Microsoft has not been the same since Bill Gates left the helm, or possibly, he got out because he recognized the warning signs and did not want to deal with the many changes that Microsoft required in order to be a power player in the industry that it once created. Software was once Microsoft's mainstay and their Internet Explorer (IE) browser and DOS and then later Windows OS came licensed in just about every desktop PC or laptop produced. Internet Explorer's only real browser competition was Netscape Navigator, and though preferred by many over IE, Microsoft's IE eventually crushed it.
Remember WordPerfect, the de facto standard in word processing in 1989, but by 1990 Microsoft's Word 3.0 version became a huge commercial success, and WordPerfect soon got lost in the shuffle. As Windows grew and MS Word matured in version 3.0, MS Office was born in late 1990 and once again, Microsoft devoured another competitor, IBM Lotus SmartSuite.
If you are sensing a pattern here, you would be correct that Microsoft likes to crush their competition, but when it comes to mobile software, Microsoft just cannot seem to crush their competitors, Apple iOS, Android, and up to a couple years ago, even BlackBerry, and even Nokia's Symbian OS. Microsoft thought because the software had its name that people would come running, but this has not been the case.
They started in the 1990's to work on Windows CE, based on the Windows 95, then moved on to Pocket PC 2000 based on Windows CE 3.0, the next attempt was Pocket PC 2002, then several renditions of Windows Mobile, then the jump to Windows Phone 7 and finally Windows Phone 8. With relatively few apps that drive sales, manufacturers are reluctant to design and sell smartphones running the Windows Phone OS. Samsung has produce a few Windows Phones, LG tried then stopped, although claims they are working on another model and HTC has a couple of nice Windows Phones.
The other big player was Nokia, who at one time was the world's largest mobile phone manufacturer using the Symbian OS. Nokia Symbian OS was king of the hill, even Apple's iOS, though gaining in popularity, never came close to unseating Nokia. Android, the new kid on the block with very rich parents, Google, slowly but surely started taking over the mobile phone and then smartphone world, equaling Nokia in 2010, and is now the number one mobile OS in the world.
In February 2011, Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft executive, made an alliance with Microsoft to produce Windows Phones exclusively. Everybody thought that the Nokia and Microsoft combination would be a sure winner and formidable opponent of Android, which, of course, never happened.
In their quest to grow their smartphone and tablet business, Microsoft's latest move this past week was their announcement that they purchased Nokia for $7.2 billion.
Francisco Jeronimo, research director for European mobile devices at research firm IDC in London said, Microsoft realized that it wouldn't be possible to succeed without controlling the entire value chain. Nokia has realized that it needed a stronger ally with the financial muscle to continue driving its Lumia smartphones.
The Wall Street Journal said:
Mr. Ballmer said on a conference call with analysts that he believes Microsoft needs to become a hardware maker rather than making other companies responsible for computers, phones and other gear that run Microsoft software.
Even this may not be enough for Microsoft to make an impact in the smartphone market, of which they currently control only 3.7-percent during the second quarter 2013 compared to Android's 79-percent. Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Microsoft is keeping an eye on BlackBerry since they indicated they might be interested in seeking a buyer. BlackBerry's strong hold in the enterprise market, coupled with Microsoft's inroads in big business could be a good match for both companies.
Whether Microsoft will ever be a major smartphone and tablet manufacturer remains to be seen. It seems as though Microsoft is grasping at straws, trying anything hoping to see if it will make a real difference in their market share. I am glad that Steve Ballmer is leaving Microsoft and I hope they have the good sense not to promote Steven Elop to CEO - has any asked Bill Gates what he thinks.