Microsoft has put a lot of its future success or failure on the back of Windows 8. The operating system is a major departure from its predecessors and could be the platform that finally makes Microsoft a serious player in the tablet market. If Windows 8 succeeds, Microsoft can all but ensure its success for several more years at least.
Windows Phone 7 Adoption
One of the biggest weaknesses in Microsoft's product lineup is Windows Phone 7. The mobile platform has yet to gain ground on Android and only one of the devices-the Nokia Lumia 900-has really stood out in the crowd. Windows Phone 7 adoption could be a make-or-break for the software firm.
Android fragmentation continues to be a real issue in that ecosystem. There are a host of versions of Android that people are using and even their ability to upgrade to a later version depends on which Android device they happened to own. If that condition prevails and consumers continue to complain about it, they might flock to Windows Phone 7. This would solve one of the flaws in Microsoft's product strategy.
Android security is another factor that Microsoft might use to its advantage. And security in the Android ecosystem is becoming a bigger issue by the day. It's prompting some corporate users to shy away from Android and look elsewhere for mobile software. If Microsoft can play its cards right, it can woo those companies to Windows Phone 7.
Mac OS X "Mountain Lion"
Apple is launching Mac OS X "Mountain Lion" later this year and just months before Microsoft is expected to finally unveil Windows 8. If that software proves popular and it's brought into the market on the back of a new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, it could hurt Windows 8 sales, and potentially affect Microsoft's long-term market share. Mac OS X Mountain Lion should be a big concern for Microsoft.
Enterprises and consumers will continue to move to cloud applications and services. Companies that make the most of this trend will be the most successful. Those that don't are doomed to fade away. Microsoft has so far embraced the cloud, but it could do more. The online world is still up for grabs. And the sooner Microsoft takes it for itself, the sooner it can solidify its chances of success.
How Will Office Adapt?
Microsoft Office has been the dominant desktop application suite since the early 1990s for enterprises and consumers. But with Google Docs continuing to improve and Zoho Apps impressing more users, Microsoft can't assume that its office franchise is safe. The next few versions of Office could make or break that key part of Microsoft's business.
Ballmer's Willingness to Change
Steve Ballmer was taught how to run Microsoft by Bill Gates. However, Ballmer hasn't led Microsoft to the same aura of success and respectability that it achieved during Gates' watch by the late-1990s. In this new decade, Ballmer needs to come up with fresh ideas to take on Apple and Google. Can he do it?
Don't Forget About the Xbox
Although much of the talk surrounding Microsoft relates to Windows and Office, the company's consumer division is performing quite well, thanks to the Xbox 360. In fact, the Xbox 360 has become a gaming powerhouse. Now, though, Microsoft is planning on launching a new Xbox next year, according to reports. As it thinks about that, it also needs to consider how it will keep its gaming successes going over the long term.
Microsoft has been trying for to catch up to Google in the search and advertising market for years. Google continues to be a huge threat to Microsoft. To fend off this threat, Microsoft needs to increase its search market share with Bing. If Microsoft can improve its online advertising revenue and share, it will strike at the heart of Google's business. Bing might not be a giant now, but Microsoft might eventually grow Bing to the point where it can knock Google back on its heels.