Not so long ago, practically all of Microsoft’s profits came from selling Windows and Office. Everything else, including Zune, Xbox and all that it does online, barely was break even for MS. However, with new age computing taking over (tablets and smartphones), Microsoft has not been able to hold the sway and its cash streams are challenged. That is where Microsoft needs to look at domains beyond computing to make money.
2011 could be the most significant year in Microsoft’s history. Sample this:
• A year and a half after launch, Bing has started giving Google some serious competition in Search
• WinMo resuscitates itself and impresses to gain ground on the iPhone and Android
• This CES, Microsoft will make its first serious move into the connected TV space
• Windows 7 moves into the tablet space.
• Then there is Kinect, which is pretty amazing, going way past the cool intuitive approach of the Nintendo Wii with the simple controller by getting rid of the controller entirely.
• There are those who are betting in favour of Windows 8 action and perhaps an early look at wave 5 for Windows Live, but that is slightly overenthusiastic.
Action for MS starts at CES today. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been a big hit for entertainment and online video, and Microsoft has been trying to court more media companies to the Xbox. However in CES, MS is going to unveil operating system for connected TVs and set-top boxes. This appears to be the company’s response to Apple TV and Google TV. Microsoft has for long cherished the ambition of being able to enter the living room space and its earlier attempts haven’t been so successful. MS’s list of failures in the living room domain includes Web TV, Microsoft TV, Media Room, Ultimate TV and more.
What is expected at CES is that MS would showcase a stripped down version of its embedded device software, overlaid with the Windows Media Center interface, with media streaming and remote-control capabilities.
While the $200 price is a little steep for a Windows set top box, the tag finds comfort in the fact that Windows has some experience in polished and familiar TV-program guide that makes it easy to blend and navigate both online and broadcast content
Microsoft will also be spending a lot of money advertising itself as a powerful player in the consumer space this year, but will those ad dollars gain Microsoft some traction as a “cool” company? So far the “cool” still belongs to Apple and Google, but with the right new products (and those ad dollars) we could begin to see a shift in perception for Microsoft as a consumer company.