Microsoft’s empire, built on select few successes, is littered with failures

You’ve probably heard the commercial: “I’m a PC, and Windows 7 was my idea.”

It’s a catchy slogan and a successful campaign for Microsoft’s newest OS, which has helped mask the stink of – what was that stupid thing called? – Oh yeah, Vista. But nobody is recommending they use that slogan for some of their other products, like the Kin smartphones.

The Kin One and Kin Two smartphones were axed from shelves after what must be a record-shattering two months, after struggling to reach 10,000 sales. How small a number is that? From 2007 to 2009, over 40,000,000 iPhones were sold. If the Kins had stayed on shelves for two months, they would have sold about 120,000 units. More than 340 times less than Apple’s.

This gap is deeper than marketing or even the quality of the technology. The failure, following suit of the neglected Zune player and laughable “intelligent watches” Microsoft tried to pump out, is about the company being largely unable to reach out to a growing, tech-savvy demographic: those danged young’uns.

Kin One

Apple, for an easy contrast again, has done exactly that. But, on the other hand, Macs are nowhere to be seen in the vast majority of corporations and universities – that’s where PCs running Microsoft operating systems thrive. Both companies are tremendously successful in their own rights, so does it matter that Apple can’t nudge its way into corporate masses, and that Microsoft can’t impress the youthful hipsters and trendy tots?

Not really, but for some reason Microsoft keeps trying. They tried to launch a tablet but cancelled when the iPad entered the ring. And, despite the Kin representing one of the saddest product flops of the decade, they’re still going to try and tap into the mobile market, which is dominated by the younger audience they just can’t reach. Perhaps we can blame the Xbox – it’s respectable success, one of few for the software giant, next to its Office suite – for putting the idea into Microsoft’s head that they can appeal to these forthcoming generations.

Microsoft needn’t worry, however. It’s built an empire on corporate staples like the Office suite, and its product popularity in the business world is the envy of software developers around the globe. And it’s actually because of these successes that the empire’s garden is more of a cemetery, littered with half-buried failures: they can afford to research, develop, market, and sell (then axe) a failed product. Not many companies can.

And, who knows, one of these days they might just get it right. 

So, what do you think? Should Microsoft continue to reach out to other demographics with new fangled gadgets, or should they invest their time and money into advancing the technologies of their existing products (OS, Office, Xbox)?