Microsoft's Dilemma

Randall Stross writes today in the New York Times The Computer Industry Comes With Built-In Term Limits

I think what Microsoft misses in the whole situation are two things: a strategy, and tactics.
In strategical terms, they don’t know what they want. In tactics – they don’t know how to perform in a world, which is changing.
The problem is that like the dinosaurs Microsoft faces that there’s a new world out there – some animals have become cleverer, they’ve developed claws and nails. And they eat pieces of Microsoft, byte by byte, to use the digital vocabulary.
Mr. Stross says that “It’s Google, of course, that has developed the musculature to step forward and lay claim to being Microsoft’s successor as industry leader in the Internet era.”
But it’s not really the musculature that does the job. If it was about muscles only, IBM could have taken over Microsoft.
It is about the part of the body that made the man ruler of the planet, or at least, gave him advance over the other animals. The brain.

Google behaves exactly like a new, updated animal in the time of the dinosaurs. It doesn’t challenge Microsoft, but slowly and surely bites off pieces of it – first the advertisements, then the most profitable business of all – the office suit. But it does it brilliantly – not offering cheaper versions of the same software, but offering a whole new doctrine – an office-less world! A world, where users don’t need expensive hardware to run the constantly growing in Megabytes Microsoft’s software. A world, where users can have access to their mail, documents, pictures, and games from every point of this planet. And – if we trust Vint Cerf – soon from every point of each planet of the Solar system.

Microsoft also falls victim of its own policy – alienating citizens by corruption deals (like the one in Bulgaria; just read some more here), or making enemies whole governments, like the European Commission; or going after a poor teacher in Russia for using “illegal” software (the teacher was later acquitted, after intervention by President Putin); or chasing down users in developing countries via the malicious activities of the Business Software Alliance (examples in Bulgaria are countless!).

But not everything is lost, yet. Microsoft could change. And if their current management doesn’t know how to do it, perhaps they can go out and ask. It is not that difficult to change Microsoft. It is difficult to change the mantra that only Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer can run the company. Once the shareholders decide they need new leadership, they just need to go out and ask the simple question, “Who can change Microsoft to become a non-evil company”.

Mr. Stross says, “It’s unfortunate, as a $300 billion prize could be collected by Microsoft shareholders: that would be the increase in market capitalization, should the share price return to its high of $59.56, attained in 1999, from its current price of $29.99.”

But it’s not that difficult. I think that the price can not only return, but go even higher than the $ 59.56. One just needs to have a dream. And, money to make it happen. Microsoft has the money, but doesn’t have the dream. And this is their problem.

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