Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Celebrating Twenty Years of Failure in the Mobile Space

There's interesting reading, great 1990s nostalgia, and some pictures of long forgotten devices at this IT World article:

Flops and Vapor: 10 ways Microsoft tried and failed to rule the Mobile device world

It's an amazing list of Microsoft-sponsored mobile software failures.  It shows us how compelling the "tiny pocket computer" idea has been in all our collective imaginations, and how elusive success has been in that space.

Even those technologies that have succeeded have not had a long or stable shelf life.  Mobile technology is more uncertain, and the market is far less stable than the PC market.

It might give you pause, if you were a major vendor of software for the Pocket PC, in 2001, or a Palm Pilot software vendor, in 1999, that your market might not exist in 10 years.  Could the same thing happen again, to Apple-device software ISVs?  It would be a historical anomaly if the market didn't at least cool off a little bit.

Anyways, nobody has tried (and failed) more often in the mobile-device space, than Microsoft.

Click the link, and read, and weep.  And ask yourself, how many of those gadgets are in my gadget junk drawer.   I personally bought (or wanted to buy) at least a dozen such devices, including Microsoft-based offerings running Windows CE, and some others, including various models of the Palm Pilot PDA.

But while Palm is dead, and its most notable successes lead to nothing but failure, Microsoft has survived its failures, making it perhaps the most unique company in the technology business.  Its sheer financial health, lead by the Windows and Office division's billions of dollars in profits, lets it lose billions on mobile devices, XBox game systems R&D, and other things, without substantially affecting the bottom line.   

So, the ability to not only survive, but continue to thrive, while throwing away more billions on wasted R&D than any other company in history, is in fact, something to celebrate.  I'm actually serious here.  People owe Microsoft some respect for that.  And I do respect Microsoft, even though they do things that make me mad.  Give me back the Office 2003 User Interface, and get rid of that useless ribbon.  But hey.... Windows 7 is nice.  Try not to screw up Windows 8 too badly, okay?

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