Microsoft Set to Take Back Some Ground

After much pain and suffering on the part of Gates and CO., Microsoft is setting itself up to push back against its competitors Apple and Google.

For the last few years, Mac has dominated the portable music industry with it’s IPod. Two weeks ago, I read an article at the UK Guardian website titles “Why the IPod is Losing Its Cool” In it David Smith details some disturbing new trends for Apple. While the IPod is still the dominate brand for portable digital music, sales have declined. Also this excerpt for the article probably does not make Steve Jobs morning a happy one:

The Zandl Group, a New York-based trends forecaster which regularly interviews a panel of 3,000 consumers aged 25-35, recently picked up its first significant criticisms. ‘The iPod is far and away the most popular tech gadget with our panellists – however, for the first time we are hearing negative feedback about the iPod from some panellists,’ said the organization’s spokeswoman, Carla Avruch. ‘Panellists cite that the batteries are not replaceable, so when they die the entire player must be replaced,’ she said. ‘We have heard from some conspiracy theorists that the batteries are made to die soon after the warranty ends.

‘Other complaints are that iTunes [Apple’s online music store] is overpriced and the format is not easily transferred on to other players. In our ethnography interviews, some long-time iPod-users told us that they have stopped updating their iPods because it’s too much work, while other consumers who had bought iPods more recently had not even taken theirs out of the package to set it up.’

She added that the iPod is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success: ‘Some backlash is against the ubiquity of the iPod – everyone has those white headphones on the train.’

Note that the IPod is still the dominate mp3 player, but if Apple does not step up again, they will not be at the head of the pack for very much longer. Even with the new ITunes offering movies, and the new 80 gig IPod, Microsoft may still give Apple a run for its money. Also, there was the problem of Apple releasing smaller and smaller units, quite a few actually in short periods of time. Here is the newest offering.

Enter the Microsoft Zune. A 30 gig digital player that does everything IPod does, with the addition of WIFI file sharing. For obvious copyright reasons, the files that can be transferred from one Zune to another are limited, but there are some interesting future possibilities if this delivers half as much as Microsoft is promising. And with Toshiba actually manufacturing the Zune could be a major problem for the lead IPod enjoys right now.

For the last couple of years, Google has taken advantage of multiple legal issues that have distracted Microsoft from what it does. Google has also stolen Microsoft’s thunder on more than one occasion on several competing products. While Gates and Ballmer have been in court, Brin and Page have been pushing ahead. While they are two different companies, in many cases, the only difference between them is that Google does it with a smile, and Microsoft is all business.

Microsoft has released Windows Live on the web. Windows Live is set to poke at Google in a big way, if Microsoft plays its cards right. E-Mail, search, maps, video, and a whole host of other cool gadgets are all similar to Goggle offerings. Blogging is even available. There are even tools that can be downloaded to your PC, ,like the new Live One Care.

And the new IE 7 with the Windows Live Toolbar is outstanding. Personally, I don’t care for tabbed browsing, but it’s there if you want it. There are two other tools that are far more exciting and useful. The first is Windows Live Writer, which I am using now. Live Writer is a blogging tool. Almost similar to Google’s Blogger plug in for Word, Live Writer allows you to do blog entries graphically, instead of having to know how to code. Live Writer also is not just limited to the Microsoft blogging site. Live Writer also works with several other blog providers. I am actually using it to create this post.

The other great tool is the the RSS Feeder integrated into IE 7. And it actually works. No need to download and pay for RSS services like Attensa (although I used Attensa before discovering IE 7) and you don’t have to go to another web page to see all of your subscriptions. And I don’t think that Firefox has that option, but Firefox users can correct me if I’m wrong.

All in all, Microsoft has put itself in a great position to be back on top if they play their cards right. I for one am glad.

Paul

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