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Microsoft is Leaving Money on the Table

Every few years, Microsoft introduces a new version of its very popular Office product. The last version was Office 2007. The next will be Office 2010. As often happens with technology upgrade innovations, the new versions sometimes do not offer enough additional benefits to justify all the customers of the old version spending on the upgrade. Office 2003 attracted 60% of the existing Office customers when it came out. Current expectations are for Office 2007 to attract somewhere between 50% and 55% of existing Office users to upgrade. So, somewhere between 40% and 45% of the current Microsoft Office market will not upgrade to the next version.

That is a problem for Microsoft. The company introduces its Office products in a bundled package. The product improvements and upgrades come in packages that contain most of the Office products, with the exception of the Access product. For the most part, Microsoft does not sell the improvements to the Office products as separate, stand-alone products.

Other companies have sensed an opportunity in this Microsoft approach. They have introduced add-on products that give old versions of Office some of the features of current and future Microsoft Office products without the full cost of upgrading. Some of these products include Xobni, DockVerse, Gist and Xiant. Basic versions of some of these products are free, while premium versions come at a modest cost.

These add-on products are low-end competitors. They are examples of Stripper products, one of the four major types of low-end competitors (see the Perspective “Turmoil Below: Confronting Low-End Competition” on StrategyStreet.com). Microsoft is ignoring the success of these small Stripper competitors.

It seems there should be a better path for Microsoft. The company might introduce its own stand-alone version of these products and match their pricing. This move would forestall the growth these Stripper companies enjoy today and provide Microsoft with additional revenues from the 40% of its current customer base who will not upgrade to the new Office 2010 product. If the customers like the Microsoft products as stand-alone add-ons, they may be more likely to upgrade to the new Office 2010 when it comes out.

Aside from the fact that Microsoft is leaving money on the table (see the Perspective “Failure Shifts Shifts More Share than Success” on StrategyStreet.com), it is generally a bad idea to ignore low-end competition that is entering your market.

Posted 11/12/09

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