Where could Microsoft Go?
I was watching the last Portland Blazer game of the season last night and they panned over to show Steve Ballmer sitting and talking with Blazer’s owner and Microsoft cofounder, Paul Allen. From the look on Ballmer’s face I couldn’t help but wonder if he might be asking Paul about options that might work for him in retirement. Maybe Paul was advising about the pros and cons of professional sports franchise ownership since Paul owns all in the NW except the Seattle Mariners. Of course the direction of this post is really headed toward the question, where is Microsoft going. Yes, time is running out for Microsoft to have any influence over the legacy of Windows and Office. It is innovate or get out of the way.
I don’t want to bash Microsoft, Windows is an operating system that will influence the next decade and MS Office obviously carries tremendous importance today, but may be the most vulnerable. I just think that it will be better for all if the Microsoft ship stays afloat and we all know where it is sailing. So what could Microsoft do? This probably comes down to dealing with the core Windows/Office and redefining their Web strategy. Now I step out of the box to toss out a few ideas.
I think Microsoft should consider locking down Windows and possibly selling their own PC. Now that is a bit radical but isn’t the XBox their most impressive product in a decade. But really, Windows has everything going for it right now except for a future. Microsoft could pull back the code, optimize it with a RISC marriage to a customized Intel Processor and sell a screaming fast PC that no longer leaves doors open for attack. Of course this would be a somewhat disruptive transition especially for their PC distributor relationships. Maybe Dell or HP would offer a strong manufacturing partnership right now. And it probably means abandoning many customers and their favorite applications. Maybe you Open Source Windows 7. I think a proprietary path could be justified. Build confidence that a Windows PC has a future and protect all other enterprise applications that are based on that. Who knows, this could open up new markets and actually be considered innovative.
The other big question would be Internet strategy. If Microsoft can protect the mother ship then they may still be able to exercise some clout with respect to selling Office related applications. But the Office clients probably need to be free and totally web enabled soon. So by selling Office I mean the enterprise areas that have Office influence like SharePoint and server applications. Bing’s greatest value right now may be to partner with Apple against Google. That said, pride may be the greatest obstacle for Microsoft to overcome. Which takes me back to Paul Allen giving Steve Ballmer some good advice about retiring.