I was reading through a MacRumor article regarding the speculation around Stephen Elop becoming CEO and the possible moves regarding where he would take the company – rumours include the idea of spinning off XBOX division (which has been losing money hand over fist – has never actually made any money since its launch if you include the initial investment), the focus on middleware and services with a downplay of the operating system (make it free?). Anyway, reading through the forum replies I saw this jump out at me:
I believe that Office is the only thing keeping MS afloat these days.
And the reply was the following:
Are these serious comments? Where do you people get your information from? wow.
And once again we have another ‘expert’ ignore what the larger point the original poster was trying to make. Microsoft’s whole business model rests on Microsoft Office being used as leverage to boost Windows because people want Microsoft Office (more than just the basic suite) so therefore are required to run Microsoft Windows and running Microsoft Office you’ll obviously need collaboration functionality which is only offered for Windows Server. Without the exclusivity of Office on Windows then Windows wouldn’t stand a chance in the marketplace.
Lets run a scenario (an unlikely one but lets give it a run anyway) and assume that Microsoft decides to provide their complete Microsoft Office stack (including Access, Visio, One Note etc) for OS X and Linux (Redhat Enterprise Desktop) and just for the hell of it we also throw the server stack as part of it as well being available on Linux, Solaris and FreeBSD. With a choice of not having to run Windows to get access to Office and middleware with the assumption that hardware support is a non-issue then why go for Windows over the alternative? why let a company have you as the user by the balls with little in the way of manoeuvrability?
Stephen Elop if he returns and becomes the CEO I could imagine the down playing of the consumer side of the business by selling off XBOX, selling off Bing to Yahoo but the biggest problem is dealing with Bill Gates and him wanting the whole organisation pivoting on his little baby known as Windows. Just as in the past you’ll find that although Elop will want to make necessary structure changes but Bill Gates will get in the way because he wants to protect Windows from not being the centre of the universe; where as CEO’s see value in the middleware (and Office is a pretty damn good product) that needs to be properly exploited to its full advantage particularly in the context of cloud computing and their Azure platform you’ll have the middleware and service growth being hamstrung because of a founders protection of his pet project.
It always reminds me when you look through history and you’ll find that Microsoft gained it’s position in key areas of the market not because of having a superior product but because of such horrible decisions made by their competitors. Apple for example you had circa 1988 a UNIX operating system with a Mac OS GUI and called it A/UX but rather than develop it further they killed it in favour of an inferior operating system that lacked the features which existed on A/UX (multi-user, protected memory, pre-emptive multi-tasking etc) and rumours had it that there was an OSF/1 based A/UX in the works but never released. Then there was Wordperfect Suite and Lotus Smart Suite where the later could have made headway given its ownership by IBM but the lack of migrating to Windows before Office, the lack of being upgraded to 32bit until years after Microsoft and the ignoring of software development by the new CEO Lou Gerstner who focused on cutting spending on R&D and software development in favour of building up their service. The ownership of Wordperfect changed hands multiple times with little in the way of any sort of long term planning let alone the constant mismanagement of Corel resulting in millions wasted on side projects that eventually led no where. Basically the bad management of Microsoft’s competitors pretty much handed the market over to Microsoft without even so much of an effort to challenge Microsoft gaining ground other than a slow retreat with a hope that maybe their dwindling list of loyal customers will stick it out.
Getting back to the issue of Microsoft – to be honest if I was Microsoft I’d be focusing on the bread and butter, enterprise customers, take a giant re-approach to Windows by building a clean operating system based on FreeBSD then virtualising backwards compatibility along with gearing phone, services etc. for enterprise/small/medium business users but then again I’d probably run up against the same problems as any other CEO would have to deal with – 30+ of inertia and vested interests in maintaining the status quo – FreeBSD core utilising libc++ and LLVM, utilising OpenGL and OpenCL with a hardware accelerated GUI onto and WinRT higher level framework (for both Metro and traditional desktop software) but without all the inherent limitations associated because of the current implementation sits onto of Win32. I guess we can all dream about what could be.