Just frustrated. I’m frustrated that a company with so much money and expertise is just sitting there. To me, Microsoft seems like more of a consumer than an innovator these days—a drifting red giant, gobbling up and incinerating smaller objects that get too close. Ben Brooks makes a compelling and sobering argument that it’s time to replace Steve Ballmer. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could argue in favor of Ballmer anymore. From a stockholder’s perspective, there’s no doubt MSFT flatlined when Bill Gates left.
The world is changing; Microsoft isn’t
Technologically, the world was quite different in the 1990s when Microsoft ascended to its throne. Computers were expensive, and most households generally only had one computer—if any at all.
Most knowledge workers needed their employers to supply their technology in the 1990s, and let’s face it: the choice was the PC.
But an unmistakable trend started in the first decade of the 21st century. The consumer—aided by consumer-centric companies like Apple and Google—became empowered. The consumer began to afford, and they began to choose. The consumer became less reliant on their Microsoft-bound employers.
Inertia is a powerful force, though. Objects set in motion in the 1990s have stayed in motion. Like a comfy, if out of fashion, pair of cargo pants, Windows and Microsoft Office are still around—and in an undeniably big way. But how long can a late life star live off a fuel source that isn’t being replaced?
More on point: Where does a company that’s all business belong in a consumer-centric world? That’s what Microsoft shareholders should really be wondering.
Our loss, too
More than anything, I’m just frustrated with a company that could have a lot to offer consumers in the post-PC era.
Microsoft could use their expertise to develop apps for iOS and other mobile platforms. They could leverage their immensely bright workforce to tear down Windows and make it more mobile. They could build web apps that aren’t just half-baked clones of things that already exist. They could sever ties with the Windows brand altogether in the mobile space.
But they won’t. They just aren’t wired for innovative change. In the words of former Microsoft VP Dick Brass:
Unlike other companies, Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation. Some of my former colleagues argue that it actually developed a system to thwart innovation. Despite having one of the largest and best corporate laboratories in the world, and the luxury of not one but three chief technology officers, the company routinely manages to frustrate the efforts of its visionary thinkers.