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Microsoft Just Doesn't Get  it
November 9, 2007

There are probably more Microsoft bashers in the world than any other kind. It's always been pretty cool to bash Microsoft; a big thing with the cool techies, you know. But, we've always been big Microsoft fans, and we still think that people bash Microsoft unjustifiably. But there comes a time when your favorite teams starts slipping; players get old and retire or play well past their primes - and the team just isn't what it used to be. Time and success have taken their toll on Microsoft. And it, in a way, is a sad thing to watch. It makes it even more sad when Microsoft appears to be making one bad decision after another; living in some sort of fantasy world where's it the late 1990's and Microsoft rules the Web and virtually all of the computer world. But, now we're watching Microsoft withering apparently on a slippery slope downward. We've watched Microsoft go from being a leader and and innovator; yes a technical juggernaut, and quickly become an imitator and follower. If Microsoft doesn't wake up pretty quick, there on the road to quickly becoming a second-rate company. And we know why: Microsoft just doesn't get it.

Remember a couple years back when Microsoft was going to revamp their MSN search engine to try to compete more effectively with Google? It didn't work. We know why. Microsoft doesn't get it. Take a look at www.msn.com . See it?

 Now look at www.google.com . Do you see advertisements all over Google's main search page?

Do you see a jumbled mass of garbage on Google's main search page? When people want to search the Web they don't want to send invites for Thanksgiving. They don't want to read about cat litter or why frozen vegetables might be more nutritious. They don't want to drive a Ford Escape. They want to search for something they're looking for. Period. You would think with all the money that Microsoft has, and the brilliant people they can afford to hire, that at least one of these highly paid Mensa members would get it. Apparently, they don't.

Microsoft keeps redesigning the MSN main search page as if they were entering a contest to see how much stuff they can cram on one page and still look like a professional Web designer created it. While Google's main search page could be made by most any beginner with a free WYSIWYG Web page editor in less than 10 minutes. People use Google, not because their page is so beautifully designed or because they tell you why frozen vegetables might be better for you than fresh ones - they use it because it gives them what they want: a page to begin their searches and a search engine that works. Microsoft gives you a page loaded with ads and irrelevant information - and search results that aren't nearly as good or as relevant as Google's. That's why Google is number one, and MSN is not. It seems so simple to us. You would think with the resources available to Microsoft, they would hire the best and the brightest. Apparently though, the best and brightest are now all going to work for Google and Apple.

Speaking of Apple, have you noticed that they've been out maneuvering Microsoft for the past ten years. While Microsoft was working on Windows XP and later, Windows Vista, Apple was working Tiger, Leopard, iPods, iPhones, iBooks, and new Macs.

Let's take the iPod for example. The name iPod is as ubiquitous today as the Band-Aid band once was. Remember when you were a kid and you fell down and scraped your knee; mom didn't put a "bandage" on it, she put a "Band-Aid" on it. The brands Coke and Pepsi are like that too. And iPod, in just a few short years has grown from an innovative product to a household name. Even old geezers know what an iPod is. You can't help but know what an iPod is - everyone under 30 has wires hanging out of their ears - most all of these wires are connected to iPods.

What do the brilliant minds at Microsoft do? They belatedly scramble around and come up with something called "Zune". What the heck? Zune? Do you think kids this Christmas are going to ask for Zune players or iPods? Duh!

Why Zune? It's a ridiculous name. It's apparently a name that some Microsoft employee came up with after searching through a gazillion domain names looking frantically for any four-letter name that hadn't been used. Why a four-letter name? How many letters does iPod have? We almost feel sorry for Microsoft. It's sad to watch this once gleaming icon of America grovel around playing catch-up to an upstart and a ubiquitous underdog.

And what about the iPhone? Another clever and innovative product from Apple supported by a brilliant advertising campaign. iPhone is not only a "cool" name, it is also consistent with other Apple products. The name iPhone is instantly recognizable as a product of Apple. Thanks, in large part, to the folks at Apple who actually "get it". Apple didn't go digging around trying to think of a clever name. They just keep being consistent: iPods and iBooks, iTunes, and iPhones. At least, so far, Microsoft hasn't announced any plans to make a Klooop phone. (Although Klooop does have six letters and probably isn't already registered. The way Microsoft is going, they just might make a cell-phone-plus called the Klooop. But like Zune, the Klooop would be a flooop .

Apple apparently has smarter people than Microsoft. But, we're sure that Microsoft has more money. What's wrong with that equation? Microsoft is sort of like the New York Yankees of the technical world: Once the ultimate icons in their respective fields - both have been relegated to something less than the best. Even with the biggest payrolls and the best that money can buy, the best either of them can do is finish second or third.

The success of Apple's iPhone and iPod have revitalized its computer business as well. This is a nice little bit of fallout for Apple. The once slow-selling Apple computer line is enjoying a sales increase nearly double that of PCs. And, Apple laptops now account for 20% of all Laptops in use. That's a pretty healthy market gain considering just four years ago Apple laptops accounted for less that 7% of all laptops being sold.

If Microsoft doesn't do something soon, they're going to be end up like GM, who, by ignoring the increasing competition from innovative and quality-conscious Japanese, ended up teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. American car companies went from being leaders in the world to being followers - a role they still play to this day. And they are still trying to catch up.  Whether they can pull it off or not still remains in question.

What amazes us is: why can't Microsoft see where all this following is leading? It's leading to where following always leads, to wherever whomever you're following wants you to go. Maybe Microsoft, with all their billions, can't see the forest for the trees. Or maybe they've allowed themselves to become too fat and too happy. And, if the sleeping giant does not awaken soon, it might be too late.

If Windows Vista is the best that Microsoft can do, then Microsoft's in big trouble. It's not a revolutionary product. It's barely even an evolutionary product. It's Windows XP with a splash more pizzazz, a little more security, and few more features. But, having used Vista for nearly a year now, if I had it to do all over again, I'd go back to Windows XP. There's just not enough to like about Vista to make it worth the "upgrade". Sales of Vista have not been as robust as Microsoft forecast they'd be. No matter how they massage the numbers; the fact that computer makers like Dell and HP are still offering consumers a choice of XP or Vista on new computers, some eleven months after Vista was released, should cause some concern at Microsoft. But, apparently not. Perhaps Microsoft is so busying following Google and Apple, its collective, corporate head, is buried in the sand; Microsoft doesn't want to see what it doesn't want to see; blinded by such overwhelming past successes, it expects things to be as they have always been. If they actually pulled their head out of the sand, looked at the calendar and looked at the world of 2007 it wouldn't like the world it sees.

Google's on the verge of releasing its gPhone, which will open new frontiers for cell phone companies - both old ones and new ones. Google's new open API for Web communities will change the way communities interact. Google is constantly on the edge of new frontiers, new products, and new ideas. Soon Google will pass Microsoft financially - they've already passed them in innovation and public perception. Google has the resources and the people to create an operating system for PCs that could, and probably would, change the way we use our computers. Someday, "Windows" might seem as outdated and old fashioned as "Studebaker". Just because Windows has eighty-some percent of the market today, doesn't guarantee it will have it in the future. Microsoft has never had to deal with a force like Google and the resurgent Apple before. It's two-fold threat that Microsoft better recognize soon or it will be far too late for them to do anything about it.

Google is ten years old; a virtual upstart. Apple has always been the little puppy yapping at Microsoft's heels. But, nothing is as sure as change. Companies, like Apple and Google, who embrace change - grab it by the horns and ride it into the future will succeed. They have taken over for Microsoft. They are the new leaders.

The world is passing Microsoft by but they don't see it. I just don't think they get it anymore.

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