Microsoft's cultural shift becomes oddly, swiftly evident

Microsoft's cultural shift becomes oddly, swiftly evident

Summary: The real race between Microsoft and Google may boil down to which can truly change itself best and fastest.

TOPICS: Microsoft
Sometimes you need to be careful of what you ask for. For those clamoring for Microsoft to develop a services-based set of offerings (perhaps hoping cynically that such a move will weaken Microsoft), they may getting the service offerings alright but without the expected erosion in Microsoft's hegemony.

Doing what it has long done best, Microsoft is -- based on its demos and presentations Tuesday -- picking up where a market innovator leaves off, and then mashing the innovation into its own mold for fun and profit. But there is more than the usual Redmondization in what Microsoft is -- so very publicly -- up to now.

By targeting small businesses with Windows- and Office-like services and juxtaposing them to contextual advertising, Microsoft diversifies its business model closer to what Google and what other software-as-a-service vendors do, but does not really dent its historic money making machines: the Windows operating system and Office suite of personal productivity applications. At least not for some time.

This is absolutely the right thing for Microsoft to do. They are moving quickly and forcefully -- and they probably never would have done it without the Google threat. Get this: It will be easier for Microsoft to morph into a business app services provider to SMBs and SOHOs, than it is going to be for Google to morph from a search engine for ads skewed to consumers into a business app services provider to SMBs and SOHOs.

Google's best hope may be to target the enterprise in insidious fashion through consumers, but the enterprise will not move fast, and the power of worker bees to force the queen to change is a major question mark. So perhaps we had better not count Microsoft out yet, and perhaps that Google stock price is looking a bit frothy.

We've known for some time that Web 2.0 will provide a Microsoft-Google face off, but now that Microsoft has actually described its move (and it may actually deliver product ... err, service, in less than six months), it's time for Google to get clarity. We still mostly have to guess on Google's actual go-to-market business services intentions. That will need to change, which may require a cultural shift at Google, as in it needs to grow up and get business-like to businesses.

Come to think of it, the real race between Microsoft and Google may boil down to which can truly change itself best and fastest. Google needs to transform into the trusted provider of business app services, and conjure for itself the image of an enterprise ready, mature, and even button-down vendor. Microsoft needs to drop the monopoly pretense and get funky on Web 2.0 services for business, as in hip and happening for productive work without the rip-off. Both of these compnaies have scads of money, but money can't buy you culture.

So what strikes me most about the preview from Microsoft executives old and new is the the apparent burgeoning shift in corporate culture in Redmond could be what no anti-trust suit or user backlash could ever provoke -- a sincere change in the way the Microsoft as an organizaion -- as a culture -- thinks. If Microsoft can move beyond the thinking of zero-sum in terms of the threat to their main bread and butter, and find the balance of moving to services that re-engages a lot of circumspect users (and advertisers), then the world truly is Microsoft's oyster.


Topic: Microsoft

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  • Once again


    Microsoft will not and cannot adapt as quickly as the fierce market competition it now faces.

    They are about three steps behind and will not catch up.

    This is more about trying to 'freeze' every decision maker into holding off from a 'switch' from theirs to another software solution.

    Swift as a 'sloth'.

    Personally, I really don't know where utlimately the web SOA and all is going, but Windows has had its day.

    Go ahead. Flame me if you must.
    D T Schmitz
  • Win back who?

    Windows, the platform upon which AOL, Google and Java are delivered to 90% of the world's desktops has to win customers back? Where did they go?

    All MS has to do is integrate their product offerings a little better than their (former?) siloed org chart allowed and Google's stock value will pop like a balloon.
    • And your point is?

      I am being a bit of a 'provocateur' here.
      AOL is anchored (presently) to Windows.
      Google, well do I have to draw a picture.
      Java is O/S neutral, but MS tried to 'bastardize' it and lost that battle with SUN.
      Google will prevail well after the sun sets on MS.

      Ok. There. I feel better. Hey, thanks for allowing me to vent my spleen.
      D T Schmitz
  • Demos = vaporware. Actual products = buggy bloaty trash. And what culture?!

    Greed isn't a culture. It's a severe psychiatric disorder, whose victims ought to be locked up in padded cells. Green ones.

    Greed is also frowned upon far moreso in the Bible than anything else, except for possibly murder... But greed is ruining the livelihood of others just to fatten your own wallet, so it is tantamount to murder as far as I'm concerned these days.
  • So Google gets ready to open a portal...

    ... and Microsoft adds more web components for use with Windows and Office. Some of their services are funded by advertising.

    Seems like some reporters and commentators are starting the revolution without the participants.
    Anton Philidor
    • Everything old is new again...

      ... and again, and again.

      You'd think we never lived through Bubble 1.0 with all the breathless talk about Netscape building a platform to usurp the desktop and Yahoo at 400 dollars a share. Tech writers actually get their panties in a bunch wondering whether AJAX is a "revolution". Wow.

      The only interesting story to me -- which no one ever writes about anymore -- is why Sun and IBM conceded the desktop to Microsoft. Everything else is fluff.
      • Concede can mean to acknowledge defeat.

        So you're right that Sun and IBM conceded the desktop to Microsoft.

        The advantage Microsoft had was thinking about the mass market, and without pre-conceived ideas about users and developers and software capabilities.

        I suppose knowing your market is marketing, but the way Microsoft worked shows an understanding that obviously eluded the competition. Sun and IBM reached a position where they had to concede largely because they couldn't be flexible.

        Oversimplifying, but Microsoft's major innovation was an alternative to what can be called the Unix mindset. That starts from software and clear, lasting definitions. The Microsoft mindset is about the impression of using the machine.
        Anton Philidor
    • To me, it seems like Microsoft is a copycat rather than an innovator

      The technology to do this sort of thing was at their finger tips when .Net came out and yet did nothing with it.

      Is this what we should expect from our industry leader? It seems like they need competition in order for them to compete ... funny huh?
      George Jay
  • Office Live: ill-concieved combination of FUD, Vaporware

    It is clear this was FUD based on a first look at the live website. There are On-Demand solutions currently such as with Project-ON-Demand. This is a complete On-Demand replacement for Microsoft Project. "Manage Projects NOT Software". It appears the announcement is an attempt to stem the tide of On-Demand adoption. However, if you read into the offering they still 'expect' you to have Office installed as noted in the WSJ "Microsoft executives emphasized that the new services are not replacements to the company's existing Windows and Office products, but rather additions. Office Live, instance assumes customers have Office applications installed on their PC's"

    In my opinion: the Microsoft stack is already too complex and costly. It is difficult to call it 'Productivity Software' anymore..... The goal of Projity and the other On-Demand vendors is to add value by streamlining software delivery. Microsoft is 'adding' not reducing the burden.