Confessions of a Microsoft enthusiast: the best in class problem

I’ve been thinking a lot about Microsoft and its relationship with consumer enthusiasts like myself and the readers of this blog recently. Even though I’ve been lax on posting, my enthusiasm for Microsoft and its consumer products hasn’t waned. I got into this blogging game as an offshoot of Microsoft beta testing, a way for me to get the latest and greatest Microsoft products (for free, yay!), and almost more importantly, connect with others like myself. Back then, Microsoft was engaged in a full-on push to woo consumers.

But more than choosing Microsoft in order to get into beta programs and then sticking around, I just have always had a soft spot in my heart from the company that grew up right down the road from here. Also, I just don’t like Apple, or especially Google, all that much. They’re too pretentious, too dismissive of my beloved Microsoft, and too frivolous with my needs as a consumer, or more correctly, a user. I’m not here to “consume”, or especially to be consumed as a target of advertising or peer pressure. Long ago, I made a decision to “go Microsoft”, one I’ve stuck to ever since.

For a time, that decision looked like it was going to pay off in spades. Sure there were issues, as Microsoft floundered especially in the mobile space, but so much was happening. Windows Live! Live Mesh! Ray Ozzie! Spaces and OneCare and Live Search and Soapbox! SkyDrive!

Of course most of them are gone now, with the exception of Live Search (Bing) and SkyDrive (OneDrive). The push to capture the hearts and minds of Joe Average consumer seems to be largely gone, too. Instead, we have a mantra that promises to go after “high value” consumer traffic, which granted came out of Steve Ballmer’s “One Microsoft” initiative, so we’re not even sure that’s still the goal. The problem with that, of course, is that you can’t attract high value traffic with low value products. Face it, Microsoft in the consumer spaces isn’t best-in-class in anything. Name a product, I’ll show you a better one made elsewhere. IE, OneDrive, Xbox Music (!!!), app platforms, Surface (is it a tablet, or a laptop? It’s certainly not the best in either category), the list goes on.

And it’s not just full on products, either, Microsoft seems to be quite happy to let quality fall by the wayside in a rush to “catch up”. Just yesterday, after numerous public complaints about the quality of apps in the Windows and Windows Phone app stores, Microsoft deleted about 1,500 apps from the WP store, promising to apply “additional resources to speed up the review process and identify more problem apps faster”. Microsoft has long been criticized for trailing badly in the “apps race”, and the more apps they acquire, no matter how dodgy, the bigger the number they can tout. Of course that house of cards can come tumbling down quickly once users can’t find the apps they’re looking for through all the garbage.

More than just the apps, or lack thereof, Microsoft is quickly falling into a best-in-class problem with Windows Phone hardware, too. While it’s great that HTC is pushing hard in the market with the critically acclaimed and now for Windows Phone too HTC One M8, suddenly Microsoft’s Nokia phones aren’t the best in class for their own OS. The Nokia acquisition certainly delayed the cadence of phone releases, but Microsoft, only 3 months before the holidays, doesn’t have a flagship Windows Phone.

But still, I am and remain a Microsoft enthusiast, and a blogger, for that matter. I hold out hope that Microsoft can and will become a best-in-class consumer ecosystem. I have high hopes for new CEO Satya Nadella and his “challenger attitude”, and while Microsoft lags behind in consumer services, it’s in the game almost everywhere. So there’s hope, and I’m not ready to jump ship, at least not yet.

How about you? Are you a Microsoft enthusiast? Are you excited for what the future brings?