Wallstrip published a great newscast heralding, with some disbelief, that Microsoft’s stocks had just reached a 5 year high. The video is worth the watch and I followed it up with my less than glowing opinion on the mega-corporation’s current path.

So according to stocks Microsoft is doing quite well and it is apparent that part of that success is a result of their high sales of Vista. Unfortunately for Microsoft, I can say with relative certainty that a significant percentage of Vista sales were forced upon new PC buyers and many would switch back to XP if they had a chance. In fact Dell even switched back to offering XP products after they received a myriad of complaints that Vista-only PCs were becoming the norm.

Additionally, Computer World UK posted an interesting article that cited “most IT professionals are worried about Vista and that 44% have considered non-Windows operating systems, such as Linux and Macintosh, to avoid the Microsoft migration.”

In short, it seems that a considerable portion of Microsoft’s gains are from a product that sold well due to hype and forced use with new PCs. I don’t know about you but that has reinforced my skepticisim over Microsoft’s continued gains in the OS marketplace. In fact, I think the demand for a newbie-friendly Linux OS is getting stronger as many small business owners like myself tire of the costly upgrades from Microsoft; costly not just financially but from a stability standpoint.

Is Microsoft Doomed to Complacency?
Now I understand that comparing Microsoft’s grip on the OS industry to the search industry is a long shot; Microsoft is the Google of the OS industry after all. However, stretch your imagination and compare where MSN was when it was arguably a significant player in search and where Microsoft’s OS division is now. Why Microsoft lost search market share can be put quite simply… a lack of innovation. MSN lost its edge and fell into obscurity while relying on Windows to maintain its user base; nowadays Microsoft’s share of search has faded to appalling levels. In fact, as the MarketingPilgrim blog noted brand is becoming more important and Microsoft’s pride that Live Search’s results are highly relevant is, frankly, outdated. Proudly announcing relevant search results is akin to a company saying they offer “professional services”… umm, yes I would hope so. Comparatively Microsoft is wildly insistent that its OS is the present and future of the PC, however, the simplicity and innovativeness of Apple and the out-of-the-box stability and low cost of Linux is eroding Microsoft’s market share and in-turn its brand.

All-in-all, I have a hard time remembering any significant advance that Microsoft released before any other company. Doubtless there are many but the fact that I, an ardent computer geek, cannot think of something right away… well I think that speaks volumes. Microsoft needs to learn a few things from its competitors (like Google); empower your massive research and development department by allowing them to launch betas and innovate in the public forum! Without some innovation and some sense that Microsoft is something more than a follower the mega company will always seem to be one step behind the competition and that is going to do nothing good for its brand. In fact I think their brand will slowly rot away unless they show they deserve the continued respect they so often expect.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.
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