Microsoft can still move deftly

Microsoft can still move deftly

Summary: Today could mark a resurgence of the tough, feisty, quick-footed Microsoft.

TOPICS: Microsoft
It might be big and rich, but it's hard to characterize Microsoft as lumbering. Not with the surprise announcement today of a major management shake-up and curiously updated emphasis on "services." What a difference a couple of days makes. It was only last week that Microsoft hosted the biggest PDC ever to usher in its biggest product pipeline ever. I guess it didn't go over so well. Maybe a return to the 1980s isn't in Redmond's best interests after all.

Excuse me, but did we not just witness a pogrom of sorts? Didn't the good ship Microsoft just hiccup, jettison some ballast, and hoist a new sail? I knew they were hedging their bets on REST and AJAX and Google, but unless this is a PR stunt -- and the timing indicates that that is highly unlikely -- then Microsoft has turned a major corner. Wow.

It will take time to discern just how momentous this is, but my take is that this move shows decisive change in strategic direction by CEO Steve Ballmer. I have to say Ballmer did not come away looking so good from the weekend's edition of Business Week, where the cover story was a mugging of the Microsoft strategy and culture and an indictment of sorts on Ballmer's five-year tenure as CEO. Oracle's current Fusion frenzy and IBM's SOA product surge last week must also have made for some soul searching too. And there's that pesky Google and the  eBay/Skype thing -- what's that all about? To be in Redmond looking outward, all the world is disquieting.

Well, "services" are now not merely on-ramps to the Windows ecology, apparently, after all. And the old guard of the retro emphasis on tools-Office-platform synergy as the future at Microsoft may be riding their palominos in the direction of the sunset. Perhaps the PDC showed that winning the hearts and minds of developers and ISVs has more to do with "services" than Windows "connected systems."

One thing for sure: CTO Ray Ozzie is rising -- and fast. Allchin and Rudder will be just fine; no worries for them. And the Gates/Ballmer grip on the till remains firm. A key question is whether the middle executive ranks in Redmond can act on this apparent new mandate. Can the ship, in fact, be steered collectively and deliberately? For them, like the rest of us, it's all about execution.

In the past two years the IT world has clearly changed. It took Microsoft took a bit longer than many to face it, and some R&D and pride will need to be swallowed as a result. But today could mark a resurgence of the tough, feisty, quick-footed Microsoft. The lesson is that you should never count these guys out. At least not yet.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha ha

    ... and elephants can do the twist!

    Darn trolls!
    • Oh, you mean like the internet thing?

      You know, the way MS didn't have any plans in place to use the internet and now all but own it. (Front Page and IE domination)

      Perhaps you would do well to ask Netscape, WordPerfect, Lotus 123, RealMedia, etc. just how fast MS can turn and bring their guns to bear on the target...
      • Monopolys are Good For That

        Yep but that was before they were labelled as a monopoly by EVERY COUNTRY ON THE PLANET! Now they have to play nice because everyone is watching and they are still under constraints by the Dept of Justice, the European Union and several other agencies around the world.

        It doesn't matter if they own all the balls in the world, it would still be hard to juggle with their hands tied. :)
      • Anyone doing serious web development

        uses Macromedia, not Frontpage.
      • MS Problem: The Basics

        In any project, whether it's building a bridge, a pyramid or a software product, there are three fundamental variables that must be dealt with:

        System performance, cost and schedule.

        The challenge is, you can only optimize any two of these at a time. Want a stated performance delivered at a cerain time? Then you pay whatever cost needed to get it. (Think the Apollo moon landing) No? You want to set cost and schedule? OK, then you take whatever system performance results from committing fixed resourses (cost) over the specified time (many concept development projects are run like this). You can also specifiy only performance as the only system input and decide that you'll spend whatever it takes and take however long it takes to get that performance (e.g, the Boston Dig), but a project that does not impose cost or schedule discipline is a very risky proposition and nobody in provate industry could ever afford to do that.

        Now look at Microsoft. From a practical standpoint, they have virtualy unlimited resourses (i.e., cost/resources is not a constraining varaible). And, also practically (and historically) speaking, they have no real schedule constraints (every major Win development since 1.03 has not met any schedule objectives/ constraints).

        And yet, they have shown time and time again that they're manifestly unable to produce a product that performs as specified/as needed/as required, i.e., one that is reliable, predictable, consistent, maintainable, etc. "The" question, the one that never seems to get asked of people like Balmer or Jim Alchin or Bil Gates, is Why.

        Why, exactly, is your company NEVER able to achieve product performance that its intended customers have repeatedly asked for -- and you have repeatedly acknowledged and PROMISED -- despite having unlimited resources and unlimited time to do so?

