Friday, July 2, 2010

Microsoft, the "GM of software" in 2020 ?

Less than 3 months after the launch, "the other Steve" (Ballmer) stops the Kin. This "youngster social network phone" did not really virally spread. There is no shame to fail once but repetitive failures can seriously hurt long term.

Microsoft is suffering a lot with new initiatives. They keep going below the radar with mobile. Their IPTV is confidential in terms of numbers because IPTV is rather limited worldwide. Nintendo Wii sets XBox nearly out of the shelves. HP bought Palm, giving up Windows 7 for tablet. This famous tablet could seriously damage their well established PC kingdom. Windows Live is nothing compared to Facebook. Hotmail is suffering from Gmail. Bing maintains a comfortable second position, never able to compare with Google.
Microsoft, the "General Motors of software" in 2020 ? Unable to choose a battle to win it, it tries to resist on all fronts. 

The problem is not short term. The big M generated more than 14B$ profit in 2009, mainly through Windows & Office. But on this battlefield, they are attacked by serious players.

For new races, Microsoft tends to become the "Poulidor of technology", always being a second or third, never winning one. They just can't invent a product consumers love. And for years now, each new trial, a kind of "Me Too plus minus something", damages their brand. Who is today proud buying a consumer M product ? Who will show off with a whatever "Windows xyz" ?

Some will say that Microsoft did never invent anything, just smartly copy-pasting. On the other hand, the same must recognize Microsoft brought scale to massive computer usage. 
Others will argue that, during last decade, nobody bought an M product because they loved it. It was just needed. At that time, this was sufficient to become #1. But a successful "20th century strategy" does not probably work the same way in 21th.

If Microsoft wants to build sustainable consumer products, perhaps they should press "pause button" during 2 years, just keeping pace on different fronts. They could then benefit of this period to invest and come back with something very innovative, an amazing product 1.0, something changing life, a product people love, implementing a dream.

After cash generated by W(indows), mitigated success of X(box) and failure of Z(une), will Microsoft focus on a "Y" product, something fundamental, even metaphysical in order to recover #1 position ? And don't tell me it's just about the "Y" of Yahoo, except if the ambition is about keeping (a less risky but short term profitable ?) #2 or #3 position, as GM in last decade.

Microsoft has cash. There are so many things to invent. Don't tell me they lack imagination and creativity !

To be continued ...

Benoit Quirynen

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