New ideas from Microsoft?
On the eve of the first tranche of Windows Vista’s official launch, Microsoft is on the front cover of BusinessWeek in a piece entitled “The soul of a new Microsoft.” The article seeks to profile Microsoft’s new guard of executives, and particularly J Allard, vice president of design and development for its Entertainment and Devices unit. Allard is being positioned as the man who is shaking things up at the software monolith – a la Jonathan Ive of Apple, perhaps – and seems at pains to demonstrate his unMicrosoftiness.
According to BusinessWeek: “Everything with Allard is about velocity. He drives a Ferrari 360 and Porsche 911. He bombs down ski runs during the summer on a mountain bike at speeds topping 30 miles an hour.” This man is so out there that he dares to dispense with capital letters when typing emails. Sounds like every Silicon Valley executive I’ve ever met. It also sounds like Microsoft’s interpretation of a cool kid – just like Zune is Microsoft’s interpretation of the iPod and XBox is Microsoft’s version of the PlayStation.
And that, for me, is the problem with Microsoft. There is no doubting the company’s smarts and business prowess, but it lacks originality. It was there at the right time and right place to provide the operating system for the IBM PC – although I think I’m right in saying that Microsoft didn’t even write DOS. It then went on to commercialize word processing software and the graphical user interface (invented at Xerox PARC I believe and refined by Apple.) Late to recognize the importance of the Internet, it is now spending billions to develop what Google already has. For once, I would really like to see Microsoft come up with a new concept – something truly original.
One of the readers’ comments on BusinessWeek says: “The only thing Microsoft is good at these days is spending PR$ to get puff pieces like this in print.” Marketing has always been one of the company’s fortes for sure. So isn’t it interesting that, on the eve of the long-awaited launch, Microsoft is trying to focus our attention beyond Vista?