        IMHO, it's a professional scandal that people who wish to pass themselves off as journalists, technical journalists to boot, have never confronted the single question. Really, it's the only important question at this point. They have colluded in and enabled the on-going institutional incompetence at MS. Had they demaned an answer to this question a long time ago, we'd all be better off now, Microsoft included. But they haven't. Perhaps they're unaware of the question?

        That Microsoft is incapable, inept, incompetent at producing a stable, reliable product -- pick your word -- is beyond question or debate. The historical facts of the matter speak clearly and completely on that point.

        And they don't lack for talent/brainpower either (that's part of having "practically unlimited" resources). So what it it? Why?

        I assert that their single greatest weakness, the "thing" about which they are institutionally blind, is that they dimply don't have the foggiest idea of how to "do" Technical Management. Books have been written about exactly what Technical Management is (and isn't).

        No amount of reorganization (or resources), no finely crafted business strategy, no breakthrough (or breathless) technology can offset or overcome its lack.

        You can even hire as many people from companies that know how to do TM (e.g., Bell Labs, pre-1990 or so) as you can find, and you will not have the capacity for proper TM "rub off" on you. You have to know what it is that you're looking for, which, sadly, MS never has. They've made up for their failings in this area by ruthless economic practices against any potential competitor as well as their captive customer base. But now, the assumptions on which those practices have relied are rapidly changing and they can't respond. Not because they're too big, or too myopic or too wedded to a product. It's because, simply, they don't know how.

        (Incidentally, to someone's point: monopolies are not illegal in themselves. What IS illegal are certain business practices that being a monopoly makes relatively easy to pull off and often prove to be irresistable substitutes to cogerent business management, one part of which is to assure that your organization has the skills to manage technical projects)
        • Good post...

          Although I don't agree 100% on everything in your post (especially on the topic of TM - really, how many companies out there really know how to do TM right - none if you use your definition of 'the end product' as the one that was initially promised).
    • Not really Goofball

      A lot of you ABMers think of MS as a dinosaur. What comes to your mind is a leaf eating brontosaurus. Nope. MS is more like a tyrannosaurus. Big, Fast and lethal. And all I am seeing is a bunch of adolescents sneaking up on him and tugging on his tail and he reaches around and does the neck hold. Then you crybabies whine about how the foodchain is unfair.
      • you crazy.

        • I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid.

          I can come up with any analogy known to man. But you saying MS cannot move quickly is wrong. They are extremely fast for a large company. Now GM on the other hand is a different story. Where are the hybrid diesels?
  • Who are you trying to convince?

    Get serious. They are out of touch with their users, out of touch with the industry and stil think they can deviate from standards and force everyone to comply. They help create the XML standard and then try and recreate it and then destroy it. They did the same with RSS and even OpenDocument standard.

    Embrace, extend, extinguish. It's the Microsoft motto.

    Their sales have sunk, their stock hasn't moved an inch in years and their developers are jumping ship for companies that actually ARE innovating instead of just crushing those who choose to innovate.

    The deftness is in the minds behind the software and Vista doesn't promise to do anything more than be prettier and suck more RAM.

    In a sense, that's the way Microsoft is as well. Just sucking up more money and space but providing nothing more than a prettier face to look at.

    It's deftness is lost when internal bureaucracy bogs down development, when internal politics bogs down innovation and when external vendors, industry leaders all see them as a threat. They have become a huge target for EVERYTHING BAD ABOUT COMPUTERS! And at this point, no spin doctor can undo that damage.

    They lumber on their last leg with Vista and though the company will not die if this flops, it will never be the same either. In two years, if people have to buy new monitors, RAM, hard drives etc, just to run this, governments and corporations will opt NOT to upgrade and instead will SERIOUSLY weigh other, cheaper options that allow them to use existing hardware to it's fullest.

    A software upgrade that forces a hardware upgrade is not deft, it's lumbering and stupid.
    • Message has been deleted.

      • Stupid is as Stupid Responds

        Doing well? Sagging server sales for the last few quarters, X-box sales have yet to NET a profit, a development language that still has yet to take off... the list goes on and on. Stock price that has been stagnant forever.

        You call this doing well? I thought the point was NOT to dip into your reserves? Ask yourself why they are farming out developer jobs if they are doing so well. Ask yourself why they are cutting employee benefits if they are doing so well? Ask yourself why they are having a problem with their brain trust jumping ship?

        Doing well huh? Maybe we have different definitions of doing well. Sounds to me like they once DID well, made billions, got nailed for being a monopoly over and over and over again (and still are to this day). Sounds to me like the industry and governments are catching up with those reserves and sucking them back.

        You have a wierd definition of doing well. Isn't the European Union considering yet another antitrust lawsuit against them as well??
        • Once more, go read the P&L reports...

