Remember when your computing experience was all about Microsoft?
Businesses simply couldn’t function without Windows, Outlook or Word documents.
Follow the digital world these days and in the past 18 months it might have seemed Microsoft had almost become an irrelevance; that it had packed up or given up the ghost.
Google rules the virtual universe now, with Facebook, Twitter and a number of other young pretenders hungrily scarfing up Microsoft’s lunch on everything from search to browsers and from document sharing to the all important growth area of mobile.
Yet there might be life in the old dog yet.
This morning I rebooted my machine for the first time since loading up Microsoft’s latest version of its browser, Internet Explorer 8.
Interestingly, it automatically set arch-rival Google as the default search tool. A small point – but it struck me as a very, very important one.
In effect, Microsoft trusted my choice of search engine rather than trying to subvert me with an unwelcom attempt to inveigle their own search product onto my PC.
Just a few short years ago, who’d have believed Microsoft would miss a trick to sneak their own search engine, bing, on to as many PCs as possible?
The great ‘Microsatan’, it seems, may have discovered transparency – and developed an understanding of how to build trust over constantly (and surreptitiously) pushing its products.
Now, I’m not in Silicon Valley, nor do I follow the minutiae and machinations of the digital giants. But as a casual, reasonably interested and objective observer, it seems something interesting – and maybe even exciting – is happening at Microsoft.
For ordinary business people like me, I am beginning to wonder if Microsoft might it just have rediscovered its mojo?
Robert Scoble was among the first to expose Microsoft’s vulnerabilities by admitting – from his position as a trusted insider – that Internet Explorer couldn’t hold a candle to upstart rival, Firefox.
Meanwhile it became clear that Microsoft had totally misunderstood and so missed the boat in the world of search, while the explosion of web-based technologies was rendering desktop operating systems increasingly less important.
Worse yet, Microsoft’s Windows platform went through a couple of distinctly average iterations, with neither XP nor Vsita winning much love.
How better to sum up the last decade for Microsoft by recalling that while Apple marched to world-dominance with the iPod, poor old Microsft delivered the Zune?
Well, that actaully wasn’t the low point. For me it was this: having blundered on search, flopped on OS, Microsoft then lagged horribly on mobile.
Three years ago I LOVED my Windows mobile phone. It let me receive email and even surf the net (albeit clunkily). I could type word docs and even view powerpoints -but best of all it synced seamlessly with my contacts and diary.
It still does all of those things, but looking back at the point were they seemed so very, very important is like trying to recall some near-mythical, halcyon days.
Now, I am embarrassed to get out my Windows mobile phone in company. I hanker for an iPhone or a Google Nexus 1 and all that lovely, app-rich, web 2.0 friendly goodness.
However, quietly and without much fanfare, it seems Microsoft may have learned from its nasty fall. While heads have been turned by the new giants of social media, Microsoft has slipped away without much notice and dusted itself down.
Not only has it climbed back on its bike, it has put on new tyres, oiled the chain, modernised the gears and deliverd a comfy new saddle.
While bing might be the runt of the search litter, that hasn’t stopped it from winning fans and a growing share of search – rumours have even flown it could become the default search engine on Apple’s iPhone.
But this week Microsoft made what just might be its most importnat improvement yet – the launch of Windows Mobile 7.
As a PC user I’ve gotten used to forgiving Windows its flaws – and I often use bing just to remind myself that Google hasn’t quite (yet) achieved Skynet status.
It’s slightly harder to be quite so forgiving for the horrorshow that has been my Windows mobile experience over the past 18 months and I am this close (*holding up thumb and forefinger a millimeter apart*) to buying an iPhone. Maybe I’ll live with the handset envy for a month or so longer and see how the Microsoft Mobile shapes up.
Personally, when a much-maligned giant is brought low, there is something satisfying about seeing it reinvent itself as a greatly improved entity.
The business world (or at least my business world) would be a better place with a trustworthy and reliable Microsoft as part of it.