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Microsoft: The Ultimate “Me Too” Company

October 20, 2011

Today at my real job, I was doing a story on a new publication by a state’s tourism board. The new publication featured what I thought were QR codes (for those who don’t know what QR codes are, they are basically square barcodes that you can scan with your smartphone’s camera that take you to a specific web page). However, these QRs looked different.


Kind of like an unfortunate 80s sweater.

I then found out they were new Microsoft Tags, Microsoft’s attempt to crack into the barcode market (and actually they have been around since 2010, I’ve just never seen one until now). From the research I’ve done on them, I’ve found they are actually pretty cool. They are designed to be easily read by crappy smartphone cameras, can be branded, and can be shrunk to sizes smaller than QRs making them print friendly. The unfortunately stupid thing is that existing scanning apps won’t recognize them, only proprietary Microsoft apps will. Yeah, I could just download the Microsoft app, but honestly I don’t care enough about scanning codes to do that. But that’s not the point I’m trying to get at here.

What I realized is that almost every “popular” Microsoft product was made in an attempt to cash in on an existing product, making Microsoft the ultimate “Me Too” company.


Except Clippy

Let’s review some of the products in the order they were made …

Microsoft Windows

I’m willing to bet that the first computer of 75% of people reading this ran on either Windows 95 or 98. And the first program we ever ran was “Ski”.


That fucking snowman.

However, there were PCs way before Windows, 1968 to be exact. The first PCs were very basic and relied on users to generate their own code. It wasn’t until 1973 that Xerox invented a graphical user interface, the Xerox Alto, that computers began to function similarly to what we know now. Alto served as an inspiration to Steve Jobs who released the Apple Lisa graphical user interface in 1983. Windows wasn’t released until 1985 along with two other competing operating systems, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga. Obviously, the early Windows operating systems were revolutionary for their time and still hold the majority of the operating system market share (around 77% between XP, Vista, and 7) but that still doesn’t elude the fact that Windows is Microsoft hopping on a bandwagon. This will set the trend for years to come, like in 1995.

Internet Explorer

So it’s 1995. You are on your very first home computer, playing “Ski”


That fucking snowman.

This is the same year that a little program that you may remember, and that your parents may still use, came out. Internet Explorer. For some of you, this may have been your first web browser. But for others, there was a program that you might remember a little more fondly. Netscape Navigator. Netscape was invented by the company the invented Spyglass Mosaic (created in 1993), which is often credited as being the first modern web browser. Always to be late on the bandwagon, Microsoft reworked a copy of the now outdated Mosaic and released it in 1995, setting the sub-par standard for many versions of IE to come. But hey now, how are you going to connect to the Internet?

MSN

The Microsoft Service Network, also invented in 1995, was Microsoft’s Internet service provider. It provided subscribers with dial-up Internet and services like e-mail and a nifty instant messaging service called MSN Messenger in 1999. Sound familiar? That’s because it was basically a copy of America Online. AOL was providing service as early as 1989 and a nifty instant messaging service called AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) in 1997. The instant messenger feature was a key selling point for AOL and its two-year jump on MSN Messenger was enough to make it almost irrelevant. Because seriously, who the hell had an MSN Messenger account?

Xbox

I’m not even going to go into detail about this one because it’s quite obvious. Microsoft was quite behind Sony and Nintendo in the home video game consoles. In fact, no one was really expecting Microsoft to join in the field. But to Microsoft’s credit, in 2001 they released a great product (probably their last great copy) whose sucessor is still going strong today as one of the top two gaming consoles. They also managed to create a controller that I don’t feel like I will break from normal use.


Something Sony hasn’t perfected yet.

Zune

Jump ahead 5 years, and Microsoft creates a revolutionary product to play your media on the go.


And also look like you are carrying a brick of poop.

Of course, this is 5 years after Apple already revolutionalized the industry with the first iPod. By 2006, Apple was already on its 5th generation of the iPod as well as two similar models, the iPod Nano and iPod shuffle. Apple was also less than a year away from releasing its first iPhone and iPod touch. But Microsoft persisted, launching the Zune and an iTunes competitor, Zune Marketplace, while completely ignoring the fact that the Zune didn’t have any real advancements on the iPod and that Apple was already dominating the field with 40 Million units sold in 2006 alone. Today, the Zune is no longer made and Apple has sold 275 million iPods between 2001 and 2010.

Bing

It’s getting annoyingly redundant at this point. Google launched in 1998. You can read my article on Google here if you want to know the complete wonders of Goole. By 2009, Google has gotten to the point that its very name is synonymous with searching things on the Internet. Yet, Microsoft is determined to break into the field, promising better searches and new features. I’m just going to let the picture below do the talking.

Windows Phone

“Hey it’s 2010! Smartphones started booming in 2007, so we should probably get on that now!” said some Microsoft executive. “Let’s make it compatible with all of our other mediocre services in a way that mimics Apple and Android!” “Sweet baby Jesus, YES!” shouted his Yes Men and Yes Women. This is about all I have to say about the Windows Phone, as I have never used it, only Android and iOS. I have actually heard many positive reviews of the Windows phone, but its current 2% market share of all smartphones leads me to believe it will go the way of the Zune in the near future.

In closing, I’m not blaming Microsoft for any of their actions. In fact, I applaud their …how do you say… balls, for jumping into markets dominated by well established competitors. Someone needs to do it, and Microsoft has the money to waste. However, if I could offer my suggestion… Try to make something new, which is obviously a lot harder said than done but it certainly won’t hurt you worse than your current products. Be like Apple; create something shiny that no one has a need for and convince them that its cool and they need it. Anything to stop being the “Me Too” company.

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