Is Microsoft’s decline in relevance irreversible?

microsoftThere was a time when almost all facets of computing were synonymous with the Microsoft brand. Anyone who didn’t use Windows for their operating system, Internet Explorer to surf the web, and Microsoft Office to manage their documents, was an outcast.

These days, however, Windows has waned in popularity as competing operating systems become not only viable, but superior; Internet Explorer has fallen far behind newcomers like Firefox and Chrome, facing a fate similar to Netscape; and Microsoft Office, too, is suffering from emerging competitors like Google Docs and cheaper, more convenient web-based alternatives.

Microsoft has also launched numerous failed products in the past few years, from the disappointing Vista OS to the D.O.A. Kin smartphones.

Of course, Microsoft isn’t going to just pack it in. With a new phone running its Windows 7 mobile OS and a tablet in the works—plus, Microsoft Office now in cloud form—the tech titan is still going strong. 

But some say Microsoft is complacent to merely maintain its position and not advance it. Others suggest CEO Steve Ballmer and his leadership team have grown tired.

With Microsofts shares declining, and Apple recently taking over as world’s most valuable tech company, outsiders wonder what the future of the software giant looks like. Well, with Microsoft still pulling in well over $50 billion in annual revenue, it’s tempting to sit back. But one cannot underestimate how rapidly the tech world can shift, especially in the mobile space, where Apple and Google are having tremendous success, and Microsoft is stumbling along blindly.

As close observers watch departing executives and demoralized employees, the innovation-lacking, yet still venerably mighty, legacy of Microsoft isn’t going to die any time soon—but knowing that it inevitably will may be even worse.