Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Second place is a set of steak knives." (Glengarry Glen Ross)

A week or so ago it was announced Steve Ballmer was stepping down as Microsoft's CEO. A collective sigh of relief or muffled cheers of jubilation could be heard in Starbucks across the land. For 10 years the rule of Big B squandered and sidestepped opportunities that saw Microsoft (MSFT) stumble as it finally arrived at it's massive bureaucratic state.

The bright spots in the last decade or so are few. Xbox. WinXP and Win7. Xbox Live. These are the best success stories the public know and understand. But what about MSFT's backbone systems? Developer tools? Online services? Steady performers, but lack the media sizzle.

But the CEO transition isn't about hardware or software. For any large company, the CEO doesn't do the actual "work" for researching, developing, and delivering products. They lead the company in doing it. And in my opinion, MSFT has lacked a visionary leader to keep up with the change and pulse of technology.

Windows 8 is getting a bad rap because it's ahead of the curve. It's MSFT's second try at touch screen technology. MSFT is trying something Apple isn't- making it seamless between the two uses of the operating system. And people don't like it because it's different. Things don't work the way they should. Other software is lagging behind to meet Win8's requirements.

It is a visionary product, but it was done with a poor visionary mindset. It ignored everything people wanted. That's not visionary; it's a dictatorship.

What MSFT needs is a vision and visionary leaps and bounds. We are a mobile society. We are not constrained to desks or cubicles. We have decentralized. We have access to information virtually anywhere. The future is now, cliche notwithstanding. Truth be told, the future is 2 or 3 years ago. The idea pipeline needs to be full to capitalize on the coming generation of computer users.

MSFT also needs to recapture the atmosphere that made it so great. The "we've never done this before, so we'll do this" mentality. Forget trying to appease shareholders, media, the financial press. Focus on your strengths within the skills of the company. Create innovative, need-based products, and some didn't-know-we-needed-it products.

Bill Gates' vision was a computer in every home. What's MSFT's vision now? Sustain and develop world-class software and tools to maintain a profitable company for employees and shareholders? Who the f*** will get excited about that?