Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Microsoft: Are They Relevant In Social Network?

Those of you using PC will recall a company by the name of Microsoft. Yes, a company that used to be run by Bill Gates. The one that made Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. This may sound very strange to Facebook generation, but Microsoft was once synonymous with personal computing. If you owned a computer, you needed Microsoft. Everything that you ever needed, operating system, word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and email (hey, let's not forget Minesweeper and Solitary), were from Microsoft.

Not so much now. In fact Microsoft gets mentioned rarely when we talk about three fastest growing high-tech segments: SaaS, mobile, and social network. Doesn't Microsoft have any play in any of these segments? Are they still relevant?

Clearly Microsoft has missed the early boat. It made unsuccessful attempts at mobile by launching Kin hardware along with Windows Mobile operating system that were supported by third-party devices. It also wasted early mover advantage with SharePoint, and couldn't grow the adoption rate with long product cycle and gave ways to other competitors, such as wiki,, and dropbox, to take stronger foothold. Microsoft has squandered opportunity to capitalize on early trend.

But Microsoft has kept enough momentum to gain traction on social network. As you can see, Microsoft invested $240 million in 2007 to get 1.6% stake of Facebook valued at $15 billion. That decision was great one because since then integration of Bing with Facebook has been on the rise.

Just today All Things Digital reported that Microsoft and Facebook are in talks to share public 'like' button results. This would mean social search patent that Facebook holds will be exclusively licensed to Microsoft Bing search engine, leaving Google out cold.

That's not all. Microsoft is also moving forward on SharePoint 2010 with its social network emphasis, and unified communication front which tightly integrates with SharePoint. They just announced Office Communications Server version 14 will be released under new name Lync yesterday, and made release candidate available for trial.

It is true that Microsoft has fumbled in getting social network right the first time. But we all know that the first doesn't always guarantee the place in the podium at the end. Just think of Netscape. Microsoft may get it right this time.

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