Is Microsoft now the “underdog”?

Am I the only one who is starting to feel bad for Microsoft?  I remember when Microsoft was this big evil empire and anything was better simply because it wasn’t them.  Now they seem more like a little child trying desperately not to get beaten up by the older kids.  They seem like an underdog in the industry they pushed forward.  I haven’t used Windows in about 3 years and it seems like I’ve become a Vista apologist.  How did they get this way?

Even before Vista, Microsoft was being hammered by those Mac vs. PC adds.  At that point they had a old OS with XP and Apple was showing of their new, shiny system.  Apple was the underdog taking on the Microsoft giant.  Microsoft made no response and just waited for Vista.  When Vista shipped things just got worse.  The reviews were pretty bland and the public seemed to have revolted against them.  It became popular to dump on Microsoft and it seemed like even the old lady down the street was doing it. Even though Vista sold well over 20 million copies, double the predicted yearly sales of OS X 10.5 for the entire first year, we expected better.  The industry has grown and Vista was supposed to be something the consumers were clambering for.

I think the bad rap Vista got was appropriate though. There was little new in the operating system and all of the coolest features like WinFS were pulled out at the last minute.  But now the tune has changed.  How many times have you heard “Vista is not THAT bad”?  All of the tech analysts and bloggers who were ditching on Vista have pulled back, like they feel sorry for Microsoft and all of the bad publicity they caused them.  Now that the bloggers have moved off the Vista sucks band wagon, the only question remains is will others follow?

My question, and granted it is a bit conspiracy-ish, is how much of this did Microsoft do of this on purpose?  I mean they must have known how bad the product they were pushing was.  Vista was in development long enough that they knew it wasn’t finished by the time they shipped.  They had to ship something and they braced themselves for a blow back.

If at least Vista had some redeeming features, or an application that performed well on Vista and no where else, they would have touted it as the best thing about that OS, but there wasn’t and they didn’t.  So their strategy became to weather out the storm and slowly build up the user base.  They knew they were going to sell Vista, they probably got at least one more OS that will sell no matter what they do with it, so making money wasn’t a problem.

Perception of Microsoft is the issue here.  With Gates leaving they are changing from the industry giant, who wants control, into something else.  I would compare this to IBM, who is no longer the Big Blue, a scary and threatening company, but something “softer and nicer”, at least as perceived by the general public.  Right now Microsoft is back at being the little kid we hope will succeed and Apple is coming off more and more like the bully trying to pick on him.  However, the truth is that Microsoft is still doing rather well and can be considered a success in their business.  I guess at the end it is all about perception.

Just as a disclaimer, I’ve been using Apple products with some linux sprinkled in for about three years now.

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