Microsoft has never been less popular, which may be exactly what it needs to goad it to taking new risks and building back its brand.
Matt AsayContributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Microsoft, once king of the software hill, has reached a new low, even as it shows signs of bouncing back to new life. The open-source world considers being likened to Microsoft as the ultimate insult, while the up-and-coming Web crowd is embarrassed to be associated with its stodgy forbear.
Wall Street, for its part, doesn't much care for Microsoft, either, judging by the cold shoulder it has given Microsoft's stock over the past 10 years.
There are exceptions (like SharePoint), but they are just that: exceptions.
Microsoft's pariah status, however, gives it a second chance. Suddenly, Microsoft is the underdog, the company that everyone seems content to underestimate, and to give the benefit of the doubt, at least when it comes to product strategy.
Similarly, Microsoft's release of Windows 7 was significant insofar as the product actually worked without being a resource hog and nagging users into a comatose state.
Getting the picture? Microsoft has fallen so far in the world's estimation that the mere release of software that works without annoying people is cause for celebration. (Microsoft's advertising, however, remains amazingly bad.)
Microsoft's humbled status has also freed it to boldly experiment with new pricing models, like its Starter version priced at $0.00. Microsoft needs to take risks. The market is now willing to allow the company to take them.
The Redmond giant hasn't had this long of a leash in over a decade. Sure, it's anathema to the open-source crowd and unhip and unloved by the Apple and Google contingents. But this may be exactly what it needs.