Thursday, July 31, 2003

MS Failures

In 1993, Microsoft hoped to appeal to the masses of "multimedia PC" buyers (that is, PCs with both a CD-ROM drive and a sound card, revolutionary at the time) by introducing a line of software called Microsoft Home. More than 100 products were launched in rapid succession over 18 months, from childhood creativity (Fine Artist) to a cartoony "social interface" to make Windows appear friendlier to the pathologically computer phobic (1995's Microsoft Bob, a much-maligned happy face with geek glasses). Microsoft quickly discontinued more Home products than most other consumer software publishers released, and the brand itself eventually disappeared. The Encarta Encyclopedia was one of the few titles to successfully leave Home alive.

, Microsoft tried its hands at toys, introducing the ActiMates line of interactive plush in 1997. The toys reacted by talking and moving, especially when wirelessly activated by a software program or TV show

Microsoft at Work, an effort to embed Windows into copiers and other office machines, failed miserably. So did Microsoft's initial forays into portability: WinPad (handheld PCs) and Windows for Pen Computing (pen-based tablet computers).

Microsoft has had successes. Its mouse and keyboard business is highly regarded for creating innovative products, from the ball-less IntelliMouse Optical to the odd-shaped yet comfortable Natural Keyboard

The new server version of Windows for corporations, Windows Server 2003, evolved from Windows NT and Windows 2000 and is lauded by Davis as "an enterprise-grade operating system without too many qualifications." Two Microsoft corporate server applications, Exchange Server for e-mail and SQL Server for databases, likewise have established themselves. Research firms Gartner and IDC both place Microsoft SQL Server as a fast-growing third behind databases from Oracle and IBM. "They've done a really brilliant job in leveraging their strengths in the desktop operating system and applications and tying it to the server," says Davis

Microsoft's fate might be as tied to personal computers as IBM's was tied to mainframes


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