Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gone Fishin'

I'm spending my days singing that Bing Crosby + Louis Armstrong tune "Gone Fishin'" while I enjoy still waters, quiet trails, and generally sunny skies. As I sit on the hill in between family romps and watch the clouds go by (trying not to hear that Madonna launch music), it certainly causes the reflective "and what am I so concerned about?" moments to kick in.

So here's a quick post to keep the pot stirred. I hope you're out there, enjoying life, too.

Town Hall + FAM + Analysts Coffee Talk: damn, what a past week.

Regarding FAM, MSFT Extreme Makeover has the following post: MSFTextrememakeover Like us, or leave us. In the comments, Charles points to the following post off of Seeking Alpha: Microsoft Investment Requires Too Much Patience - Barron's - Seeking Alpha. Snippet:

Some of the issues that worry analysts:

  1. It was clear from the presentation that many of the growth prospects will take 5-10 years to bear fruit.
  2. The company overspends ("nothing would delight analysts more than a nice big round of cost-cutting.")
  3. The businesses MSFT says it's entering (e.g. advertising and consumer electronics) are far more cut-throat than its current mix.
  4. Microsoft's focus on building internet infrastructure rather than building sites that bring in users is "backward."
  5. Bill Gates's plan to pass control of product development to Ray Ozzie "will not be a smooth one."

Those are certainly all issues to be really concerned about, though #2 reminds me of something Dylan Yolles brought up a couple of times at the coffee talk: control expenses via cost efficiency. Now one grand way to start is to not blow a billion dollars here and there and to avoid any future money losing ventures. Brilliant, I know. Can I have an SPSA grant now?

While Mr. Bach has been appropriately contrite and saying "the billion plus buck loss stops here," the commitment I want is forward looking: we will no longer produce product lines that are sold at a loss. One fine day, the third generation of Xbox will be out there. How about committing to pulling a Nintendo here and making it profitable from day one?

Cost efficiency and controlling spending is a pretty broad area to improve in. I'm glad that head-count growth is so visibly discussed now and that Mr. Liddell is saying that it's not sustainable. Let attrition do its thing for a while. I think the analysts would be thrilled - thrilled I tell you - if we actually shrunk headcount and optimized employee career assignments. Around cost efficiency, I'm concerned that one of our new hires will look over the financial books and, with a twenty-five watt light bulb blazing above his head, say, "Hey, I know, we can save some money cutting back on this luxurious towel service here!"

Around our performance and wondering when our stock price will take off, I just have to ask, "If not now, when?" When will we emerge from the post-growth purgatory Charles DiBona mentions? Can we get a software plus services product line out that that resonates with everyone and makes clear the value of Microsoft rich-client applications plus on-line services?

I hope that the upcoming Windows Live Suite is the beginning of another Office Suite. For free. Hmm, wait a minute... well, anyway, it includes my favorite little application, Windows Live Writer, and given that the Office Suite story turned out so well there's an abundance of opportunity for another suite to emerge. Revenue around this, I can only assume, is built on advertising around the content you generate with the suite. That makes me feel a little dirty, still.

I'm glad that there's more focus on creating products for the consumer. Waaaay back, three years ago, it was part of my reason for launching this little blog. I was tired of all the IT-focused features we were so focused on vs. the forgotten home user. I want the cash and attention of everyone walking along the street. I want knowledge workers demanding to have IT deploy the new Office because it's so friggin' cool and because there are features in there they can't wait to use. I have hope.

Shields up: a while back, Ms. Foley asked if Microsoft can go silent running on features vs. blathering about them years and months before they come out. I hope so. I think everyone of us who has watched a Steve Jobs presentation has always felt envy when he unveils something surprising and new and then says, "And you can buy it at the Apple store this afternoon!"

Well played, sir, well played. Even if it's something I'd never want, my inner geek starts running around screaming OMG OMG OMG!

For anything consumer focused and small, yes, we should be able to do this. Obviously, features that are going to rile up the IT department need a soft landing. But I would prefer to announce the cool stuff right at launch or before launch, to avoid the months and months of discussion and criticism that leads us to, "meh" on launch day.

Other bits:

Okay, back to the hill. Ooo, that cloud looks like Ray Ozzie, confused, pondering, 'Dude, what is this bag, and why have you left me holding it?'

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