Sunday, April 4, 2010

The iPad era: Is Microsoft hard of hearing, or just too heavy to respond?

As a Microsoft shareholder, I have reason to be concerned. I really do. When everything else around you is moving and you choose to stand still, you make a big target. Worse still, if you are a large one. 

I will dispense with the background quickly: On January 27, 2010, Apple announced a new breed of computing devices called the iPad. Launch date was set for end of March and the item was available in stores on April 3. This thing has no need for a pointing device, no need for third party chips, no need for Windows and actually, no need for any of the things that make normal computers dove-tail into some Microsoft service.

In the 2-month period between the announcement and release, so many companies jumped on and designed something that would take advantage of the iPad. Till today, I have heard nothing coming from Microsoft. At first, I was like ... "Microsoft can't be so stupid as to ignore this. They have to have Word, Excel and PowerPoint out there on day 1. They can't afford the risk of Office devotees discovering Pages, Numbers and Keynote." But what do I know? Launch day came and Microsoft released and announced nothing. Nothing!

You know, there was that time when WordPerfect was king. It was great on DOS and beat WordStar hand-down, in my opinion. Most people may think that it was the greatness of Microsoft Word that killed WordPerfect. But I don't think so. I think it was WordPerfect for Windows that killed WordPerfect. The then WordPerfect Corporation did not respond well to the new world and people learned Word. And guess what? They like Word. 
No one would need to learn a new productivity app if the one they like is available on their platform of choice.
I am sure that some old soldiers at Microsoft are so callused in their joints that they don't know how to stay alive through agility. Before now, Microsoft was good at playing on its own field because it was a very large field but now, it needs to learn to strategize in a multi-faceted way. It needs to learn the times. It needs to be nimble at the feet. It needs to walkout more. 

Jealousy has no place in modern business. An old-fashioned way of thinking would go this way: "If we build for a non-Windows platform, we are encouraging it and hurting our main bread and butter. So, ignore it and use our sheer strength to suffocate the market place." And that's so sad, if you ask me! Amazon is my hero company in this regard. The iPad came head-on with Kindle, and the press sensationalized it. What did Amazon do? Sulk, wine and play the ignore game, wishing that iPad crashes and burns? No. It made an iPad-compatible Kindle. Apple played a similar genius game when they made BootCamp, a Windows-compatible apple machine. And believe me, there's little more to know about how well a company is run or how smart and nimble its execs are. By comparison, AMZN shares stood at $131.81, AAPL at $235.97, and MSFT at $29.16. When last did you see such a large company equity worth so little? Ford and GM kinda come to mind.

I have a personal investment in Microsoft and so I have an interest in advising them not to be stupid. If the iPad makes the iPhone OS the dominant breed of consumer OS, then Microsoft may be positioning itself for certain extinction. No one company has a monopoly control on what people like. A good company should always position itself well for every eventuality. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to leave your mark.