A Sinking Ship? I think not.

I was reading someone’s blog and saw this mildly amusing entry:

 MS Explorer Crashes

Really, name a cruise ship the MS Explorer, and of course it’ll crash. Silly people. 🙂

Ship Sinking

A Canadian cruise ship struck submerged ice off Antarctica and began sinking, but all 154 passengers and crew, Americans and Britons among them, took to lifeboats and were plucked to safety by a passing cruise ship.
The Chilean navy said the entire MS Explorer finally slipped beneath the waves Friday evening, about 20 hours after the predawn accident near Antarctica’s South Shetland Islands.

I don’t think she or anyone else is ready to call Microsoft a sinking ship just yet, but it echoed some of the concerns I have for this company that I am now so passionate about. Recently there was an article written about Bill Gates getting agitated when an interviewer asked why Microsoft is not seen as being innovative. Essentially what he said was that in fact Microsoft is innovative in business software, but that the media – even business publications like the Wall Street Journal – seemed to continue to ignore the great innovations Microsoft was making in that arena and focus eniterly on consumer innovations. Woohoo – my thoughts exactly. Now, Bill my friend, what are we going to do about it?

I was arguing with Anurag (more ranting, but he let it slide) that Microsoft isn’t doing enough on the consumer front and focusing too much on businesses. And in typical Pras fashion, I painted a picture for how the next decade might play out if we continued down this path path: More and more, computing will move to the cloud, because a lot of what a person does makes more sense happenning up in the cloud. Microsoft will focus on selling servers and services to businesses to achieve this seamlessness between the desktop and the cloud. Demand for robust desktop computing experienes will decline.  For Microsoft that will mean users shifting to lower SKUs of Windows or refusing to upgrade.  This will also hurt Apple, but it will hurt Microsoft more. Apple’s positioning as a premium brand will provide some cushioning because their customers are demanding a rich & robust desktop experience and relying on someone else (or nothing at all) to provide that seamless online component. Microsoft will be squeezed by online services like Google on one side and Apple the premium desktop box on the other side. And then it will be left the business server and services provider. Their only desktops will be data-entry terminals with thin clients, as well-paid information workers demand Apples. Eventually Apple will become the box maker, with all the higher-value-add services up in the Google cloud, which itself will be a platform for other online services and slowly taking share from Microsoft business services.

Now that I’m through with my doomsday scenario, here’s why this won’t happen:

Microsoft is investing huge in online services, and is better positioned than Google to provide a pervasive seamless experience that starts on your desktop, goes sideways to your living room box, over to your mobile music & phone devices, and then up into the cloud where all of this is unified in one online space, one online identity, and one platform on the ground and in the cloud that enables other services. If Microsoft gets its act together, if Microsoft digs deep and says “we will make this seamless,” then they will continue to stay relevant. But they have to decide they want to think about the best interests of the user, rather than the best interests of the business. Because in the end the way to a business’ heart is just as much through it’s mind as through it’s pocketbook. And the experiences of the 500 people at a midsize business that use your software day and in and day out actually matters more than experiences of the 5 IT people at that business for whom you’ve saved some time and effort with your innovations. Look at the iPhone. It works on the EDGE network which is terrible. It doesn’t have a keyboard. Doesn’t do exchange server and therefor all my email. And yet because of the amazing innovation and beautiful experience, people are willing to forgive almost any fault. I’m convinced that winning the hearts & minds of the end user, building that emotional connection between the user and the product, is what will turn customers into brand evangelists. That is where you will achieve long-term success.

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One thought on “A Sinking Ship? I think not.

  1. microsoft is going to have to build that emotional connection ridiculously fast if its growth is going to keep up with apple’s in the near future. on another note, some of your iphone complaints – namely that about exchange – are true of windows mobile as well. the only email i CAN check efficiently is outlook; nothing else works. windows mobile is probably a more powerful mobile OS, i’ll give it that, but it’s far more complicated and not anywhere near as usable. the iphone, like all of apple’s consumer products, is more usable, more aesthetic, and more public, which i feel is an important factor you overlooked. you, sir, are at the forefront of fixing this problem. get on it! i’ve been a loyal msft girl all my life, but i’ve stopped resisting the shift to apple and google because i’m having a hard time finding a reason to continue doing so.

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