Microsoft continues its slide into irrelevance, as least as far as consumer tech is concerned. Even the company’s successes, like the Surface Pro, are only relative successes. No matter how hopeful sales figures for the Pro may look, the device is still roadblocked by Redmond’s lack of apps for its mobile devices. Evidently, the holiday shopping season was dismal for Redmond, even in some areas where it would be expected to dominate as usual.
Take laptops, for instance, where Windows sales performance was laughable.
On Friday, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols posted a story on Computerworld illustrating just how low Windows has fallen. He points out that according to Amazon’s sales figures for the holidays, the top three best selling laptops were all running Chrome OS (with Linux inside), with nary a Windows machine in sight.
In case you’re figuring this to be just a meaningless bump in the road for Redmond, it actually represents a worsening trend. A year earlier, two of Amazon’s three best selling laptops were Chromebooks, with one running Windows.
In times past, this might be expected due to the “Microsoft tax” making Windows machines notably more expensive. Not so this year.
“… Microsoft assumed that by pulling out the same old tricks that had put an end to Linux netbooks in 2009, it could do in Chromebooks as well. Wrong!
“The plan was to offer OEMs Windows 8.1 With Bing essentially for nothing. Why such a low, low price? Well, back in February of last year, Microsoft had cut the price of Windows 8 on low-end devices by 70% and that had failed to get manufacturers or customers excited. The goal of the holiday “we can’t possibly go any lower” price was to enable vendors to sell low-end computers at bottom-of-the-rung Chromebook prices…and still make a profit.…”
Indeed, all of the OEMs showed up for the Christmas shopping rush will bells on, with Asus and HP offering Windows laptops for $199, about the same as a Chromebook. Which begs the question: If Microsoft can’t give Windows away for free on the laptop, how long will it be able to continue selling it on the desktop?
Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s fortunes loom even lower in the mobile department, where it currently has a global market share of about 3 percent. Paul Cook wrote about this today on Technogigs:
“But even [with] all the major investments being made in Microsoft’s Windows Phone, the device has received little or no recognition from the masses. To make matters worse, Microsoft’s global market share is also said to be lower than what it was previously, which has left many to speculate about Microsoft’s ability to come up with a new and more vigorous mobile strategy.”
According to Cook, Redmond is placing all its bets on the upcoming release of Windows 10, “…saying that it is their finest effort in building operating systems for cross-platform devices yet.” Hmmm…that might mean something if not for the fact that Windows only true cross platform version was the Windows 8 family, which not only failed to take hold on phones, it alienated many loyal Windows desktop users in the process.
It appears as if Microsoft’s master plan to become a dominant player in mobile is by becoming a bottom feeder. Earlier this month it announced the release of the 2G “smart feature phone,” the Nokia 215, for $29, causing Nathaniel Mott to say on PandoDaily that this “…proves Nokia’s future lies with low-cost devices.”
“The future of Nokia — or at least the portion of the company Microsoft acquired — remains with low-end smartphones that offer a good-enough experience to consumers who either don’t need or can’t afford better devices.”
Even on full fledged smartphones, the company is setting its sites low. Last week, it announced the release of two full featured Lumia phones, the 435 and 532, with prices of $80 and $91 respectively, which Time ties to the cheap feature phones.
“The bargain-basement Lumias will join a growing portfolio of Microsoft phones for shoppers on a shoestring budget, particularly in the developing world. Earlier this month, the company unveiled a $29 “Internet-ready” phone, not quite smart enough to be called a smartphone, but cheap enough to attract first-time buyers. Now those same buyers can upgrade to a Lumia smartphone for an extra $50, giving them an incentive to stick with the Windows brand.”
To make matters worse, Microsoft finds itself competing in mobile with companies it thought it had eliminated from the market — like Nokia for instance.
Microsoft may have bought the Finnish company’s mobile division back in 2011, but that hasn’t kept the “old” Nokia from keeping a hand in the mobile game, where it had once excelled.
Maybe it’s set to excel again. Earlier this month, MuleSoft reported that Finnish Nokia sold 20,000 of its N1 Android tablets in China in only four minutes, exhausting their supply for the promotion. In the overall scheme of things, 20,000 tablets isn’t an awful lot, but 20,000 in four minutes certainly is. Doubtlessly, Nokia has been ramping up production.
Meanwhile, the folks in Redmond are chanting the mantra, “Wait till Windows 10,” expecting their new latest and greatest to do what Vista and Windows 8 couldn’t do. Neither could Windows 7, really. It was merely a stopgap measure to keep dyed-in-the-wool Windows users from jumping ship until something better came along.
So far, that something better hasn’t happened.