Microsoft’s Consumer Entropy

I must be doing something wrong. Actually, I know I’m doing something wrong — a few things, if truth be told.

Still, I never get invited to speak at industry dinners, and I don’t understand why. While I get some things wrong, and will continue to do so, I occasionally get some things right.

Something I have gotten right for a long time about Microsoft is that the Kings of Redmond are woefully unsuited to the pursuit of consumer markets. Microsoft not only lacks “consumer DNA,” but it also fails to empathize or understand consumers to any meaningful extent. To use popular phraseology, Microsoft doesn’t get consumers.

I’ve been saying this for years, sometimes on this blog, and frequently in conversations with friends, family, and strangers. I’ve been assailing and bemoaning Microsoft’s consumer ineptitude for so long, in so many places, that my audience has grown tired of my routine. I, too, have gotten tired of trotting out the same earnest, well-rehearsed arguments ad nauseam.

There’s no time limit on truth, however. Because no matter how hackneyed, hirsute, weathered, and wizened it might get, it’s still the truth, ugly or not — and it must be honored.

Some other folks — industry luminaries, no less — share my views on Microsoft’s inability to grasp the consumer domain. Some of these people get invited to speak at industry events. One of them is Mark Anderson, the sage behind Strategic News Service, which bills itself as “the most accurate predictive newsletter covering the computing and communications industries.”

Speaking with Steve Lohr of the New York Times, Anderson said the following:

“Except for gaming, it is ‘game over’ for Microsoft in the consumer market. It’s time to declare Microsoft a loser in phones. Just get out of Dodge.”

Well, yeah. Windows Mobile is a donkey.

As we all know, even a champion jockey can’t ride a donkey to victory in a race against thoroughbreds. Apple, RIM, Google, even Palm and Nokia have better entrants in the mobile-operating-system derby. But, Anderson’s recommendations notwithstanding, Microsoft will keep riding its donkey until it can make the donkey better and faster — maybe through the application of expensive steroids — or until it retires the donkey after buying a real horse.

Even then, if Microsoft doesn’t bring some much-needed coherence and focus to its mobile efforts, it will fail. It’s all about understanding who it is and where it belongs.

Anderson sees the root of the problem at Microsoft:

“Phones are consumer items, and Microsoft doesn’t have consumer DNA.”

“Walk the halls at Microsoft and you can see it is not a place that gets consumers Just as if you walk the halls at Google, it’s obvious it is not a place that gets the enterprise world.”

He’s absolutely right. I would add, though, that Google has a better chance of adapting to enterprises than Microsoft does of adjusting to consumer needs.

Anderson sees the computer universe splitting into two very different galaxies: one for consumers and one for enterprises. He consigns Apple, Google, and most of the Asian hardware makers to the consumer galaxy. The enterprise galaxy will host the likes of IBM, Dell, Cisco. and Microsoft. Anderson sees HP as the colossus that will straddle both galaxies, at home, though perhaps not equally, in either realm.

This is neither the place nor the time for me to critique Anderson’s broader taxonomy and to quibble over where he has placed individual vendors within the structure he’s prescribed. I will say that I agree with most of what he has said above, with a few cavils and caveats.

He definitely gets it right regarding Microsoft, though. Perhaps, now that he is legitimizing the viewpoint with his gold-plated imprimatur, the formerly minority opinion that Microsoft was (and is) a consumer basketcase will gain currency and maybe even evolve into conventional wisdom.

If it does, I want it remembered that I was on the vanguard, barking and howling the truth at anybody who would listen and even at those who wouldn’t.

By the way, if you want a cheap dinner speaker, I’m available. I promise to forgo the Tiger Woods jokes.

2 responses to “Microsoft’s Consumer Entropy

  1. I like your work, but I don’t have any speaking engagements to offer.

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