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!