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Bill Bennett


Microsoft no longer drives tech, still matters

Samsung matters, HP doesn’t, Microsoft doubtful makes it clear: a question mark hangs over Microsoft’s relevance to the technology sector.

Three companies are unquestionably important: Apple, Google and Samsung. Together they drive the changes that shape the tools and devices you will use in the coming years. Facebook and Amazon are also vital.

Microsoft spent many of the past 25 years in the top tier. While Microsoft still matters in some limited circles – mainly hidebound corporations – its influence is increasingly peripheral.

That’s despite a significant and bold technology refresh in 2012.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 is arguably today’s smartest, most polished smartphone operating system. If Nokia’s stunning Lumia 920, which uses Windows Phone 8, fails to turn the tables for both companies, nothing can.

Although the Microsoft Surface isn’t a flop, it barely registers on the landscape for most tablet buyers. Ultrabooks were supposed to re-ignite the PC market but sales are, at best, limping along.

Delivering an operating system which is essentially the same across smartphones, tablets and PCs was a technical achievement – even if Microsoft screwed up creating an incomprehensible, jarring dual-mode desktop user interface.

By all accounts OS sales are lacklustre. That should surprise no-one. Have you met Windows 8?

Microsoft continues to be important. The company’s core businesses remain as rivers of gold. I wouldn’t entirely write-off its chances of mattering again. Microsoft has deep pockets and can buy its way back to relevance. A merger, even an alliance, with Samsung could build a behemoth.

But for now, Microsoft has little influence over where technology is heading.



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