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If you were Microsoft, what would you do?

Alright, time to bring up the old proverb: before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes.  (That way, you'll have a mile head start and they won't have shoes to chase you with) ...

Put yourselves in SteveB and BillG's place.  Office and Windows are becoming mature products and upgrade revenue is eroding.  Linux is undercutting the server market.  Google is light-years ahead of MSN search.  Your last major visionary push, which promised much, dwindled down to no more than a reworked version of Java and a better ASP.

But you got 30,000 employees and 52 billion in the bank.  What do you do now?

Alyosha`
Thursday, June 03, 2004

I would split the company up. Microsoft has some incredibly talented individuals, but the nature in which they build themselves an anchor and then tie it around the entire company has grown tiresome to a cynical public. Teams at Microsoft aren't free to make best in breed solutions unless it somehow validates and pushes some central vision. There is too much technologically political baggage hanging off of every design decision.

Dennis Forbes
Thursday, June 03, 2004

I'd make Windows Longhorn insanely great and ship it when it's ready.

"Your last major visionary push, which promised much, dwindled down to no more than a reworked version of Java and a better ASP."

That's a bit harsh, isn't it? I thought Bob had potential. And I believe Microsoft have got ~50K employees, not 30K.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Dennis Forbes hits the nail on the head.  Weird that the anti-trust option would have actually been the silver bullet.

hoser
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Games.  I think RPG and the MMORPG games are in their infancy in terms of the net. I recall years ago (way back in 1996-7) guys at a casino I worked at talked about playing some online game. I worked at an ISP where people played some online game. I did not even play solitaire and rarely played tetris.  But when my kids were visiting we needed things to do so I set them up with their own computers and we had a lan and I thought about buying a game. We played and still play Age of Empires for hours on end.  Since then I've bought all kinds of similar games and even the very bad sequel to that but we still only pay Age of Empires. A great game imho ... of course it could always be better but in that quest they can make it worse as they did but we can stick with the older version (not the real old ones though).

My kids live in another country so we don't get togehter every weekend. They now have DSL. As much as they like AOE it's usually too much trouble for us to get together at the same time to play. I tried some online game but it really looked stupid, I can't recall the name. I could not figure out how Everquest worked. Did I have to buy the software and then go online or download or what? I don't like games like Wolfenstein although my nephews liked that and we hosted a few games. I then found a game called A Tale in The Desert.  http://atitd.com/  very, very interesting. And I actually spent more than a few hours learning and building wealth. You are supposed to be able to build your own civilizations there ... houses, etc. I got my kids to download and connect ... ATITD did a good job to make this easy. I use linux and the kids use windows and it's easy for both of us. But it was too hard for the kids (and it's only in English which is not my kids' native tongue) ... I even think they require a bit too much work to just get some basic stuff. But it is intriguing. I have a paid account and am going to keep at it for ahwile. I think there is tremendous potential here.  HOWEVER, if they try and make me use one operating system then I will probably not do it unless it was VERY good. AOE is so good imho that I keep windows boxes around for when the kids are here but there is no other game I'd say that for.

So I say go full force into games,  MMORPG ...

me
Thursday, June 03, 2004

I watched today "Inside Actor's Studio", I like it. Lipman asked a next guest "what do you do when you not know how to perform?". Actors are not engineering staff, but the answer may take your attention: "do nothing".

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk/
Thursday, June 03, 2004

First I would promote Philo and give him a big raise...

Oher than I wouldn't do a lot different.  Right now they seem to doing pretty well.  But I would change the strategy for the "third World".  There is a huge potential market to be tapped that open source is making a claim in.  I would make localized cut down dirt cheap OS's to get them hooked. 

Bill Rushmore
Thursday, June 03, 2004

If I were Bill Gates, I'd retire and play with my kids.

Mr. Analogy
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Games is a terrible idea, especially as a focus.  Several major game publishers are losing lots and lots of money, and you don't ever hear about the ones that are doing well.

So no, Microsoft shouldn't go into games (as a focus).  Incidentally AoE (the game mentioned above) is one of several published by Microsoft.


