I started writing a series of posts on Microsoft this weekend intended to look back at where the company went wrong, leveraging that thinking to see where the company can correct itself for the future. Then Microsoft bought Nokia last night. The die, I’m afraid, is now cast and whomever steps in as CEO has his or her future dictated.
Most analysis of late has been around one of two paths for Microsoft: a consumer company or an enterprise one. I never felt either was the right path and, with recent events and my soon-to-be-revealed thinking, I think I’m more right than ever.
Let’s analyze the two options. Option 1 is to be a consumer company, Microsoft doubles down on hardware. XBox, smartphones and tablets become their center-piece. The company re-organizes to emphasize innovation and bringing said innovations to market, moving toward an “Apple-like” company structure. This will fail for one simple reason (although there are likely many reasons why): the Microsoft culture is set and big company cultures can not be changed.
Option 2 is to drop the consumer aspect of its business and go enterprise. As someone pointed out (Horace Dediu?), all the former PC bigwigs are going that way: IBM, HP, Dell. I don’t agree with this strategy, either, for MS. While Microsoft has incredible reach in enterprise, I don’t believe it has the services business that would allow it to do a full-IBM, who was basically a services business that also sold hardware back before it divested itself of hardware.
I wrote an article a couple of months ago entitled, If I Were Running Microsoft… . In it I explained that if I were running Microsoft I’d spin out Windows, drop XBox, and focus all my resources on developer tools. To quote myself:
To most the term “developer tool” means the kind of tool a developer would use to write in C or .net or some other programming language. But in this case I have a much broader meaning. Yes, I mean Microsoft should still create those tools, working closely with the Windows Company to give them away for free, but it should also focus on a series of developer tools we don’t really consider tools: Azure, Server, and Office.
This, my dear reader, is the backdrop for my thinking. Tomorrow I will get into why Microsoft went off the rails and how none of the company’s recent moves gets it back on. (Read Part 2)