[FoRK] Anatomy of failure: Mobile flops from RIM, Microsoft, and Nokia

Gregory Alan Bolcer greg at bolcer.org
Sun May 1 07:20:55 PDT 2011

I was going to cite Cusumano (and UCI ex-professor Selby on Microsoft 
Secrets) to counter the non-competition model.  They explicitly used to 
support a flowergarden model where they let multiple competing products 
grow to see what takes off (in the 90's).  I personally know several 
ex-FoRKers that are directly in charge of innovations and contributions 
to products beyond the two cash cows of Office and Windows.  (Being a 
good steward of Windows is no small success.) In fact, some of the 
greatest FoRK lore comes from one or two of them marching into their 
boss's boss's office and demanding that the need to do X with great 

The learned organizational behavior for Microsoft is simple.  Remember 
the Web?  MS came late to the game, ignored it for years, and then spent 
their gunpowder to become a successful powerhouse.   It's the model they 
are copying with Bing in search and Win7 in Mobile.

I think upward mobility has always been centered around closeness to 
Gates and Ballmer, so that's nothing new.  The rest of the stories about 
the political animals that have taken over seem to support the Peter 
principle.   Maybe it's been too long since they've shaken things up.  I 
think once MS options stopped being worth something, the culture 
definitely changed.


On 5/1/2011 1:23 AM, Stephen Williams wrote:

> Still, Ballmer needs to do something to shake Microsoft from what, at
> best, seems to be a textbook case of corporate ennui: MIT's Michael
> Cusumano, who has featured Microsoft in several books, including the new
> work Staying Power, sees a company hopelessly stuck in neutral, in no
> small part because Microsoft has a weak board and no one expects Bill
> Gates, the company's top shareholder, with about 5% of shares
> outstanding, to oust the CEO, who was the best man at his wedding.
> "Ballmer has been a good steward of Windows, and that's about it,"
> Cusumano says.
> Is it too late for Microsoft? Certainly the company has made it harder
> for itself by squandering big leads. But it's still early in the
> competition for the tablet market, and the fight for majority rule in
> the phone sector began in earnest only four years ago with the first
> release of the iPhone. Companies with bigger hurdles to overcome than
> Microsoft (which sits on an amazing $44 billion in cash) have reinvented
> themselves. Apple may be the most famous comeback in technology, but
> Motorola (MSI) and Netflix (NFLX) have also come back from near-death
> experiences. The reason: strong leadership, and a willingness to cast
> off the past in favor of an uncertain but promising future.
> sdw
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greg at bolcer.org, http://bolcer.org, c: +1.714.928.5476

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