PS--I don't know what Microsoft SHOULD go into, besides maintaining their stranglehold of the OS and office suite categories.

pds
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Microsoft is already into games and MMORPGs.  Asheron's Call I & II (which didn't do so great) and they will be publishing Vanguard, from Sigil Games, which is made up of a lot of ex-Sony employees who worked on the original Everquest.

Mr. Fancypants
Thursday, June 03, 2004

"Microsoft is already into games and MMORPGs.  Asheron's Call I & II"

..which they sold back to Turbine, the original developer. AC2 was a huge money pit, but AC1 has apparently been reasonably profitable, just not enough for MS.

Gaming is not a terrible idea. It's an absolutely huge industry, but it is a risky market given the amount of money it takes to ship a single product that has such a short shelf-life.

Mark Hoffman
Thursday, June 03, 2004

The answer is staring us all in the face.

Defence is a business and Philo's alma mater, the Midway, is available since it's being converted into a museum piece.

Philo is being groomed to become Microsoft's first Admiral. The Flight Simulator team has mastered carrier landings and is about to create a new division called the Carrier Air Wing. They will be advertising for top FS players to remuster as naval aviators.

Mr 2020
Thursday, June 03, 2004

I'd make my platform more stable so that more people upgrade. Crap, did that too (XP).

Based upon the "how many steps to create a database" measure, I'd make it easier to develop "enterprise" level business apps on a RDBMS. Oh, crap . . . already did that (SQL Server).

Then, I'd make it more logical/easier to develop on my platform. Crap! Just did that (.NET).

Ok, well, I'd consolidate the information that's available in all of the application "silos" you guys are working on . . . information stored/accessible via the file system, RDBMs and now even webservices . . . and make that information generically describable/mappable and universally available. I think I'll call that WinFS implemented via ObjectSpaces. Oh, I'd be afraid . . . unless you're "open", much of your work will become redundant!

I'm sick of the "MS isn't innovating" crap . . . you guys are able to write programs because of their innovation (VC++ -> VB), access 2 or 3 RDBMs stores (with the same lines of code) because of their innovation (OLEDB -> ADO) and able to spend all day at work surfing JOS because of the ease of our jobs thanks to their tools.

btw, before you reply w/ the "nice advertising, beeitch" . . . I don't work for 'em.

(Required; Required as in TYPE HERE)
Thursday, June 03, 2004

what to do?  A 2 step plan.

1.  Quit talking about security and actually do something .... i.e., re-write your biggest selling products so that they don't have more holes than a ton of swiss cheese.  It'll cost a lot, but so what.  you've got $50 Billion in the bank.

2.  Cut the price of Windows and Office to a fraction of their current level.  Sever all ties with the BSA Gestapo, get rid of "product activation" and release your products under more reasonable licensing terms.

This would virtually eliminate the incentive to switch from Windows to Linux and guarantee a Windows monopoly for years to come.

Lou D'Acriss
Thursday, June 03, 2004

"1.  Quit talking about security and actually do something .... "

Have you looked at Windows Server 2003?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, June 03, 2004

I'll tell you what I'd do, man, two chicks at the same time, man.

I always wanted to do that, man. And I think if I had a 52 billion dollars I could hook that up, cause chicks dig a dude with money.

Lawrence
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Make sure that the most popular digital content online only works well on a Microsoft-DRM-enabled platform. I'm sure they're trying to do this already.

They'd also better stay ahead of the open source stuff. Windows, Office, and their other software better be constantly improved.

But generally I think they're doing some pretty smart things business-wise. They're not wasting money on stupid acquisitions just because they've got it to waste. They're making strategic entrances into other large, potentially very profitable businesses (i.e. Xbox). What else have they to do but wait and watch and buy up anything that looks promising, all the while investing deeply in their own R&D? They're doing these things...

Akilesh Ayyar
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Ummm stupid acquisitions...

Microsoft CRM

That immediately springs to mind.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Some companies should simply liquidate themselves and shut down.

