Fell From the Tree

Microsoft needs Direction

Speaking of companies in crisis, here’s former Apple and Palm executive Michael Mace:

Nice idea, Microsoft, but you’re closing the barn door not only after the horses left, but after the barn burned down.

Hasn’t that been Microsoft’s issue for the last decade? The company has always been fighting the last battle. While Apple was developing the iPhone, Microsoft was desperately trying to ship Vista. While Apple was developing the iPad, Microsoft was playing catch-up with it’s mobile phone OS – which it released just in time for Android to have already stolen its place.

Microsoft isn’t in danger of going bankrupt, but they’re right on the cusp of becoming irrelevant in the consumer space. It’s maintained it’s dominance in the shrinking PC space while failing to gain a foothold at all in the post PC world Apple and Google are already living in.

Microsoft has been catching up for so long that the company forgot to define a vision of its own. Microsoft may be full of bright engineers, but the longer you watch them, the more you realize that those engineers have no idea what they’re supposed to be working towards.

It’s this lack of vision that leads to tasteless ad campaigns like Scroogled that reek of desperation even as Apple is putting out ads that tug at your heartstrings.

Last week in an interview with Fortune, outgoing CEO, Steve Ballmer said:

In the last five years, probably Apple has made more money than we have. But in the last 13 years, I bet we’ve made more money than almost anybody on the planet. And that, frankly, is a great source of pride to me…’How do you make money?’ was what I got hired to do. I’ve always thought that way.

And that’s the problem. Microsoft’s strategy under Ballmer was to make money. It had very little to do with making good products, or creating a roadmap for the future. Contrast that with Jony Ive, speaking last year:

We are really pleased with our revenues but our goal isn’t to make money. It sounds a little flippant, but it’s the truth. Our goal and what makes us excited is to make great products. If we are successful people will like them and if we are operationally competent, we will make money.

Now, as Ballmer’s lame duck period stretches on, Mace has pointed out some of the conflicting rumors coming out of Redmond – all of which seem to make very little sense. I agree with Mace, for Microsoft’s sake:

If Microsoft is to stay together, the new CEO needs to be either a product visionary or know where to find one. I wish them luck.

As do I.