Fresh from its reorganization under the company Alphabet, Google turned its sights this week to the online app field by making its “Google Apps for Work” cost nothing for businesses already under enterprise contracts with competitors such as Microsoft (TechCrunch). Google directly called out Microsoft in its promotional marketing for the move, and the search giant is betting that by allowing users to work with Google’s own productivity suite, they will make the switch to become a paying customer after the contract is finished. Ironically, in the meantime, Microsoft has begun targeting Google’s Android platform as a new area to expand its applications, seemingly undercutting the company’s own efforts to establish its Windows OS Phone in the ferocious smartphone market (The Register). The Chief Experience Officer for Microsoft, Julie Larson Green, told a reporter from The Australian they would continue to expand on Android because the company will “go wherever our customers are.” But is it truly safe to say those are Microsoft’s customers? Amid the competition between the largest companies in the technology field, it seems as though Microsoft is grasping for its own identity.
Much like kids in middle school, all the cool big tech companies have their own smartphone. And while Apple continues to be the dominant player in that particular field, Microsoft has attempted to get its own market share with the Windows Phone. Strong selling points are essential to succeed in a competitive arena such as smartphones, and Microsoft’s hit Windows 10 operating system remains the highlight for its phone. This is what makes Microsoft’s expansion into the Android OS confusing: why push to develop apps for someone else’s operating system when you have your own? Especially for Google, a competitor who has no problem taking Microsoft’s customers out from under them. By showing a lack of confidence in its own product, Microsoft showed weakness exactly when it has to appear strong, and application developers are taking notes. There are new reports this week of apps disappearing and losing support from the Windows Store, increasing the already wide gap between the Windows phone and its far-ahead competitors in applications (The Verge).
This is why Microsoft’s big move this week seemed especially ripe for analysis. Today Microsoft is launching its first-ever flagship store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, touting its new Surface and Xbox products (Engadget). One of the obvious advantages of running a huge company is that it is easy to highlight your successes while downplaying your losses given the sheer number of products you have. A more penetrating examination would be that Microsoft longs for the past, when technology products were more physical and it seemed like everyone agreed that Windows was the only big kid on the block. But unlike Google, who in response to innovative competition made the bold decision of creating its own parent company to house its experiments—a move right out of the science fiction and horror genres—Microsoft seems content to stick to its old strategy of copying Apple, this time with a Manhattan flagship store just like Apple. And while that strategy has certainly carried them this far, a more successful strategy would perhaps be to simply be confident in their own products, such as their operating system and Windows Phone. This would be especially important to do before all these issues come together to potentially form a full-blown identity crisis.