Microsoft’s prospects

By admin, May 5, 2009 9:46 am

In the same vein as my "Did Vista jump the shark?" post last month, Jason Hiner at ZDnet posted yesterday on two trends that are conspiring against Microsoft.

Hiner is talking about web-based applications (which was my focus) and about the rise of the computer phone as a significant computing platform (which doesn't concern me so much). Like Hines, I don't believe that any of this portends the end of the Redmond software giant… the company is broad, rich in cash, firmly established in multiple markets, and still staffed with a lot of really bright people. Microsoft has the potential to continue to dominate the software market… but it's not inevitable as it once seemed.

Hiner's thesis is that the company is spreading itself too thin, with no overarching focus. This may be true, but it doesn't necessarily doom the business; in fact, if Windows is fated to decline, all those dalliances might serve to provide that new focus. I'm not sure what that might look like. I've mentioned before that I think Software+Services seems like a smart way to jump the stream in two leaps, but in fact may represent a fatal hesitation in embracing new technology paradigms that will cause the company to lag terribly in the market. Azure could be significant, and I have also said that I think the way the company is tying its products together under the auspices of the Internet mirrors the way it took over the desktop in the nineties. I agree with Hiner that Ballmer is a problem in this scenario; Ozzie seems to have the vision that Gates did, but unlike Gates, he has a boss sitting over him.

Hiner believes that the company needs to let go of all the various populist products that it launches with such regularity and focus on a few core products. I agree that the company has problems on the horizon, but I disagree that this is the way to fix it. I think it ignores that everything we see as a popular Microsoft product today was, at some point, one of those populist digressions launched at short notice and with dismal implementation in response to someone else's product du jour. I think the company is still wired to run that way, and that its strength is in its ability to tie those diverse products together somehow into a mutually reinforcing monopoly of some sort. I believe they have the vision to achieve that again; if they can't muster the execution, then cutting products out of the lineup probably isn't going to help them. It may be the textbook thing to do with a business in Microsoft's position, but I don't think it is in the company's DNA to succeed by that route.

Leave a Reply

Persephone Theme by Themocracy