Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduces Microsoft's new Surface tablet on June 18 in California.
AFP/Getty Images
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduces Microsoft's new Surface tablet on June 18 in California.

Story highlights

Microsoft's products are ignored or considered uncool by younger generations

The company will soon release Windows 8, but most people are fixated on iPhone 5

According to some of its biggest critics, here are eight ways Microsoft can reinvent itself

One suggestion: Move all its software to the Web

Editor’s Note: Blake Snow has written for half the top 20 U.S. media outlets. In addition to writing, he works as a software critic and media consultant. He is writing a book about finding offline balance in an online world.

CNN —  

There’s nothing broken about being the fourth-most valuable company in the world, which is exactly what Microsoft is today. That same company, however, is valued at half what it was 10 years ago. It’s not exactly thriving, either.

Regardless if the glass is actually half empty or half full, consumer confidence in Microsoft is at a low. It is ignored or considered uncool by younger generations. Older generations are often required to use the company’s software at work, but turn to Apple or Google devices in their free time.

A month from now Microsoft will release Windows 8, a bold new operating system that seeks to bring touchscreen interfaces to desktop computing. It’s the company’s biggest product since Windows XP and yet the only thing the tech world has seemingly talked about over the last 12 months is what the iPhone 5 might look like.

In that sense, Microsoft is broken.

Sure, the company that Bill Gates built has had a few bona fide hits over the last decade, most notably from its gaming division: Xbox Live, which is sort of the nighttime Facebook for gamers, and Kinect, a hands-free game controller that caught fire for a year before fizzling somewhat. Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, also is gaining traction in the market.

But when it comes to mobile devices – the biggest area of growth in consumer tech – Microsoft still lags behind its rivals.

How Apple’s story is like ‘Breaking Bad’

So how can the company right the ship? According to some of its biggest critics, here are eight ways Microsoft can reinvent itself, return to relevancy and dominate the tech world once more instead of just following it.

1. Make fewer things extremely well. Microsoft has been accused of many things. Being too focused isn’t one of them. “They spread themselves too thin across too many product lines,” says blogger Mary Jo Foley, a longtime observer of the company. “They let broken products hang on for far too long,” resulting in mediocre stuff that few people care about, she says. The good news: “They’re getting better at this,” Foley says.

2. Move all their software to the Web. Microsoft is in a bit of a pickle. Consumers want to manage, view and manipulate their files from any device connected to the Internet (aka cloud computing). But Microsoft still makes most of its money from locally installed software, so it has been very reluctant to offer its wares online at a discount (if not for free like Google).

Keep it up, though, and Microsoft will be a goner, says Joe Wilcox, editor of Beta News. “On phones and tablets, Microsoft’s presence is insignificant or too low to quantify. If the so-called post-PC era is about cloud-connected devices, Microsoft operating systems have no meaningful presence.”