Microsoft is an embattled company, no matter how you slice it. And honestly, this CES was full of nothing but bad news for the House of Windows. Here’s why 2014 promises to be a rough year for Microsoft, if CES is any indication.
Intel Is Abandoning It
We’ve already discussed Intel’s enormous push into consumer electronics. Intel had all sorts of goofy stuff, true, but it was probably the fact that Intel and AMD both plan to launch tablets that dual-boot Android and Windows that was the news Microsoft wanted to hear the least.
It’s one thing when ASUS makes a semi-goofy device that does this, largely for the Asian market. It’s quite another when the chipmaker you’re most closely tied to in the public mind more or less admits that most people don’t want to use your operating systems on a tablet.
But fortunately, Microsoft is still king in laptops, right? Well, uh…
Chromebooks Are Getting A Toehold
Most nerds will tell you Chrome is little more than a glorified set of web applications and those nerds are 100% right. Any operating system that breaks when you walk away from your router is a crappy operating system. It’s really only a matter of time before Crouton or ChrUbuntu starts shipping as a standard on Chromebooks, and somebody realizes you need to beef up the memory. Until then, they remain a niche product.
But the niche is growing. Chromebooks are, with one exception, dirt, dirt cheap… so cheap that everybody is making them. Toshiba and Intel showed off Chromebooks at CES, Dell announced their Chromebook lineup weeks ago, and Lenovo is jumping in too. They already cost as little as $200. Basically, if you’re remotely tech savvy and want to buy your kid a laptop that can be replaced, you’re probably going to wind up buying a Chromebook.
Considering a lot of Microsoft’s revenue is built on companies like Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba paying them royalties to install Windows products, this is probably not what Microsoft wanted to hear. But probably the biggest issue really came from Microsoft itself.
Microsoft Had Nothing
Faced with its traditional markets either stagnant or shrinking, Microsoft really needed a big, attention-grabbing item for CES, something to show that Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone were powerhouses that people needed to respect. And there was nothing.
It’s true that a lot of Microsoft’s focus is taken up by its own hardware, especially the Xbox One. But it’s somewhat troubling that Microsoft didn’t have a knockout punch, or at least a sharp jab, to show off.
Microsoft won’t be dead by the end of the year; they may be struggling to stay relevant but they’re still a multi-billion dollar company that sells a lot of products. But as this CES shows, they’ve got more problems than they know what to do with… and seemingly no way to solve them.