Is this Microsoft’s last chance to get it right?

The clock is ticking on Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) .

The world’s largest software company has set a date for its long overdue update to its flagship PC operating system. Windows 8.1 will become available on October 18, offering new personalisation features, the refreshed Internet Explorer 11 browser, and several other features that may help consumers get over the initial shock of last October’s poorly received Windows 8 rollout.

Naturally, Microsoft won’t call Windows 8 a flop. On paper, Mr. Softy has activated a ton of licenses. There has been no shortage of criticism for the learning curve involved in getting to know the platform that was built from the ground up with touch-based devices in mind, but the boo birds aren’t as loud as we witnessed when Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) picked Vista apart.

However, perhaps the reason why Apple isn’t rolling out “I’m a Mac” ads to take down Windows 8 is that the pie itself is shrinking.

Industry tracker Gartner reported its quarterly metrics for the PC market last month, showing that worldwide shipments of desktops and laptops fell a brutal 10.9% to 76 million units. This was the unprecedented fifth straight quarter of declines for the industry, and Microsoft can’t hide from the cruel math. PC sales have grown less popular since Windows 8 hit the market.

Apple also isn’t going to be taking shots at Windows because it’s no longer Public Enemy No. 1 for the Cupertino tech giant. Consumers are flocking to tablet and smartphones where Google‘s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android is the operating system of choice.

Microsoft isn’t a total loser here. It does collect patent royalties from Android. However, Microsoft has been a failure in the mobile computing markets, where its market share in smartphones and tablets clocks in at a mere 4%. There’s little reason to expect that to change anytime soon, and its best shot at regaining relevance is to make sure that the PC market bounces back.

It won’t be easy. The market has made up its mind, even though consumers are still buying more PCs than tablets. If Windows 8.1 doesn’t win back mainstream users that are perfectly fine with surfing the Web, streaming media, and running apps on their “good enough” mobile computing gadgetry, will anyone still care about Windows 8.2 or Windows 9?

Microsoft isn’t going away. It’s too rich and entrenched for that to happen. However, Microsoft’s gradual fade to irrelevancy is real. If October’s update doesn’t do the trick, investing in Mr. Softy won’t be a treat.

The Australian Financial Review says “good quality Australian shares that have a long history of paying dividends are a real alternative to a term deposit.” Get 3 Stocks for the Great Dividend Boom in our special FREE report. Click here now to find out the names, stock symbols, and full research for our three favourite income ideas, all completely free!

More reading

A version of this article, written by Rick Munarriz, originally appeared on

Two New Stock Picks Every Month!

Not to alarm you, but you’re about to miss a very important event! Chief Investment Advisor Scott Phillips and his team at Motley Fool Share Advisor are about to reveal their latest official stock recommendation. The premium “buy alert” will be unveiled to members and you can be among the first to act on the tip.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by – this is your chance to get in early!

Simply enter your email now to find out how you can get instant access.

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.