Honest, my first name isn’t Baghdad.
Epidemics are easy to spot in retrospect, but it’s difficult – even dangerous – to predict that one case of a new disease will turn into something virulent. That said, our planet’s mass market of seven or so billion people is slipping away from Microsoft. They’ve caught the same bug that floored the company formerly known as RIM.
Three news items point in that direction. First, Acer is seeing growth in Chromebook sales and sliding Microsoft numbers. It’s the first big computer maker to report better trends for a Linux variant than Windows. Consumers are increasingly putting value and functionality at the top of their shopping lists. Chrome, Google’s web-centric operating system, is getting to the point where it “just works.” That’s all people want.
Second, Dell is trying to take itself private in order to deal with a market that’s turning to tablets and smartphones. Hewlett Packard might be on the verge of an equally dramatic move. Windows is the mainstay of both companies and they’re desperately fighting an ebb tide.
Finally, Microsoft executives are increasingly sounding like Baghdad Bob. Windows 8 is solid, according to division CFO Tami Reller. Success is just a surge away and defeats were glorious victories.
When the best a market leader can say is that things will turn around soon, expect an accelerating departure off the back of the pack.
Like Blackberry, Microsoft will continue to be loved by IT managers. Its Office suite will still draw corporate cubicle dwellers. But it’s coming down with something its institutional immune system can’t handle. Microsoft has no advantage in delivering the thin apps and fat entertainment consumers want. It’ll be a long and ineluctable illness.