[FoRK] Microsoft's reality problem

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Fri Feb 5 12:18:28 PST 2010

A good high-level summary of the problems.

> Just when Microsoft thought it couldn't get worse, ex-VP Dick Brass 
> has taken a sockful of manure and beaten his former employer with it.
> February 05, 2010
> Microsoft's reality problem
> Apple's big iPad splash highlights Microsoft's failures as a company, 
> notes a former Redmond exec. And things are only going to get worse
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> Just when Microsoft thought it couldn't get worse, ex-VP Dick Brass 
> has taken a sockful of manure and beaten his former employer with it.
> [ Also on InfoWorld: At the other end of the spectrum, Apple's iPad 
> continues to stupefy and astound, much to Microsoft's consternation. | 
> Send your crazy-but-true tale of IT gone awry to 
> offtherecord at infoworld.com. If we publish it, anonymously, of course, 
> we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]
> In a New York Times opinion piece titled "Microsoft's Creative 
> Destruction," the recovering Redmondite dissects why a company like 
> Apple can introduce technology like the iPad to huzzahs, while 
> Microsoft's efforts to create a tablet PC over the years have earned 
> it nothing but guffaws. He writes:
>     Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator. Its 
> products are lampooned, often unfairly but sometimes with good reason. 
> Its image has never recovered from the antitrust prosecution of the 
> 1990s. Its marketing has been inept for years; remember the 2008 ad in 
> which Bill Gates was somehow persuaded to literally wiggle his behind 
> at the camera?
>     While Apple continues to gain market share in many products, 
> Microsoft has lost share in Web browsers, high-end laptops and 
> smartphones. Despite billions in investment, its Xbox line is still at 
> best an equal contender in the game console business. It first ignored 
> and then stumbled in personal music players until that business was 
> locked up by Apple....Perhaps worst of all, Microsoft is no longer 
> considered the cool or cutting-edge place to work. There has been a 
> steady exit of its best and brightest.
> ... Microsoft is GM, and Windows and Office are SUVs: hugely 
> profitable in their day, but dinosaurs sinking into the tar pits soon 
> after ...

> Needless to say, Microsoft felt compelled to respond, via its Flack du 
> Flacks, Frank Shaw:
>     At the highest level, we think about innovation in relation to its 
> ability to have a positive impact in the world. For Microsoft, it is 
> not sufficient to simply have a good idea, or a great idea, or even a 
> cool idea. We measure our work by its broad impact.... for a company 
> whose products touch vast numbers of people, what matters is 
> innovation at scale, not just innovation at speed.
> In other words: What really matters is that a billion people use your 
> products, even if they mostly suck.
> You have a reality problem. And the reality is that, despite whatever 
> people living inside the Microsoft bubble might think, the rest of the 
> world thinks you're a bully. And nobody likes bullies.
> Another of Microsoft's big reality gaps is its insistence that it's 
> one of the great tech innovators. Sure, Microsoft Research can go head 
> to head with the best labs in the world; it's done some amazing 
> things. But Microsoft's success is built on imitation, not innovation. 
> Nearly everything it does, somebody else did first and usually better 
> -- from graphical interfaces to music players, personal finance 
> software, search engines, Web portals, virtualization software, 
> phones, and PDAs, you name it.

> A third reality disconnect: The notion that Microsoft has made 
> computing easy and ubiquitous for the masses. 
> Microsoft designs software under the assumption that everyone who uses 
> it is either a gibbering simpleton or an engineer -- so it vacillates 
> between condescending and pointless dialog boxes and incomprehensible 
> error messages, with few stops in between.


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