throughout the year, Microsoft knew all too well that the Web was vastly important to its future success. And yet, the company did little to dramatically improve Bing market position. Furthermore its online-advertising platform is second-rate compared with Google's. Microsoft effectively allowed Google to cement its lead online.
3. Failing to acquire a handset maker
With Windows Phone 7 in jeopardy and handset makers offering Android on their best designs, it would have been prudent of Microsoft to acquire a hardware vendor. By doing so, it could control both software and hardware and finally get Windows Phone 7 on the map. Instead, Microsoft signed a poorly crafted deal with Nokia (more on that in a bit).
4. Let Android get away
Android saw its market share grow substantially in 2011. Microsoft, meanwhile, saw its market share slip during the year, as people appeared to ignore Windows Phone 7 devices in favor of the iPhone and Android units. Part of the problem was likely that carriers weren't offering a lot of Windows Phone handsets. It was a sobering year for Microsoft's mobile division. But it didn't necessarily help itself in any way. The company failed to take the fight to Android and show a clear distinction between the platforms. It was a huge mistake on Microsoft's part.