Anon
Thursday, June 03, 2004

I think MS will pour an amazing amount of funds into Research and Development, and of course setup major tech centers in India and China.  But, I think, once again it puts them in a very powerful position, they have jumped head first into higher the greatest minds from all over the world, they may not even know what the next technology will be in the next couple of years but by attrition somebody on their team may discover it.

Berlin Brown
Thursday, June 03, 2004

MS should accept open source instead of fighting it. I don't mean that they should opensource any of their products but just tell people that Windows works well with open source tools like Apache and PHP and you don't need Linux to run that or mysql.

Somorone
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Wait.

See what the next big thing is.

Buy a company in that software area.

Fix their product.

Crush the competition.

Repeat.

Andrew
Thursday, June 03, 2004

"re-write your biggest selling products so that they don't have more holes than a ton of swiss cheese. "

You haven't learnt what's about software rewrites here in JOS, have you?

Youre just a poser here..  =)

.NET Developer
Thursday, June 03, 2004

There's still a lot to be done in the mobile market.  MS has been very active in that sector in recent years, but I think we've only scratched the surface on what could be done.

Now that web services are a reality, they can also look at providing SOA building blocks.  They've started to with Passport, but there's a lot more that could be done there too.

Joe
Thursday, June 03, 2004

"Some companies should simply liquidate themselves and shut down. "

Agreed.  Good thing Microsoft isn't one of them.

I don't think Microsoft needs to do anything different.  We're all taking as gospel the OP's assertion that upgrade revenue is declining and that Linux is cutting into Microsoft's server market share.  I'm not sure if that is really the case.

Norrick
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Do what the other big software companies do - expand their consulting business.

yet another anon
Friday, June 04, 2004

<<assertion that upgrade revenue is declining and that Linux is cutting into Microsoft's server market share>>

Huh. You are the first who has tried to dispute this. Do a google search please.

Karthik
Friday, June 04, 2004

I tell ya what...  Paul Allen is having more fun than Gates.  Building EMP, the SciFi museum, funding Space Ship 1, ...  All kinds of cool stuff.

hoser
Friday, June 04, 2004

I dunno, I'd rather dictate the future of computing -- as much as anyone can so dictate -- than do those things.

Akilesh Ayyar
Friday, June 04, 2004

> Put yourselves in SteveB and BillG's place

Suntan oil...


Friday, June 04, 2004

I think Microsoft needs to hijack the Internet. Here's one way I can see it playing out.

The costs associated with running an ISP or portal are going to continue to rise (if MS can arrange it), necessitating advertising dollars to stay in business. Now, if MS can convince the marketers to present their ads in a format which only IE can understand, then the portals and ISPs will get a better revenue stream. The reason for this will be that one of the features of this new ad format is that - thanks to DRM and IE - they can't be bypassed or switched off (well, maybe subscriptions could bypass the ads). The news is all good for the web sites and marketeers, whilst MS gets to timewarp back to 1997 and finish the job of ensconcing IE as the only web browser on the planet.

The timing is the tricky part. Competing portals must switch to the new format simultaneously - if Coca Cola uses the new ads but Pepsi remains "open" then Coca Cola will risk marginalisation. The highest profile web properties must be persuaded that it's in their best interests to make the switch... and must be made to do so within a short time of each other.

Obviously, this would be the death of Google, Yahoo, IBM and Sun, who would all have to prostrate themselves to MS to get IE running on Linux and Solaris and would lose the freedom to innovate through J2EE. The question is: would they all recognise the danger and club together to stave it off?

Paul Sharples
Friday, June 04, 2004

Another operation in the war for control of the Internet is the support for Mono.

The prevailing opinion is that MS doesn't like Mono and wants to see it fail. I think this view is exactly wrong. MS would love Mono to achieve a single aim: for all potential J2EE developers to choose Mono instead. To this end, they've been financing Ximian and providing them with technical assistance. The only thing they've been careful not to do is to demonstrate any enthusiasm for the project - to do that would panic the Linux community who would then reject the technology on religious grounds.

