In the August 2012 issue of Vanity Fair (which I received on July 9 – go figure), Kurt Eichenwald wrote a fascinating article on why Microsoft is becoming a stagnant, obsolete company. Eichenwald pointed out a number of business and personnel problems within the company and named a few of the gadgets that he felt did Microsoft in, at least partially. This got me thinking—why were these gadgets bad for the company? Why did they suck massive eggs? So, with my investigative cap on, I went a-huntin’ and found out why. Here, I will explain what some of Microsoft’s biggest failures were—and why they failed.
Note: For all of you thinking I’m stealing Mr. Eichenwald’s article, I am not. I am simply talking about why the technologies themselves failed; not the company.
The Microsoft Zune
Oh, the Microsoft Zune. Otherwise known as “What the Hell is that thing?” This clunky, bulky media player came out in 2006 – five years after Apple’s iPod. While the iPod was becoming sleek, sexy, and pretty damn small, the Zune lumbered on to the scene. Zune, barely managing to tuck its fat rolls into its packaging, was a behemoth.
But Max, I hear you say, why was it so terrible? Many great things are big (wink wink). Yes, I am aware that some good things come in big packaging. However, Zune was not one of them. The Zune lacked in portability and no one wanted to lift weights when all they sought to do was listen to some tunes. Zune library software, the equivalent of iTunes, was sluggish, buggy, and ugly. Most importantly, Zune arrived too late. By the time ’06 rolled around, Apple had nearly three-quarters of the portable media player market. Before its discontinuation in 2011, the Zune’s market share had peaked at around 4%.
It should be no surprise to anyone with a computer-oriented brain that Vista makes the list. Buggy, unstable, and generally irritating to use, Vista had all the great ideas and all the wrong executions.
The Vista operating system strived to fix and improve so aspects of personal computing by allowing modification with different programming languages and introducing a new file storage system. Though most of this went on under the hood, it still affected overall performance. And, even though it should have been released in 2003, consumers did not see it until 2006 (which seems to be a bad omen in Microsoft product releases). The delay was because developers could not get the program to stop crashing and lagging and sucking it up.
While they were spinning their wheels, Apple released their Tiger operating system in – it did everything Microsoft wanted Vista to do, except it did it perfectly. Prompted by the release of Tiger, Microsoft couldn’t release Vista when they wished. Instead, they scrapped everything and started again, only this time without any cool features that they wanted. The resulting product was the Vista we know today, which constantly asks permission to do absolutely anything and is currently considered by InfoWorld as the No. 2 Biggest Technical Flop.
Microsoft Reader had huge – Great Wall of China huge – potential back when it was thought up in the late 90s. Conceived as a Kindle before Kindle, Microsoft could have snatched up the eReader market before anyone else even knew books could be read without a book. That is not exactly what really happened, though.
When brought to Microsoft execs, they shot it down, angry that the product would not be a Windows-based one. Instead, they demanded that the developers write a program that allowed people to read books on their Windows-run machines, thereby increasing sales of their flagship operating system. So, they did that. And, twelve years after its release, still no one knows what the hell Windows Reader is. Reader sucks specifically for two reasons. For one, it is a glorified PDF reader with its own file format that never took off, so it is functionally useless. Secondly, Windows Reader could have been Amazon Kindle about five or six years early. With Kindles selling at a rate of around 1-2 million units per WEEK, Microsoft missed out on at LEAST a couple of billion dollars—on the extremely conservative side.
What is Microsoft’s Future?
Who cares. Google and Apple rule the world.Microsoft’s Three Biggest Blunders,