Can we save the corporate elephant?

Since the unhappy days of the Taligent alliance, I have been no fan of Microsoft. The corporate culture, the software development methodologies, the dreaded EULA and the arrogant market dominance all offended my sensibilities. With the exception of perhaps Excel, their products didn’t thrill me although I still occasionally use some on the WinXP I run as a virtual machine on my Macs.

That out of the way, I really don’t want to see the extinction of this great woolly mammoth, which did contribute significantly to the phenomenal growth of the home personal computer. The reasons for their decline are well-documented and obvious:
— they are not innovative, and always late to the party;
— they continue to foist defective, inadequately tested, software on a previously captive audience;
— they cling to 30-year-old concepts of predatory licensing and pricing.

The schoolyard bully is now seeing some tougher kids in the playground, and it’s a hard lesson.

So why do I care about saving them? Well, they’re still making a lot of money, which I hope Warren Buffett can inspire them to put to good use. They employ a lot of people, and have a massive number of users deserving of ongoing support.

It’s unlikely many reading this will remember how Digital Research owned the microcomputer market with CP/M and MP/M and Microsoft only got a start in the PC-DOS market because neither DR nor IBM saw a future for 16-bit desktop processing. What goes around, comes around. IBM ultimately had a far superior desktop operating system in OS/2 (another VHS/Betamax story), but their arrogance and lack of marketing skills killed the opportunity for personal computers to have reliable, truly multi-tasking windowing experience. They got out of the desktop business and faced a decades in the wilderness after having been totally dominant in the IT market. Remember the old saw “No one was ever fired for buying IBM.”? IBM finally got religion, embraced open source and focused delivering real value in the mid and upper markets where they still had an edge.

Here’s how Microsoft can stem the bleeding, and emerge a better company:
— identify your strengths<ul>

– gaming including hardware
– familiar user interface
– enormous user base who don’t really want to go away
– brand awareness</ul>

— walk away from your misadventures<ul>

– leave the music business to Apple &amp; Amazon (is Zune dead already?)
– leave the smartphone/tablet business to Apple &amp; Google (I know, that’s a hard one)
– save Internet Explorer by buying Firefox and re-skinning, otherwise Chrome will eat everyone’s lunch
– get out of the kernel business; buy a good Linux distro (or better, buy Novell &amp; get SuSE free) and put all your effort into making Windows 9 the best user experience</ul>

— stop treating your customers like criminals – the people with the eye-patches and parrots on their shoulders are your employees, not your long-suffering customers
— provide a simple, inexpensive migration path for all the XP users to finally let go (no call-centre queues for activation, please – see above under “criminal”)
— make Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” mandatory reading for all Microsoft management

A note for Mr Ballmer:
Should you heed my advice herein given freely, my optional consultancy fee is trivial in the context of the increased value of your stockholding. A simple $5m donated to Buy1GIVE1 (naturally it’s tax deductible) will suffice.

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