Once solutions are deployed on Mono, they become candidates for conversion to .NET, and MS will ensure that it's cheaper for them to go that route than it would for them to convert to J2EE. One thing is for certain: the initial implementation will find it hard to scale whilst it remains on Mono - MS will be in a position to ensure that the necessary technology never makes it onto the poor man's platform.

Paul Sharples
Friday, June 04, 2004

build the enterprise and explore beyond the final frontier

(.)
Friday, June 04, 2004

I think for the most part they are doing the right thing: focus on R&D to get away from the commoditization horizon
It is a high risk game though: you have to spend an awfull lott of cash for a small percentage probability increase of scoring a few hits.

But lets face it, there is no choice. The IT industry, appart from the (partly accidental?) Wintel heressey, is always a closed bundle game: Hardware+software+service. Wintel was different because it allowed a more open platform. Lots of ISV's and competition combined with a massmarket ambition of the layer holding it all together (Windows) made for a great value proposition, to the enormous dislike of the traditional closed forces. Even MS did play a partial HW+SW bundel through the default hw sales pricing. Unfortunately this practice has been ruled illegal. As a consequence there now can be parasites that ride on the defacto standard, that don't have to pay towards the creators of that standard. Since the parasites can play the commoditization game without incurring the enormous R&D innovation investments risks, this asks for changes in the whole game.

So, innovation through R&D results will have to be protected from commoditization. I do believe we will see the rebel (wintel) pulled into the fold of the full platform bundels. This is what the whole "free hardware" thing is about. You get a Dell with your Windows Licence, just like you get a Sun with your Solaris licence or a Mac with your OS X licence. the question remains in how far support and services will be rebudeled. IBM has always been the champion of the full bundle, ever since the lucrative maiinframe era. However, this model was even punched by the rise of the mini's. Now the OSS movement and IBM are having a go at it again. Bundeling the service genie back in the bundle bottle might just happen.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, June 04, 2004

"just like you get a Sun with your Solaris licence"

When we ask Sun for prices, what we get is the hardware price, which includes a Solaris license; i.e., the big bucks are attached to the hardware, not the software.

Paulo Caetano
Friday, June 04, 2004

"When we ask Sun for prices, what we get is the hardware price, which includes a Solaris license; i.e., the big bucks are attached to the hardware, not the software"

Does it matter what they tell you you pay for if it is always bundeled? Sun says thay are counting on hardware becoming basicaaly free in the 2005 timeframe ( http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=technologyNews&storyID=5304507&src=rss/technologyNews&section=news ). All this means is that they make HW+SW inseparable, or do you expect you can walk up to them and ask: "I'll  take a free Sun Fire E25K, hold the service and software"?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Does it matter what they tell you you pay for if it is always bundeled? Sun says thay are counting on hardware becoming basicaaly free in the 2005 timeframe"

In that case, they'll have to change the way they present their bills/budget estimates. The impression they give is exactly yhe opposite - you're buying Sun hw, and the sw is an after-thought.

So, the point is that, right now, you're buying HW and getting SW bundled. I'm not saying they won't change it, or that it makes any difference in what you get in the package, but that's how they present their stuff. You're not getting an E10000 when you buy Solaris, you're getting Solaris when you buy an E10000.

A fine point, and prolly not even worth all the electrons we've already used ;)

Paulo Caetano
Friday, June 04, 2004

Bundling SW and HW is going a full circle, imo. We began with that. MS would do better by releasing Windows on SPARC, even if that means buying Sun off.

.
Friday, June 04, 2004

"A fine point, and prolly not even worth all the electrons we've already used"

Ah, but it is an interesting point though. If you charge for the HW, someone could maybe force you to unbundle your software from it. If you charge for the SW, they could still force you to sell the SW unbundeled from the "free" HW, but that doesn't matter since your software will only run on that hardware.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, June 04, 2004

"If you charge for the HW, someone could maybe force you to unbundle your software from it. If you charge for the SW, they could still force you to sell the SW unbundeled from the "free" HW, but that doesn't matter since your software will only run on that hardware."

