Microsoft at 40: 5 Successes, 5 Failures - InformationWeek

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4/9/2015
05:05 PM
Kelly Sheridan
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Microsoft at 40: 5 Successes, 5 Failures

In honor of Microsoft's 40th birthday, InformationWeek reflects on the successes, failures, and lessons learned that built the company as it stands today.
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In 1975, 19-year-old Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and teamed up with his buddy Paul Allen to revolutionize the history of computing. Shortly afterwards, Microsoft was born with the mission of putting a computer in every home.

Four decades and three CEOs later, the company has evolved into an empire that continues to dominate personal computing around the world, albeit while dealing with issues of middle age. There may not be a computer in every household around the world, but Microsoft is markedly closer to achieving this goal than it was upon its inception.

The celebration of Microsoft's 40th birthday is one that marks many decades of hard work and the great triumphs and disappointing failures that came with it. After all, you don't evolve from a tiny startup to a billion-dollar enterprise without a few setbacks.

[Windows 10: Redstone Update in 2016]

We learned that when Microsoft succeeds, it makes a splash. From the inception of MS-DOS to the widely applauded Windows 95, to the current development of Windows 10, the tech giant has made clear that it's a force to be watched. Its software has become a staple of businesses and consumers throughout the world. 

However, with great success come great failures. There have been times that Microsoft has arrived too late (or too early) to the game when trying to pin down the next big tech trend. Sometimes it completely missed the mark, and consequently suffered as customers fled in favor of competitors like Apple.

In celebration of its 40th birthday, former CEO Gates wrote an email to employees running the corporation that he has since left in the hands of successors Steve Ballmer and, now, Satya Nadella as he focuses his time on philanthropic efforts. Gates briefly reflected on a largely successful history but also noted, "What matters now is what we do next."

We've spent plenty of time pondering how Microsoft's current projects will affect its future. Will Windows 10 appeal to a global audience that mostly trashed its predecessor, Windows 8? Will Windows Phone ever see growth in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung? Will Satya Nadella's "mobile first, cloud first" vision carry Microsoft into a successful future?

Let's take a break from speculation and reflect on how Microsoft grew into the company it is today. On the following pages, we'll look back at some of the moments that built Microsoft -- and some products that, perhaps, should have stayed ideas.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2015 | 5:31:13 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
Aside from the general clumsiness of the UI, trying to set up wi-fi connectivity on my company's network has been a real challenge lately. Despite using protocols (such as PEAP) that have worked in Win 7, they do not work with Win 8.x. It is very difficult to get into various devices and settings. Nothing is logically or intuitively designed.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2015 | 3:37:42 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
@tjgkg,

Thank you for your comment. Think you can share with the community what have been your main hurdles and any leassons learned?

 

Thanks
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2015 | 1:43:01 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
@mejiac: Very encouraging news about Win 10. I'm happy that Microsoft hears the comments. I'm trying to support a vendor with Win 8.x laptops and it has really been terrible. Maybe all this will go away with the new system.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
4/17/2015 | 12:33:23 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
The notion that MS can or should force customers or anyone else to do anything is precisely what got it into legal trouble in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Legitimate businesses don't force, they put out goods and services people want to buy at prices they're happy to pay.  Vista was an expensive lesson in what happens when a vendor overestimates its ability to dictate to the market.  It appeared for a time that MS management had learned that lesson, but then they put out Windows 8.  Hopefully this time the lesson will take permanently, but only time will tell.

 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
4/17/2015 | 12:24:38 PM
Vista was not the worst Windows of all time
I won't discuss 1 and 2 since I never used them, but while Vista was slow and booby trap laden, the UI was decent and it is rumored that once the driver issues were worked out, it functioned rather nicely (but was that really worth the effort?).  Nope, the worst Windows I have ever used is none other than Windows 8.0 due to its confusing, cumbersome user interface.  It should be noted that though a few of us thought Steve Ballmer should have been fired over Vista, it appears to have been the Windows 8 debacle that finally pushed him into a new career as an NBA owner.

 After all these years, I still think Windows 2000 was the best Windows I ever used.  May it rest in peace and honor.

 
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/16/2015 | 1:01:16 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
It's clear that microsoft has been in many ways at the forefront of technology trends and consumer behaviour. Things have changed mostly because of fierce (very fierce) competition, where customers today want quicker turn around regarding product upgrades. And because of the market, consumers also want things to "just work", versus having to go through installation wizzards and check boxes.

So far what I've seen in Windows 10 is a winner, and the rest of the ecosystem (Phone, Tablets) are also looking very promising.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
4/15/2015 | 2:48:32 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
I have tried Windows 10 and it brings much better user experience compared to its ancestors. In the past 40 years, MS brought us a bunch of great products: MS Messenger, Windows, Office, etc. Some of them are still dominating today and the milestone product of mordern computing industry.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
4/15/2015 | 2:48:29 PM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
I have tried Windows 10 and it brings much better user experience compared to its ancestors. In the past 40 years, MS brought us a bunch of great products: MS Messenger, Windows, Office, etc. Some of them are still dominating today and the milestone product of mordern computing industry.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
4/14/2015 | 1:21:18 PM
Re: 40 years of leassons learned
@mejac, I don't see that changing, certainly not at our company. Enterprises care about getting work done, which means applications, not o/s. I would argue the last o/s reason for enterprise productivity was either Active Directory or Group Policy support. You could also throw in, from the old days, the ability to boot faster and not crash on users. But for most part, that problem ended with XP and Pentium 4.

Now that core o/s doesn't bring anything new (like AD) to the table, every upgrade is just a cost exercise to get your applications running on new version, plus any user training. Win 10 should at least minimize training effort (over Win 8 with no Start button) and Win 10 should run most Win 7 apps without requiring upgrades. I think biggest thing to watch will be this new browser, how backwards compatible it is for IE apps. For example, we still run WSS 3.0 (free Sharepoint), how's that going to do with this new browser geared for HTML5?

So I'm suspecting end of support for Win 7 will again drive upgrade. If anyone in enterprise space disagrees, I'd be very curious to hear your thoughts why you would go sooner.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/14/2015 | 9:54:19 AM
Re: What? No Windows ME?
@tjgkh,

I share your sentiment regarding Win 8...the Metro UI added no value what so ever, even less at the entreprise level.

I do encourage you to try out Windows 10 Technical Preview, and I think you'll be pleasently surprised at the changes and enhancements Microsoft has implemented. I'm using it as a dedicated HTPC, and I love it (granted, with bugs here and there, but it's expected).

I love the use of Cortana, it's so convenient.
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