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Microsoft gearing for long fight to take Apple’s lead

Never underestimate the House that Bill Gates built. While its initial attempts may get pooh poohed and laughed at, it eventually gets its act together, strikes, and eats its competitors’ lunch. Indeed, it had already taken Apple’s tech crown before when Microsoft launched Windows 3.1. This time, Microsoft once again finds itself in the position of unlikely underdog to Apple’s long lead in the mobile devices OS market. It is also playing third fiddle to Google’s Android. Indeed, when Microsoft pulled the wraps off its mobile device-friendly Windows 8 OS, the new OS was roundly greeted with lots of thumbs down.

In fact, industry observers have such low expectations of the Windows 8 OS that some openly speculate that the OS will be the beginning of Microsoft’s serious decline as a player in a brave new world of tablet computers and smart phones. They seriously doubt Microsoft can produce an OS that can run phones, tablets, and desktop computers. Even those who see Windows 8 as a step up from Windows 7 acknowledge that the software behemoth from Redmond Washington has a lot of serious hurdles up ahead.

One example of such perception is the opinion voiced by Forrester Research’s Sarah Rotman Epps. While the research firm is officially “bullish” on Windows 8, Epps’ analysis reflects many observers’ concerns regarding the nascent OS. Epps noted that since the launch of the iPad, the tablet market has changed in a few ways that should greatly concern the product strategists of Microsoft. She goes on to describe Microsoft as a “fifth mover” in the space of tablet computing since the company did not just come after the iPad tablet but after Android-powered tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the defunct webOS tablet by HP and BlackBerry’s PlayBook. In addition to being late to the party, Windows 8 is in its first iteration of its tablet/smartphone OS technology while the Android and iOS systems are in their second generation cycles. Indeed, some will be launching third-generation iterations while Microsoft’s Windows 8 is just getting out of the gate.

This is quite a dangerous territory for Microsoft because it might find itself with few customers once Windows 8 rolls around because its former customers have already gone on to rival platforms. One clear example of this is the rise of the QuickOffice Apple app which is now the fourth biggest selling App app in all its app categories. Clearly, corporate clients can migrate to the iPad and not have to worry about lack of compatibility with the MS Office standard. In addition, many corporations are now adoption Salesforce Mobile and other Apple business apps for the iPad. Understandably, many Microsoft watchers see all these developments as the handwriting on the wall that Microsoft’s irreversible decline is imminent.

Microsoft has been in this position before and it has not only managed to snap back up, but it has overtaken and buried its competition. Just ask Netscape Navigator. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that tablet computing is not yet a huge threat to Microsoft’s dominance of the corporate computing market. Expect Windows 8 to go through several enhancement iterations followed by more versions as Microsoft repeats its previous domination strategy. Never count this giant out.

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