Microsoft is a giant business searching for its strategy. They lost it in the early 2000s and have been floundering pretty openly about how to get it back. Eight years ago they told us it was their .Net environment – Java programmers watched in crash and burn. Then it was buying Nokia (a billion dollar write-off), after that Microsoft told us about how their cloud technology was the next greatest thing (quietly rebranded three times so far), then it was that RT Surface thing (another billion dollar write-off). Finally Steve Ballmer said, “Fuck it” and bought a basketball team. Now it is Satya Nadella’s turn and he gives us Windows 10. If I owned a sports team on the West Coast, I’d be sending Satya a bunch of complimentary tickets.
Microsoft has a pretty serious problem. What does the Xbox, Windows, Nokia, the Microsoft Band, and the RT have in common with one another? Nothing. So how do you craft a business strategy that includes them all? Of course you’re perplexed. If you had two billion dollars, you’d go out and buy a basketball team.
Microsoft’s strengths are its server technologies, SharePoint and Office. That’s it. Sure it has Azure, OneDrive, C#, Visual Studio, .Net, Silverlight, and the like, but who really uses them (besides Microsoft developers), how do they stack up with other vendor’s tools (last place usually) and how much do they add to Microsoft’s bottom line (they all lose money)?
Microsoft’s 2009 Business Strategy – Silverlight (Super Duper .Net Software To Replace The World’s Java and C++ Development Environments. For Real This Time.)
Microsoft is now trying to reignite the Windows franchise with Windows 10. To help make it irresistible, they are basically giving it away. It is not a terrible OS but not a particularly compelling one either. The thing is designed for Windows mobile devices which no one uses. Windows 10 is not going to solve that problem. The interface is clean and spiffy but most of us already use Android or Apple stuff which have equally clean and spiffy interfaces and also use technologies that are a generation or two ahead of Windows 10.
Microsoft has invested billions and billions on trying to create a mobile platform for Windows. It bought Nokia (missing the key fact that Nokia had zero experience in smartphones), it went into the hardware business with the Surface, it paid developers to write mobile applications for Windows 8. It was all money down the shitter. Every cent of it. Now Microsoft ‘hopes’ that a snazzy interface, software that talks to you and yet another browser will get people fired up for a Windows phone or tablet. It may take another twelve months for this to all play out but the end game is preordained – more billions down the shitter.
So what’s Satya Nadella suppose to do? Focus on their corporate software business and screw the consumer market. That sounds a whole lot like Blackberry’s strategy 10 years ago. Make software apps the run on everybody’s platform and sell them for peanuts? That’s the Google approach. But Google has this advertising search engine that prints enough money for them to lose enormous amounts of money giving away poorly designed software.
Or split the company up into a server software company, an Office company and an Xbox company. Liquidate everything else. Then buy a baseball team; buy a football franchise. Start doing something that people really want and make a few bucks along the way while you’re at it.