Up For Debate - How Can Microsoft Keep Itself Relevant in 2017?

Written by Shaheryar Ehsan-i-Haque on Mon, May 1, 2017 2:00 PM

Microsoft has been in the limelight with its little science project known as Windows 10 these days. It's plain to see Microsoft has shifted from being a regular software company to software-as-services. It has a foothold in each and every place related to everyday use software. They are dominating the cloud; they are in each and every household with Windows, while on the entertainment side you have Xbox, soon to be bolstered with Scorpio. Business utilities strengthen Microsoft's hand too, such as Office, Skype and much more. But despite its wealth of offerings, is Microsoft in danger of becoming irrelevant?

In this modern era of computing, the question arises whether we need to pay for services or not. That's because for every other paid service out there, you can find a free alternative. There is usually a cost for some minor features, and you'll have to do a little work to find the software suitable for your needs, but it is there, there's no denying that. I am gonna talk about two services from Microsoft here that I believe have should get reconsideration from Microsoft regarding the pricing. Namely they are Office and Xbox Live. How, when practically every utility is available for free, can anyone stand out with a premium product.

Let's start with a Microsoft staple - Office. From the turn of the millennium to the start of the noughties, Office was totally ubiquitous. Every PC you turned on would invariably have some form of Microsoft Office installed. Now, not so much. The likes of Google and Libre have turned up with good, solid, free alternatives. Microsoft was forced to adapt. The usual $90 charge or whatever it was for the latest copy of Office was a thing no longer. Instead, subscriptions came, currently ranging from $6 a month all the way up to $62 a year. These are the latest rates for Office Personal, for a single PC only, and it only gets more expensive for businesses. 

This subscription includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Publisher and Access. And if we talk about the average gamer who is in college or university, they would mostly use Word, Excel, perhaps PowerPoint. Taken in its own context this isn't a terribly bad deal, but then we take a look at the free alternatives. The offline alternative is LibreOffice. This is pre-installed on most Linux operating systems, and it's an incredible effort by The Document Foundation which provides versions of practically everything you need from Microsoft Office for no cost at all.

And for the online alternatives, we have Google Sheets, Google Slides and Google Docs, which were introduced as far back as 2006. The first web apps in this segment from Microsoft made their debut in 2010, so about four years late to the party. By then, Google Docs had already become hugely entrenched, creating an uphill battle for Microsoft in an arena which it had previously dominated.

Google provides practically everything for free, and though it may be less "powerful" in comparison to Office, Google is constantly improving it each and every month with new features added. 

Again, it's not that what Microsoft is doing is necessarily bad, but it's playing catch up. When we think of making a phone call we think WhatsApp. When we thinking of writing a document we think Google Docs. When we think of a phone we think iOS or Android. When we are thinking of emails we think of Gmail. Every pillar of Microsoft's empire is being chipped away by these rival services, all offering similar or better products, often for free.

It means there's precious little left that's wholly 'Microsoft'. Windows and Xbox is probably just about it. The latter of which is in dire need of some positivity, and competing against the likes of Steam with the Windows Store is like the mistakes of Office made all over again. Places already do what the Windows Store does, but better, cheaper and with more open standards. 

I believe Microsoft needs to seriously look at the pricing of their services, as well as ways it can be forward thinking rather than just playing catch up to its competitors. For now, Microsoft still has the dominant OS in desktop computers. That may not always be the case though, particularly when the Microsoft brand name becomes increasingly inconsequential.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think Microsoft's pricing of its services is justified? Does it have enough going for it to maintain its position as one of the largest software companies in the world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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12:40 May-02-2017

Maybe Im not techy enuf.. and I know things can turn very quickly for tech companies (hi RIM).. but I find it hard to imagine MS being irrelevant anytime soon, Specifically their OS

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07:28 May-02-2017

Linux is fantastic, very light weight to the point a HDD acts like an SSD with Windows, is bulletproof secure and is compatible with every CPU arch in existence, what Windows brings to the table is software and hardware (sans CPU's) compatibility. I can't run SolidWorks on Ubuntu or Mint, Wine is just a mess with a CAD system last time I tried it, then there are GPU drivers, keyboard software, the list goes on, it isn't easy. Linux and Windows are equally relevant to me

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09:55 May-02-2017

"bulletproof secure" is too strong term, yes Linux is more secure, but isn't flawless, main reason Linux OSes are not suffering malware too much is fact not many (dumb) users use it (unlike Windows, which is used by majority, and so there's much higher "success potential" for malware infection),
I set up custom hackintosh, so I can use native CAD, audio, video graphics and other applications without need for WINE, moving from Windows to OSX was best decision I made past months :D

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17:48 May-03-2017

Actually Linux is highly insecure, it's just that nobody bothers writing malware for it since Linux's marketshare is so damn small.
There are quite some exploits in the Kernel that Linus refuses to fix since it would reduce performance which is his primary focus alongside compatability I believe.

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17:31 May-04-2017

These days I'd be careful calling most linux distros lightweight.

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04:56 May-02-2017

enable an option to play games that use safedisc/securom. yes i know it has security vulnerabilities but i have never been hacked so **** you micro.

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00:26 May-02-2017

Enable an option in WIndows 10 to disable ALL telemetry and background downloading and continue giving all users more control on Windows Updates. Then all if not most people will be happy.


And they can stop being crying little babies about this OS. Like wow the amount of sh!t i hear is just unbearable.

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02:32 May-02-2017

Anyone who wants to shut off 99% of the crap that win 10 uses for data collection: http://winaero.com/blog/how-to-disable-telemetry-and-data-collection-in-windows-10/


Also disable the Win Update service if you don't want forced updates.

