Microsoft the Dinousaur – too early to call or has the Death March begun?

I have used Microsoft’s products as far back as I can remember – on legacy networks at that. Few can argue that this corporation was the single most impactful force in shaping the software industry of today, at least for much of the twentieth century.  There are very few in the IT field today who would not speak of the positive impact Microsoft had on them, whether it be through tools, technology or leadership.  In fact, as recently as 2007, IEEE ranked them number 1 in innovation and scientific value of their portfolio.  So what happened…? 

Ballmer touting Windows 7 ….Ozzie, Windows Live
Ballmer and Ozzie and Windows 7 / Windows Live


“Big 3″ Not As Talkative – But Similar In Many WaysBig 3 Automaker CEOs

So what did happen here? Both for so long, dominated their respected domains.  Both hugely profitable, grew at exponential rates, and at different points in their journey, just stopped listening to the customer.  To have grown so fast, and to have never really had to “innovate” in order to survive and ultimately flourish — in their confidence and arrogance, lacked the leadership courage and foresight to do what needed to be done when it had to be done.  They failed to realize that their Iceberg was melting until it was obvious not just to them, but to the entire world.  And at some critical inflection point –  their customers turned on them.  

In the case of Microsoft, some will defend them (yours truly in that camp) and say that they did act.  In fact, back in Spring of 2005, about 14 months after Facebook first opened its doors to the world, and probably a full 2 years (at least) before Facebook started its meteoric rise as you can see from these facinating growth charts.  

This is when Ray Ozzie wasa brought in and make no mistake, he was brought in to crystalize a vision that was still nebulous to many – But the mighty Bill Gates knew there was something there in the Web 2.0 space that might be a game changer for Microsoft.  Such Great Expectations, and though Bill may one day tell all in some memoir or through the opening of some time capsule somewhere long after he is gone…I will tell you now. The man who created Lotus Notes and Groove came to Microsoft with a mandate and a vision that was his to make real – and Ray Ozzie has failed…failed so utterly and completely with the Windows Live brand that evenMicrosoft insiders have been scratching their heads for some time — that were I one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, this might be an appropriate time to pull one out of the rafters. Heck, even Robert Scoble, long time Microsoft supporter and on the cutting edge of all things social networking these days (as his latest Twitter rant so clearly illustrates), has long moved on..

Now of course, I wouldn’t call Microsoft “done” yet, and here are just a few differences between them and the “Big 3″….

1. Microsoft is ”still” hugely profitable – but let’s face it – they still make most of their money making software that runs on people’s PCs.  And specifically – people’s PCs that run Windows – thus the importance of Windows 7.

2. Microsoft is finally listenting to customers – As Ina Freid from CNet is saying, with Windows 7 Microsoft clearly has listened both to end customers and businesses.  But is it too late?

3. Microsoft is “quietly” taking market share back from Apple – Yes, believe it or not, the Microsoft marketing engine, thought ineffective for so long is (much to my surprise as well) beating Apple at its own game lately.  Just look at this market share data as reported by eWeek over atMicrosoft Watch

4. Microsoft is starting to show some “intelligent” passion – Yes, this does not mean Ballmer parading aroundlike a monkey - how embarassing was that to (him and) all of us.  Things have (thank goodness) changed a bit in Redmond since then, and Ballmer is starting to make some sense, as reflected in a recent speech where he pointed to Apple’s perception as a premium product, being a tougher sell in these economic conditions.  Have you checked out theLaptop Hunters ad campaign yet? Here’s a vid

If you pick all this apart, and believe as I do “that it’s all about the apps dummy“, as I wrote in a post that focused on the mobile arena…you might say Microsoft still has a fighting chance.

What DO you say? I’d like to hear it.  Is Microsoft going to join the “legacy networks”? Sound off…

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Browse through all my posts here Thanks…Pedro

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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