***TL;DR version available at the bottom of comment.***
Sir, I doth protest.
El Reg is being remarkably restrained in documenting Microsoft's fade to black. The comparisons they make are entirely justified. You are watching for real, today, Microsoft taking their cue from the likes of DEC, IBM and SUN. It’s over in all but name; another decade and they will be fodder for much bigger and more innovative companies. The Sun to some future Oracle.
Listen, I am a Microsoft and Red Hat sysadmin. I rely on the stuff to get my job done, and I use it pretty extensively at home. They have to pretty good products, and a lot of quite okay products. They also have a huge festering pile of real stinkers and a corporate culture of exceptional arrogance. To put it quite bluntly they simply aren’t listening to the people who traditionally are buying their products.
There are millions of companies, individuals and even entire governments spending BILLIONS of dollars worldwide on projects whose sole purpose is nothing greater than reducing or eliminating “the Microsoft overhead.” In Millions more companies worldwide, Microsoft is treated as legacy software; they have moved to other platforms, and started down the long road to “not Microsoft.”
Listen: it will take a decade, maybe more…but the game is over. In order to simply survive the next ten years the company would need a change of corporate culture they are pathologically unable to commit to. As arrogant as I claim Microsoft to be, and in full knowledge of how arrogant this statement is to make, I swear to you on everything I believe in that I could do a better job with that company than their entire extant board of directors.
The condensed version of the solution to the company’s woes is:
1) Fire a very large % of their senior management and replace them with individuals who are significantly more open-minded. These folks need to be listening to voices both from within the company and from without and searching constantly for new, good ideas. They should most emphatically /not/ simply be copying other business models once another megacorp has established themselves in the market.
2) They need to have an internal group that vets any non-Skunkworks business plan for viability. If there’s no business case to be made, it needs to be murdered. These analyses need to recur for each project on a regular basis, and recommendations from the business group need to be taken seriously. You can’t be everything to everyone, and sometimes you just get to market too late to make a dent.
3) Microsoft also needs a corporate communications specialist. There are a lot of warring fiefdoms and Microsoft and this absolutely /must/ be put to bed. One strong corporate vision, and (almost) everyone plays along. The almost is because you always need a Skunkworks or three.
4) Skunkworks. Microsoft needs a few. Microsoft in fact has a few right now, (Microsoft research,) but I feel these need to be given more funding and greater room to run amok. Perhaps 90% of what they create never makes it to the product stage, but they will generate a lot of experience that can be incorporated into future products later on. More importantly, they crank out an absolutely gigantic patent portfolio. This is a deadly serious requirement in modern Big Tech.
5) Simplification. Part of the reason Microsoft is earning so much resentment is that their offerings are so complex. The claim is that this is to hep their customers, but the reality is that it leads to confusion and irritation. The solution is not a massive continual diversification of products, but to incorporate new features into existing products. It makes people feel they are getting real value from upgrading, reduces the per-company licensing burden and will help grow some of that rapidly dwindling market share.
6) Licensing. The total amount of money that a given business has to spend on licensing won’t change just because Microsoft decided that what was once one product is now two. (With separate licensing and CALs, etc.) They are bleeding everyone dry and this is leading to those aforementioned “abandon Microsoft before they kill us” projects. When your entire product line starts to be treated as legacy for no reason other than cost overruns, then you are taxing your customers too hard.
7) Standards. Like it or not, data portability has become a huge concern. Microsoft can’t play the proprietary standards game for much longer. Working hard towards actual open standards while ramping up the Skunkworks so they can compete on features while keeping margins high is the only hope. If they fail to make more than token gestures towards open standards they will not only be viewed as legacy, but very soon here as hostile.
If you read through these points, I think you’ll find that all seven of them are completely against the corporate culture of most of the management types working at Microsoft. Yet, if they aren’t each and every one of them addressed, Microsoft will continue to bleed market share and eventually fade away.
As such, I feel the “negativity” is entirely justified. Microsoft has reached a crisis point, (in fact I could argue that crisis point was around 2007,) and they have responded poorly. I would go so far as to call everything they have attempted in the past five years ****ed near an abject failure.
Windows Server 2008 R2 is an exception; it was more than a minor upgrade to it’s predecessor, it was truly a fantastic operating system in it’s own right, and worth every single penny you could pay for it. Windows 7 on the other hand was nothing more than what Vista should have been. It was too late, and it did nothing more than catch Microsoft up to the state of the art at the time of release. It didn’t innovate past their competition or buy them any time. In fact their competition is largely out in front one more time, innovating on smaller platforms with far greater battery life and ease of use.
Almost everything else that got release with this wave of products is the same story. Exchange 2010 was okay, but only because I turned the turd that was Exchange 2007 into something that was marginally acceptable. Office 2010 similarly was nothing more than polishing the turd of Office 2007. LCS 2007R2 and SQL 2008 R2 stand out as being some of the only winners of the “extended family.”
Silverlight is taking too long, and WinMo is too little, to late. The platform is utterly dead and it hasn’t even hit the streets. The impossible to comprehend “elevnteen squillion versions that are sort of the same but not” is a familiar song that is flat out not going to cut it in the very consumer-centric mobile and embedded spaces.
***TL;DR version of this comment:***
Microsoft suffers from a chronic FAILURE TO EXECUTE. This is in turn a failure of management. The management who control the finances, vision and direction of the company. That direction is to all indications “straight into the ground.”
Please do not get me confused for an anti-Microsoft hater, an Apple fanboy, Googletard or other such one dimensional individual. As I said way at the top, I use Microsoft products every day, right alongside my Red Hat. I want Microsoft to succeed more than most, because I consider them one of the only viable checks and balances against an increasingly terrifying Google and a sociopathic Apple.
It isn’t going to happen however; the extant management of Microsoft isn’t capable of making the required changes, or actually listening to their paying customers.