10 Things Microsoft Did Right over the Past Decade

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-01-03

10 Things Microsoft Did Right over the Past Decade

Although Microsoft made some mistakes over the past 10 years that adversely affected the company's position in the industry, the software giant has also done a lot of things right. Over the past 10 years, Microsoft has been able to maintain its position as the dominant software developer in the world. It has also stayed relevant both in the consumer space and the enterprise. That's a feat that few companies have been able to achieve.

Perhaps that's why discussions surrounding Microsoft and Windows are so heated today. Although many like to rail against Redmond, it keeps coming back stronger. With each bit of adversity, it seems that somehow, in some way, Microsoft is able to overcome the problem and offer something to customers that appeals to their desire. Of course, it hasn't succeeded every time. And the past decade has shown that Microsoft needs to be more diligent in its decision making. But the company has also done a number of things right that it can use as a foundation for all the future decisions it will make. Let's take a look.

1. Windows 7

Windows Vista was a nightmare for Microsoft. Consumers hated it. The enterprise wouldn't even adopt it. And vendors, once the partners that did Microsoft's bidding, were forced to offer downgrade rights to customers that wanted to run Windows XP. Microsoft knew it had to do something to repair the damage that Vista caused, so it quickly released Windows 7. Microsoft's latest operating system is everything Windows Vista should have been. It's innovative. It's far more secure than previous versions of the operating system. And it appeals to customers. It's a great comeback product.

2. The move to Bing

Microsoft was in deep trouble toward the latter part of the decade. Although it commanded the software market, Google was cornering the search space without any worry of competition. Microsoft's Live Search was largely inconsequential. But rather than wave the white flag, Microsoft released Bing. Microsoft's latest search tool is outstanding. Its results match Google's search results. And thanks to some extras, like a visual search feature, it's a fine alternative to anything Google is offering up.

3. Get in on the gaming

When Microsoft first announced that it would break into the gaming space, some wondered if it could make it. As 2009 gives way to 2010, that question has been answered with a resounding affirmation that yes, indeed, Microsoft can take the gaming industry by storm. Over the past decade, Microsoft has turned its Xbox platform from the "other" console on the market into a gaming leader. The Xbox 360 is now even more popular than Sony's PlayStation 3. That's no small feat. And it should be commended.

4. The enterprise focus

As Apple and Google turned to the consumer over the past decade, Microsoft stayed true to its base-the enterprise. Windows is still the dominant force in the business world. Microsoft has so firmly cemented its position there that most companies wouldn't even consider deploying any other software. Going forward, Microsoft has almost ensured that the enterprise will be its playground.

Microsoft Makes the Right Moves to Stay on Top

5. Marginalizing Mac OS X

Apple's Mac OS X made significant strides over the past 10 years, but it's important to note that its rise in the market was largely inconsequential to Microsoft's bottom line. Through smart strategies and partnering with third parties, as well as vendors, Microsoft did a fine job of limiting the impact Mac OS X's rise really had on Windows. Did Apple's operating system steal market share away from Windows? Sure. But did it really change the OS market? No way. Microsoft is still on top by a wide margin.

6. Keeping Linux away

Some would argue that Linux is the operating system that more people should use. After all, most distributions are safe, they are generally lightweight and many are free. But the past 10 years haven't helped Linux gain a substantial footing in the OS market. I would argue that Linux is more well known than it was in 2000, but to say it is any more appealing to the mainstream is a bit of a stretch, even though more distributions have become user-friendly. That can be mainly attributed to Microsoft's ability to keep the OS at arm's length. Simply put, Redmond didn't allow the Linux craze to get out of hand. It was a smart move.

7. Addressing the Web

For too long during the past 10 years, Microsoft allowed Google and others to innovate on the Web. It might also be argued that the company has yet to do enough to stop Google's rise in that space. But over the past year or two, Microsoft has done a better job of realizing that the Internet is the future and it had better be in a position to capitalize on it. That's most evident in its acquisition of several online sites, as well as the launch of Bing and Bing Maps. Microsoft is getting ready to focus on the Web in the new decade.

8. The smooth transition

When Bill Gates announced that he would be stepping down from day-to-day activities at Microsoft, it sent shock waves through the industry. Bill Gates was the face of Microsoft. Investors placed millions of dollars in Microsoft stock because of their faith in its co-founder. It was a dicey situation. But Microsoft handled the transition of day-to-day activities from Gates to Steve Ballmer, the company's CEO, with aplomb. It made Ballmer a more vocal evangelist of the brand, while limiting Gates' influence. It reassured investors. It also proved that Ballmer was up for the job. Kudos, Microsoft. It could have been much worse.

9. Maintaining profitability

Being an extremely profitable company over a period of 10 years isn't always easy. In the tech industry, things change so rapidly that companies can be dominating a market one year and wondering why all the cash dried up the next-just ask Sony. But Microsoft maintained strong profitability numbers throughout the past 10 years. Today, Microsoft still earns billions of dollars of profit each year. And all that cash is being socked away for big acquisitions or investments the company might need to make in the new decade.

10. Cornering the netbook market

Although it failed to see the writing on the wall in so many markets over the past 10 years, Microsoft made one big move that will substantially improve its chances of maintaining profitability into the next decade: It cornered the netbook market. At first, netbooks ran Linux. But in a very short time, Microsoft was able to steal netbook-OS market share away from Linux to such a degree that today, it's in a dominant position in that space. That's no small feat. Netbook popularity has grown rapidly over the past year. Most analysts believe that that growth will continue. By solidifying its position with netbooks, Microsoft is positioned to profit heavily off those lightweight PCs.

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