Right now, Microsoft appears to be truly reminiscent of an aging pop star. It needs a hit to be highly relevant again. Its greatest successes are in the past, like Journey, Styx and Foreigner. If a UK judge in June can determine that Samsung’s tablets do not legally infringe on Apple’s iPads, because “they are not as cool;” Microsoft needs to really have a breakthrough to be considered "one of the cool kids."
A key to their strategy appears to be ripping a play straight from the Apple playbook. The introduction of the Surface tablet as a proprietary item is one way that Microsoft will challenge Apple. The other key is that Windows 8 is going to be one OS across hardware platforms, unlike Apple who has different OS for their handheld devices and their laptops/desktops.
To Microsoft’s credit, they are always willing to give it a go. At times it's seems like they show up too little and too late to the party with its efforts, but the creatives in Redmond have never been shy about reworking any idea which they feel they can do better. Considering their success rate on products, for every X-Box they make, there’s a Zune. For every MS Office, there’s a BOB, a Bing, a Vista and Clippy the talking paperclip Sure, Apple is not totally immune to failure. Just look at Apple TV, Newton and iWork to name a few. But, right now, Apple is top of the charts as the innovation and style leader. Apple, Inc. is truly the world’s most profitable company. Those who dissed Apple ten or more years ago as a product of the creative class now own several of their products. The world rocks to an iPod and communicates on an iPhone.
Microsoft also has to learn how not to tick off their core corporate clients while coming across as innovative and leading to end users. Any piece of popular culture has the challenge of being either too hip or too hype. With the promotion I've seen in place, perhaps the hype will keep users from trying what promises to be interesting ways to communicate.
There will always be a place for the Microsoft OS. A piece of hardware has to boot up somehow. While the OS is the heart of the computer, it is no longer the soul. With all our online apps, cloud storage and handheld devices; desktops and laptops have become more like Thin Clients, where the core programs are stored and hosted someplace else. Google has attempted to bypass hardware based apps with Chromebooks and Android tablets to only limited success.
But to answer the 1994 question Microsoft asked, “Where do you want to go today?” the overwhelming answer today is anywhere I want to go ... but not just only on this one piece of hardware.