Instant karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
It's 2009 and I'm sure the powers that be at Microsoft are hoping it's going to be a good one without any tears, but even as the old year closed, the news kept getting worse for the software giant.
Just yesterday the web surged with news that 30 GB Zunes were freezing up, apparently the victim of a Y2K-type clock bug where the Zunes rebooted and froze as of January 1, 2009 Pacific Time. And this morning, Ars Technica reports that rumors are flying about a massive layoff on January 15 involving 17 percent of the worldwide work force. Not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of.
First, the Zune
The Zune has always been an iPod wannabe, never quite gaining the cool status that Apple seems to be able to achieve without breaking a sweat. From what I've read and heard, there are many features to like about the Zune, but when you are going up against the world's most popular MP3 player, you are going to face a perception issue, especially when these two companies are involved, regardless of the quality of the product.
The conventional Apple-Microsoft wisdom--fair or not--goes something like this: OSX is stable and secure and Windows is not, so even though the Zune has absolutely nothing to do with Windows, it simply feeds the perception that Microsoft creates insecure products vulnerable to a myriad of security issues. I have to point out, I've never heard of such an issue afflicting an iPod (or any other MP3 player for that matter). It actually makes me almost feel bad for Microsoft (or perhaps it's just not-so-instant karma for years of questionable business practices).
The layoffs, if true, are part of a pattern in the technology industry and certainly not isolated to Microsoft. Just last month, Adobe laid off 8 percent of its workforce (or about 600 people). Rumors have it that Google has let go thousands of contractors (although it's really hard to confirm this story and Google has not been forthcoming about it). So that Microsoft could be laying off 17 percent of its workforce (or about 15,000 people) is hardly a surprise. The economic slow down means people are buying less software, certainly waiting to upgrade and with Microsoft's issues around Vista, it's all coming together at a bad time. (At least Microsoft waited until after the holidays; give them credit for that.)
If Don Reisinger at Cnet is right, we might be seeing Windows 7 by the end of the year, although I have my doubts about that. Reisinger argues that Microsoft needs to put Vista behind it as quickly as possible and while I agree, it would be foolish to put out Windows 7 before it is ready and fully tested. The last thing Microsoft needs is another Vista and it needs be very careful this year.
I believe the company has reached a critical cross-roads for Windows, especially on the consumer side. It needs to hit a home run with Windows 7 to get its momentum back.
If it releases a half-baked version of Windows 7 before it's ready, I believe consumers will give up Windows altogether. I know many people who have already. Microsoft needs to stop the bleeding, and maybe a stable Windows 7 could do that. Regardless, it just seems to keep getting worse and even corporate behemoths needs need some good news once a while. If you doubt that, consider what a weakened Microsoft would mean to Google, but that's fodder for another day.