Thursday, January 03, 2013

Microsoft says Google isn't playing nice. But can Microsoft learn to play niche?

WARNING! Major mental adjustments ahead.

So, Microsoft is complaining that Google isn't playing nice [STORY]. The question is, can Microsoft learn to play niche?

What a difference a decade makes for Microsoft.

I've come across some recent smartphone market share numbers for a few specific West European countries which, unfortunately for Microsoft, indicate almost 100% consumer apathy in Windows Phone-based devices. In fact, if these numbers are correct, Microsoft's smartphone platform market share is basically a statistical rounding error in these markets.

Who would have guessed the market would develop so? Back in the late '90s, many mobile industry executives considered Microsoft the handset industry's greatest threat. Microsoft looked like it was about to dilute the influence of so many mobile industry players when the smartphone market was still in its embryonic state.

And it wasn't just phones: for a while it looked as though Microsoft's influence was going to keep growing across all household devices. The company was pushing software for set-top boxes, televisions, PDAs, cars, and even coffee makers and watches.

At work and at play, it seemed as if we were to live in a Microsoft-dominated world.

I still maintain that Microsoft will emerge as the third wheel in the smartphone market — only because the company has no choice. If the stars are aligned in its favor, Microsoft could push itself to 10% in smartphone and tablets at some point in the coming two years.

But 10% is a long way from 90%, which is a figure I assume Microsoft employees are more accustomed to. Moving from a dominant to subordinate market position isn't a fun ride. Can Microsoft learn to be a niche player in somebody else's market? How does a company of 90,000 employees adjust its strategy to become the third string player (and that's if things work out for them)?

Certainly it wasn't Microsoft's wish to be niche, but with luck, MS can replenish before they vanish.

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