          It really will lift the veil of ignorance. Hint for you, the last year has seen HIGHER profits than ever before.
          • A believer in spin

            I would suggest the same of you should I believe that you had the ability to read. There reports are spin. When you dissect them, you find several units that are making LESS than previous; hence, a loss from the previous years report.

            Those higher profits are only in a couple sectorsand ONLY after cutting employee benefits and other internal costs. When you take into consideration that, you will find that they made less.

            Why the hell did you think they cut employee drug and health benefits so close to quarterly reporting? It's so they could declare greater profits when in fact they did NOT make greater profits.

            You are really good at believing the hype but lack the intellect to see beyond it. But hey, third grade mentallity be damned... I bet you'd still be able to get MCSE certified. :)
  • Won't Work

    The problem for Microsoft is that, even if it goes full-bore on SOA, it still can't take it over.
  • And I suppose that

    Linux had NOTHING to do with this?
    Roger Ramjet
    • Not directly

      This was about Google. This was about poising themselves to compete in the distributed app market, which I still think is overblown, but apparently the 'movers and shakers' see it differently. I guess since Google bases many of their products on their Linux farm (yet still won't release Linux versions of desktop search and Gogole Earth), you could say that Linux was a factor, but again, not directly.
      Real World
  • I think we have identified No_ax!

    this articles author?
  • The main point...

    I think the main point that the article author is trying to point out is that MS, regardless of what your point of view of it is, does not operate like a large corporation when they feel that they are in danger. They are able to move/change/adapt much faster than most critics would give them credit for.

    The question is how successful will they be this time around in another shift in direction remains to be seen.

    Mark my word, not Google, not Oracle, not Sun, not Apple, not Red Hat/Novel, it is going to be IBM that is in MS's cross hair this time around and MS's biggest challenge. Which other companies have the breath and depth of product/technologies to challenge MS at all its products at the same time (OS, Tools, Databases, SOA, etc).

    I can't see if the writer of the article, I'm commenting on is impressed by the Microsoft development. But people generally are easily impressed.

    Microsoft may develop more applications by reorganization. But it will never gurantee its customers freedom from Hacker. The freedom from Hackers should be the biggest concern of the IT People. Not development of more applicatios. The development of more applications will simply mean more work of fixing of flaws in the Microsoft applications.

    Microsoft has been greedy. Very Greedy. It wanted every pie that was created by any one. Netscape created a browser. Microsoft went on to create a browser just like the one created by the Netscape. AOl created an Internet Service. Microsoft went to create an identical internet service.

    Only AOL internet service was the first creation of Steve Case. He had no experience developing any thing. Microsoft Bill Gates had experience developing. He already had developed the Operating Engine. He called his first creation DOS for those with short memories.

    Bill Gates had earned some money and his Microsoft had capital to create the browser to compete with Netscape and the internet service to compete with AOL. Only his people let him down. to be ready overnight.

    The Microsoft People Bungled. They were acting in a hurry. They wanted the browser to be ready overnight and then they wanted the internet service to be ready overnight.

    Microsoft was lucky. It found it easy to promote the browser. It did it by incorporating it in to the Operating Engine. But then it was sued by the Government. It could not incorporate the internet service into the Operaing engine and the browser.

    The result was that, whereas Internet Explorer is well accepted (even better accepted than Netscape) it could not sell its internet service MSN8. MSN 8 is floundering.

    But there in lies a tragedy. The duplication of the Browser and Internet service by Microsoft was a major Microsoft Blunder. Microsoft is not even aware off this blunder. This is a blunder even the public does not realize. This is a blunder no reorganization of Microsoft will fix.

    Microsoft could easily have taken the browsing and the internet service business away from Netscape and AOL (actually both are one and the same now) without any monoply charging by the government. Only it did not have to duplicate these two systems.

    Micosoft did not realize that Hackers would become a thorn in everything Microsoft would create. It could have stopped the Hackers cold by channging the Internet Infrastructure developed by the boyish looking Steve Case. It is this infrastructure that would for ever remain a thorn in the flesh of every one that would even affect the integrity of the online files created by people.

    Microsoft could have done this by realizing that the client side processing of the data would be troublesome and taken advantage of by the hacker. He could have developed a server side delivery of the internet service.

    Where were the people who have now bcome thye presidents of the three new Microsoft Divisions. Where was the Chinese that has now moved on to Google?

    And here is Business Week announcing the reorganization of Microsoft. Business Week should be talking of the Microsoft Failures. Not Microsoft successes. Microsoft is trying hard to prevent Google from getting ahead.

    But Microsoft could have become untouchable by realizing that Netscape founder and Steve Case were misguided in their approaches.

    Even now they should wake up and pay attention to these comments and to the discussions at
    unless it believes in the predictions made by its staff in their memo written 10 years ago and wants them to come true after all.