Bill Gates retired from Microsoft a decade ago, yet his ghost still loomed large, in the form of a persistent effort to continually extend the reach of Microsoft into every nook and cranny possible. And that ghost inhabited a company increasingly focused inward on its own view of what users should want and do. Like Windows Vista and Windows 7 before it, Windows UT (Unlimited Technology) captured a smaller share of upgrades than its predecessor. Ditto with Office UT. Even though Microsoft paid attention to hardware resource requirements in UT and didn't wield the new software as a way to force users to buy new hardware as its last several versions had done, feature fatigue had set in. For most people, Office 2000 and Windows XP did the job they needed, and learning a new UI every few years was simply not in the cards for a user base that had long thought of technology not as a shiny toy to play with but instead as a tool that needed to get the job done and stay out of the way.
But the long reach of Windows and Office meant that they stayed front and center at work and home, even if users tended to stick with older versions of the software, fracturing the market along version lines and causing great grief for consultants, help desks, and app developers.
Although Macintosh market share now reached 20 percent, it remained a Microsoft-oriented technology world. And even though Internet-based apps such as Salesforce.com, Intuit QuickBooks.com, and ADP Payroll.com were now the mainstays of small and medium businesses, Office and SharePoint remained the primary front ends for users' work, especially collaborative efforts.
Why? There just weren't many viable alternatives, and those that did exist tended not to team up to offer a complete alternative. For example, Mac users might rely on cloud-delivered apps such a Salesforce.com, but no one had a viable alternative to Office, by 2013 available to Mac users only as the Windows version running in a virtual machine. And many Web sites based on .Net didn't work well with non-Microsoft browsers, just as many Java-based sites wouldn't play nice with Internet Explorer. Although the European Union and several Asian governments banned the use of IE in 2013 and discouraged government agencies' use of Windows and Office, desktop Linux never became usable enough to be a serious option, and office suites for Mac never worked well with the Microsoft version, making it hard to enforce the ban.
Various technologies meant to sideline the OS in favor of the browser -- AJAX, ARAX, application streaming, and Adobe AIR -- gained traction, but as supplements to the core OS, rather than as replacements. Part of that was due to the platform favoritism that had become the norm in Windows, Mac OS, and others.