Mike Sax wrote:
Let’s not forget that when Microsoft encounters smart competitors, they have a hard time competing. Quickbooks and Quicken still blow away anything Microsoft has tried. Adobe dominates in graphics, fonts, and document exchange. Google is still the clear number one. Play Station 2 blows XBox away in market share and game support.
My boss is fond of talking about markets by using the picture of the bell curve (my apologies if I butcher this :-p). You draw a bell curve and then draw a dotted bell curve underneath it. What this shows is the portion of a market that the “market maker” will own over the course of the company. Generally it takes a sizeable failure on someone’s part for them to lose that market share. So when Intuit basically made a new market with Quicken, they did an excellent job of it and held a very large majority of that market. Through their own competence, they’ve kept it.
Microsoft got in during the large up-slope of the bell curve, hoping not to miss out, which is a typical move for them. In the case of browsers, they managed to unseat Netscape because Netscape got lazy after 4.0, while Microsoft kept innovating. Netscape lost at least primarily because of their own failures, combined with a strong competitor ready to take their place. In the case of Intuit, which really hasn’t made any mis-steps with Quicken, Microsoft has not been so successful. Even while Intuit was selling their product and Microsoft was giving away Money for free (yes, they did this), Microsoft still couldn’t dent them. It had more to do with what Intuit was doing than with what Microsoft was doing, despite having a super price and (in my mind) a superior product.
This is also definitely true of Adobe, Google, and Sony right now. Google managed to unseat the search engines of the day because they upset the market with a very different approach which was so much better that it became disruptive in itself. It’s as though they created an entirely new market by making a phenomenally better search engine. I don’t see Google mis-stepping, so unless Microsoft sees themselves able to make a Google-scale improvement in Internet searching, they probably ought to just give up now.