New ideas from Microsoft?

November 27, 2006 at 9:45 am 3 comments

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?

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Entry filed under: Marketing, PR, The technology biz.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gavin Clarke  |  December 4, 2006 at 3:55 am

    I remember equally splashy pieces from BusinessWeek during the past five years on .NET, Palladium (since re-branded Next Generation Secure Computing Base), and a generation of young management Turks also supposedly changing the game at Microsoft – just like Allard. BusinessWeek seems to rely on the well-orchestrated PR piece with Microsoft in the belief that this amounts to coverage. The rationale must be: it keeps the lines of communication open with Microsoft. This is a problem for BusinessWeek and its readers, though, because such pieces creates a thoroughly misleading impression of what’s really going on. Pieces like this, and Summer’s Kevin Rose debacle cover article, will do little to stop readers turning to blogs as a source of reliable and credible news. This piece should serve as an object lesson in what not to do to all those other US pubs that give equally uncritical coverage to execs from Microsoft.

  • 2. al  |  December 13, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Too true. I left MS some months ago after many years in various roles. I have to say that there are some serious change agents at work in some of the groups, Enterprise Sales seems to be one, but whether the product people really can break the corporate log jams that lead to the fits and starts that have catagorized the company in the last decade, is very hard to imagine. There have been many very good people, at much higher levels than I was, who have left lately, some of them obviously needed to go, but the churn leads to months of no real change while new people establish their turf.

    As to BW, I don’t think that Business Week journalists do much heavy lifting. I’d love to see a piece that talks to some of the hundreds of ex-MS people about why they left and what they would see changed. I hold no grudges against MS, I just think they are suffering from being just another global corporation. It’s very hard to fight that corporate inertia. HP, IBM, all seem to fall into it. Apple, to their credit, hasn’t seemed to.

  • 3. robert thomas  |  November 5, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    a mirror image on the screen saver would be nice ,girls would be able to see them selfs, and do there make up and so-on.
    good luck good furtune
    Rob Thomas


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