Good point. Hadn't considered it.

It should be easier writing a replacement for Solaris than building a replacement for an E10000.

Paulo Caetano
Friday, June 04, 2004


Some of the business Microsoft should get into in big way:


1. Digitial Media: Digital content generation software. Audio Video editing, generation, software. Research into new type s of devices...who could believe in a camera and mobile merger few years back. Create foundation for new hardware and stay ahead in creating software for it.

2. Mobile telephony services:    SMS, MMS, ringtones. This business are growing...people are paying for content. Make software for content generation in bigway.

3. Games:    Big business. Put in money for research to make cheaper devices. Hand held devices need better gaming software, developement platform...none I remember know.

4. CRM software:    there a hype sometime back, but where are the products know? Call Centers as I know use custom software mostly. Cater this services based industry with new/better/Streamlined product...

5. Industrial automation software:  more and more automation is happening in the 3rd world. Make products for them. Any industrial product testing software.

6. Television:    More Set top boxes like products, Interactive TV is going to come.

7. Process Compliance testing:    Help manufacturing companies to get process compliant. There are so many ISO process activities, make software for helping companies achieve compliance to these.

8. Teaching:     Teaching software is still not to the level it should be. Tie up with educational publishers and generate content which will have internation appeal.

9. Banking software: Banking is a big business, get into it in big way.

10. Embedded Software: yeah WinCE, windows Mobile are there already but what about other embedded devices....we need a speed up here. Create a hype for WinCE the way they are doing for Longhorn.


No where do I intend to say that Microsoft should get into services. Microsoft is a products based company and should stay one. Make products to serve the services industry and penetrate their networks, as they grow you grow alongwith them.

Kdr
Friday, June 04, 2004

---"As a consequence there now can be parasites that ride on the defacto standard, that don't have to pay towards the creators of that standard. "----

You mean parasites like Microsoft?

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 04, 2004

"You mean parasites like Microsoft?"

Whoever. As soon as you create a stable "open" fixpoint it can become the target for commoditization.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, June 04, 2004

"8. Teaching:     Teaching software is still not to the level it should be. Tie up with educational publishers and generate content which will have internation appeal."

No money.

"9. Banking software: Banking is a big business, get into it in big way."

The whole point of the finance business is having some proprietary knowledge that your competitors don't.  So software in banking means developing tightly controlled, custom software that you own and your competitors don't.  By definition, you can't commoditize this.

Also, I believe MS is also in all of the businesses you list in some capacity.  There's really no where left for them to go.

Jim Rankin
Friday, June 04, 2004


"Also, I believe MS is also in all of the businesses you list in some capacity."

...except for maybe ISO compliance and industrial automation (sorry, should have read more closely).

Jim Rankin
Friday, June 04, 2004

If I were Microsoft, I would do the following.  Perhaps they are already doing this...

1) Push hard to enter the consumer electronics space as a long term business strategy.

They could dominate by building a console platform that did -- DVD playback, Tivo, MP3 playback, Digital Photo management, Games, Email, Web and other information services.  When HDTV reaches critical mass, they could make that the display of choice for home computing.

They should focus on reliability and ease of use.

This is what Xbox2 should be.  They could make tons of money selling their software and internet services on this platform.  Watch out Sony.

2) Figure out how to sell software services and move to a subscription based revenue model or a per-compute-task done revenue model.  Office, email client and web browser applications are already commodities.  Move up the food chain to sell services and/or information.  Ebay sells their auction service, and Google indirectly sells information.  Surely there are more survivable ideas from the dot-com bust other than auctions, search, webmail and web-store-fronts.

3) Access to information is the killer app - servers, database technology and networking are the components that make this work.  Push hard to develop leading edge software in all of these components to deliver information to the user easily and reliably.

4) Innovate!  Increase the R&D budget for MS-Research every year.  You never know what the next thing is going to be.

emacsdude
Sunday, June 06, 2004

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