With the emergence of Google and Apple as brands, Microsoft is threatening to become irrelevant as a technology company – or, at least, a commodity in all the areas it plays.
I have been thinking about Microsoft quite a bit lately, and there are all of the usual reasons why it’s falling behind. It is competing against two of the most powerful and meaningful brands in the world and its technologies across all areas are gaining reputations as followers.
Nowhere is this becoming more apparent than in gaming, where Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is trailing the Wii and Sony’s Playstation in global market share.
The Wii, of course, has transformed the market with its remote, active capabilities and now owns 49% of the market globally, although that’s primarily because of its dominance in Japan. The Playstation is second and the Xbox trails with 20%.
In an attempt to catch up (that is, follow), Microsoft is about to introduce the Kinect, which takes Wii’s technology one step further. This controller-free system has a camera that, according to Microsoft, recognizes faces, obeys voice commands and tracks body movements, meaning gamers will simply control the games with their bodies in the simplest fashion.
There are a whole host of difficult questions Microsoft needs to ask itself about this “innovation” – primarily, whether gamers actually want it. It’s possible it may feel more like a novelty, something I sense about the Wii as a kind of consumer fatigue sets in. I have friends with teenagers who have more than one gaming system, including the Wii, and they prefer one of the remote controlling systems.
Beyond that, is there anything in the Xbox brand that gives consumers (mostly young ones) a reflection of themselves other than as a technology follower? I ask this because Microsoft’s largest problem is that it seems to think it’s all about the technology.
It’s not. The technology simply fulfills the brand promise and, when the (former?) technology giant is following the likes of Apple, Google and Nintendo, it must reconnect with consumers in ways more meaningful than simply upping the technology ante.