Sunday, November 30, 2008

Microsoft: Change happened!

Much delayed post. I wanted to support this post with graphical animation. As of now I will stick to just text until my graphic design skills improve!

It amazes that how companies change so much, that they become completely opposite of what made them an initially success. In an interview George Lucas said "He fought big studios and started independent production but his new little company grew and eventually become like a big studio, just like the Dark Vader character who initially fights the dark side but eventually moves to dark side"

During 80s and 90s Microsoft followed the following strategy. (Warning, this post is not a result of research work, its just based on my casual reading of various web article, forum and books, over period of time. I don't have the time or inclination to give detailed reference)

- Embrace and Extend
- Avoid NIH (not invented here) syndrome
- Build 'ecosystem' of partners and Developers

Here is an example that describe Microsoft's above strategy:

MSDOS: Based on QDOS (Quick and Dirty OS)

Yes, Microsoft's most successful product (OS) wasn't an in-house innovation.

In 70s and 80s computer industries biggest competitor was IBM. Everyone wanted to be or beat IBM. However it was very difficult to survive competing against IBM. IBM was the dark side. Microsoft did not directly fight but leveraged IBM, it tricked IBM with clever license agreement.

For all the criticism from the open source world, the early days of Microsoft was actually very Open. MS wanted MSDOS and Windows OS to be more open than Mac, the word "Open" had different connotation, 'open' as in 'open' to many hardware and not tied to one specific hardware.

So, in early days, Microsoft's clear focus was to develop large network of hardware and software companies that will make Microsoft OS the platform of choice.

All that has changed. Now its seems to have developed a huge chain of competitors that its fiercely fighting.
  • Apple - ipod, iphone, home entertainment
  • Google - Search, Advertisement
  • IBM - Enterprise
  • Adobe - Rich internet Application and Creative works
  • Salesforce - Application on Demand
  • Wii/Sony - Gaming and home entertainment
  • Amazon - Cloud computing
  • Developers - Open source web platforms - Rails, Django, Java stack, AJAX, etc. The worst situation is majority of this open source developers hate Microsoft. Frustration with IE has been single most reason to develop this animosity. Most developers are OS agnostic, however development experience of making application work with IE has left a bad taste.
  • OS- Linux, Mac OSX
  • Nokia - Mobile OS
Microsoft is now building following (not an exhaustive list) product in-house. What happened to NIH?
  • Search engine- live
  • Gaming- Xbox
  • Music Player- Zune
  • Cloud computing - Azure
  • Rich Internet Application - Sliverlight
From being a company that thrived in building partners and developers it has become a company that competes with any new innovation that comes up in the computing arena.


Vijay Chidambaram said...

I believe this change is global - not just restricted to Microsoft. As technology gets more prevalent, the focus shifts from having the cheapest product that satisfies your need, to products that exceed your expectations. Customers have come to expect innovations as a part of every product they buy. Hence the focus of every company out there is not just to create a product that works and sells, but rather to create a product that is innovative and will stand out.

Anantharaman Mani said...

True. The point I wanted to highlight was Microsoft is fighting everyone out there, every innovation. This can be detrimental.

It needs to fuel and partner, but the very platform (OS -core of MS) conflicts in taking a true open minded relationship.

e.g It can't get into open relationship with Amazon, Google, Digg, Slashdot these run on Open source technologies which conflicts with Microsoft's cash cow - OS.