Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Something is Rotten in the Town of Redmond

Michael Malone is pulling a Marcellus here in his editorial R.I.P. Microsoft? (via Slashdot - also bouncing around in blogs).

Okay, take a moment to go to that article and contemplate Malone's business intuition. Is your Microsoft group fresh or is it rotting?

Is something rotten in Redmond? Yes! It's the rotting, fleshy mass of way too many misdirected, underutilized, and unneeded Microsofties. You would think if we were actually focused on customer problems and issues, we wouldn't have to go on buying sprees to fill in the gaps with anti-spyware and virus defense. We could grab some of these researchers and Black Hole groups and give them a product to develop that there was a real, tangible, headline-grabbing need for.

If we're the best software development house on Earth, what in earth does it mean that we can't ramp up to write great software to protect our own OS when it's under constant assault? Sure, there's some amount of fiscal responsibility in whipping out the acquisition, but didn't anyone see this slow train-wreck in progress and posit, "Hmm, perhaps we should go and write some of our own protective software?"

(If I wanted to be, ahem, cynical, I'd imagine that anyone suggesting that development idea to up-on-high were told, "We'd get higher quality results going outside - we don't want another SP2 schedule impact.")

Our focus is wildly mismatched with customer needs. Well, assuming that customers actually really need us anymore. We've accomplished our goal with Windows XP and Office 97 and have provided a fine foundation for everyone's day-to-day needs. Why do I need Longhorn to load up my iPod? And in reality, the esoteric features we pile on beyond XP and Office 97 are simply an echo-chamber of geeks' delight. And a source of rot.

I think of what my friends in various groups tell me what they're working on. If just about everyone one of those had to explain their feature to someone waiting in line at Starbucks, they'd receive a polite, "I'm sorry, I just don't understand." (subtext: "I have no idea what you're talking about nor how I'd ever use it, let alone pay good money for it; please stop talking to me.").

Chops to Scoble for running Channel 9 and getting informative blogs streaming out of Microsoft. But I don't believe that's the antithesis to Malone's commentary. Perhaps it just provides more clarity. While Alex Barnett has a Baloney post to the R.I.P. piece, do take time to scan through the comments. Simon St. Laurent adds his insights, too: Microsoft high points... dwindling?

As you wander through the upcoming MSR Tech Fest, sniff the air. Which would you prefer Microsoft to direct its corporate spending towards: half-cooked research software subsidized by Windows and Office profits or products actually focused on contemporary customer needs? Maybe I'll be surprised and find a demo of an adaptive antibody system for Windows, but somehow I think I'll just be watching this year's equivalent to an edge-detected cartoon of a kid swinging on the monkey bars. (And in my mind, as I wander around watching so many hawkers in their grown-up Science Fair booths, I'll just be repeating, "We pay you? We actually pay you?")

When it comes to being able to think ourselves out of a problem (stagnant stock, rot being sniffed by business writers), we need less Edison perspiration and more Tesla IQ. We've currently got breadth coverage of a variety of researchy areas, like monkeys typing in hopes to find the next patented tungsten killer-app. Keep that shtuff in the colleges. Let those people go and trim back into a variety of agile small teams that delight the end-user with their features. Actually end up have Office users clamoring the IT departments to upgrade to the new version of Office because of the oh-I-got-to-get-me-some-of-that features. What would that take?

It would smell good. Like the fresh-off-the-presses, crisp cash.

(Updated: updated the URL of the ABC article to its new location.)

No comments:

Post a Comment