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04:42 May-02-2017

Winaero Tweaker doesn't completely remove all telemetry as the privacy settings for apps and on the main page are still enabled. Its not a solution.


Also disabling the update services is only a solution if you don't want ANY update at all.

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05:01 May-04-2017

You probably know a lot more about win 10 than I do brother. I just switched to it from 7 on my gaming rig about a month ago. Just trying to pass on the information that I have learned about the issue to others.

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06:27 May-04-2017

I learn more and more everyday. I've started learning everything about technology with hardware and software when i was 10.

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16:42 May-04-2017

I use Spybot Antibeacon, it has completely gutted Cortana among many other services

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00:08 May-05-2017

We shouldn't have to use 3rd party tools to completely turn off all telemetry and background internet usage.

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07:41 May-02-2017

I absolutely love Cortana and a lot of the packed features of Windows, but I don't want that stuff running through Microsoft's data centers, I love text notifications and 10 telling me the progress of a package I have in the mail, but I would like it if the OS did that stand alone. One feature Microsoft could use is GPU acceleration for deep learning stuff usually handled by data centers, like voice recognition and so on

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22:01 May-01-2017

It'd be nice if their naming scheme mad sense. Calling everything One isn't doing them any favors. Having the "Xbox" service for the Xbox and Windows makes no sense. The cloud is called Azure, but personal clouds are Onedrives. And downgrading Onedrive's service over the years isn't helping either.

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09:51 May-02-2017

not exactly, OneDrive is storage cloud service, Azure is complex cloud solution service of which Azure Storage is storage cloud component

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21:02 May-01-2017

Google Docs and Slides are both amazing but they need more devs working on them! There have been simple features that I have wanted for YEARS that still haven't been added. Don't even get me started on Google Sheets shudder. Seriously if Google pays more attention to these products and brings them up to the same technical level as Microsoft Office they would have way more users.

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18:40 May-01-2017

online-accessible documents as introduced by Google was a leap forward which Microsoft failed to quickly adopt,
PDF format became "industry standard" and again Microsoft failed to quickly takeover or release an alternative,
similarly Internet Explorer being replaced by Edge is nowhere close to Chrome+Firefox (and its forks) popularity so far

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16:41 May-01-2017

Consuming as much PCs as possible? Using their DirectX to build games to communicate with hardware? The question is, hoe can they not be relevant?

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15:53 May-01-2017

This reminds me of Adobe. I can pay +$100 for Adobe Photoshop yearly, or I can download GIMP for free and get a ton of plugins that mimic or exceed Photoshop's features, at least for my needs. I can buy Adobe PDF for +$100, or I can make a document in Liber Office for free and convert it to PDF if I want. See what I mean?

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18:41 May-01-2017

some features aren't available though,
but for ex. I can recommend Affinity Designer as Adobe Illustrator alternative, and Affinity Photo as Adobe Photoshop alternative,
and for video editing, DaVinci Resolve is free and for audio workstation Reaper DAW wins by far :)

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12:50 May-02-2017

There are always free alternatives. Go Freeware!

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15:35 May-01-2017

More Windows 10 "features"! Works every time.

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15:25 May-01-2017

They will always be relevant, Azure is huge and their server OS and virtualization offerings are for some reason used by most companies. Also they have us gamers locked down.In my opinion they make most of their money in the corporate world

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20:32 May-01-2017

as far as I know VMWare is much more popular virtualization solution,
also talking about servers, Linux-based servers are way more popular and way more reliable,
in fact corporate world is leaning away from Microsoft, that's why they were forced to quickly come up with Azure, and Linux-friendly cmd utility...

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13:42 May-02-2017

VMware in not an Azure competitor, Amazon is. Vmware is local virtualization, I am in the industry and I have no doubt Linux servers are good but I deploy more windows based servers than linux, this is all in Australia btw.

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15:19 May-01-2017

Very interesting question
At first glance, you're like "Pfft.., Microsoft is one of the biggest companies in the world, how can they become irrelevant". But as you read the article, you realize that it is kind of true. There are much better alternatives to Microsoft's products (products which once used to rule that space in the industry), but now they're being overtaken by other companies slowly and steadily and maybe at the end they might just end up having only one thing : the Windows OS.
So.. I definitely agree with the author and the article and feel like Microsoft should do something to improve their current collection of softwares.
BTW great article Shaheryar :)

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15:33 May-01-2017

Thanks mate :D
When I was writing this down, I and Jon were discussing points and counterpoints and I was thinking, "Man, I need something really solid to back me up here." Credit to him as well for coming up with strong points too.
Microsoft services are mostly suitable for enterprise divisions which seems to be their primary goal but making the mass consumer suffer because of that isn't the right approach. They certainly think over this area and especially those segments which they adopted late in the era of computing. Take online docs for that matter.
Cheers again mate :)

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15:41 May-01-2017

Damn Jon has been on fire recently, first the Nier Automata review and now this.
The GD Writing Team is awesome and IMO doesnt get that much credit.


But the debate is still on, lets see what counterpoints can other members bring to the table

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14:36 May-01-2017

They should stick with a couple of things only: latelly they are trying to put their hands almost everywhere instead. All or nothing...and they got nothing this time.

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14:17 May-01-2017

Microsoft just doesn't get it. SMH

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14:12 May-01-2017

Maybe if the decided to get rid of telemetry in Windows and made an OS that's reliable and stable and make Word, Excel, PowerPoint free and reinstalled again they might get popular again.

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14:11 May-01-2017

Exclusive software for their OS...
DirectX, Visual Studio... well that's about it... for me at least...

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14:09 May-01-2017

This article does not make any sense to me.

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