Microsoft’s Cluelessness

I have been a Microsoft guy my whole life.  I used DOS, Windows 3.1 as a kid.  I beta tested Windows 95, Windows 98, NT 4, 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.  I also beta tested every browser they have ever shipped from the first version of Internet Explorer as well as every version of Office.  I know how to install Active Directory, Exchange and a host of other Microsoft server products.  I have an xBox and am typing on a Microsoft natural keyboard.  I am not a Microsoft hater.

However, I have seen a slow and steady decline in Microsoft’s ability to do interesting things.  They have 88,414 employees and hardly any innovation to show for it.   Here are some examples:

Where is the Microsoft equivalent of Google Analytics? Do they not understand the enormous benefit in data you get by putting your JavaScript on every website in the universe?  Do they not understand how much money Google AdWords makes and how strategic Analytics is to that mission?  Are they blind?  It’s not hard to create!  How could they possibly miss this?

By the way, I went to Microsoft AdCenter in Chrome and got this:

Is it really that hard to develop for all browsers?  I have to do it.  I have to support your sucky browser.  It would be nice if you returned the favor by supporting the browser I use.  Adwords supports IE.  It’s just lame.

Browsers. Internet Explorer is a blight on humanity at this point.  Just switch to Webkit please, for the love of God and make my life easier.  I hate Internet Explorer and have no idea why you bother.

Windows Phones. I had an iPaq (not iPad) from HP in 1999.  It was a mobile device running a modified Windows OS.  This was over a decade before the iPhone.  OVER 10 YEARS!  How the hell did they not innovate for a decade?!  How could they be so ahead of the curve and not be dominant in this battle?  How did Android come in and steal the show?  To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, What the hell is going on out there?!  Next time you have a decade long lead, you need to PUSH THE ENVELOPE, not rest on your laurels!

Microsoft Money.  I understand this isn’t the sexiest piece of software in the world.  I get that even Intuit doesn’t care that much about it.  But still, you just give up?  You have 88,000 people and you just GIVE UP??  Quicken is not a great program.  It’s half-assed at best.  Mint is not a substitute because you can’t log that you wrote a check.  Quicken is finally getting some improvement because of the talent from Mint.  You could have bought Mint rather than Intuit.  Are you telling me that Intuit is more innovative than Microsoft?  They are the LEAST innovative company in the world!  I know, I worked there.  Come on!

Keyboards and Mice. It looks to me like you haven’t even tried to innovate here for 10 years.

Tablets.  I see nothing.

New exciting, never thought of that before ideas.  Do you hear crickets chirping?   …  that is the sound of nothingness.  It is deafening to me.

The one area you have done any innovation is on the xBox.  Good job there.

Root cause: You aren’t hiring enough creative thinkers.  You aren’t empowering enough creative thinkers.  You have lost your edge and your ability to try things.  A big company can swing the bat with more oomph than a smaller company.  However, I just can’t see innovation there for the life of me.  Look, I am not a Microsoft hater.  I write this in the hope that it will kick you in the ass and wake you up!

Does anyone know someone at Microsoft?  Someone who knows Ballmer?  Forward it along.  I am sick of how stale they are becoming.  It’s not about how much money you make to me.  It’s about how much you inspire me.  And right now, Microsoft doesn’t inspire me.

9 replies on “Microsoft’s Cluelessness”

I agree with you Glenn. My whole career has been leveraged to Excel. They have messed so much with the UI since 2003 that the latest version (2010) is virtually unusable for me as an expert user. I persevere, but I keep 2003 going for when I just hit the wall with 2010 – which is sadly too often.

“Of course it won’t last forever”, but that is what they said 10 years ago. Microsoft is a business who only has one goal, which is to make money, and their current business plan does exactly that, in fact their gross profits have steadily increased every year since 2000. So MS Access might be the worst product I’ve ever used and hasn’t been updated in a decade, but apparently people keep buying it. Of course, they could have made even more money, but they are still doing just fine (even if they refuse to innovate). Now if Google comes out with Android for your PC (or Android for a phone powerful enough to replace your PC) that might make a difference. And although Google’s stock market cap it close to Microsoft’s, Microsoft still earns and profits more than twice what Google does.

Well, Intuit bought Mint, so I guess they got it in the end.

But Microsoft is the new IBM, just with less research labs. Huge, lumbering, slow, and existing solely upon legacy contracts made before the current crop of new devices in the computing world (smartphones, tablets) were even thought of.

I think the reason why MS failed to innovate is because they are embroiled in the politics and turf wars of departments. They have ~88K employees, there’s got to be some level of politics and etc. Probably a lot of right hand not talking to the left hand stuff too!

One of the things I’ve learned after 30 years in this craft, including 3 stints at Microsoft, can be summed up by comparison with SIngapore politics (where I now live). One group-within-a-group, the extension of the inner circle around one man, have had total power for so long that they forget what having to actually deal with customers (citizens, voters) is like; they’ve forgotten how to actually respond to those whom they purportedly serve in any other way than “here it is; you’ll do this the way We tell you to because it’s the way We tell you to.” They spend more energy, money and time “crushing the opposition” (or competition) that they’ve forgotten how to be for anybody or anything except themselves.

I see Microsoft under Steve Ballmer as having many parallels with this current “third generation” political hierarchy. I’m often reminded of Apple’s 1984 Macintosh ad; except this isn’t 1984 so much as Animal Farm.

John F. Kennedy may have been talking about political systems and Governments when he said “those who make peaceful evolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable”, but I suspect we’ll see some variant of that played out in the personal-technology industries over the next few years. Microsoft will continue to be King of the Hill, or “more clever than anyone else” (to use a local expression attributed to a Once-“Great” Leeader)… right up until they aren’t. How the relevant “world” reacts to that change will be interesting, to say the least.

Whatya think?