Microsoft and the Orson Welles syndrome

Microsoft and the Orson Welles syndrome

Summary: Throwing money at people, making them comfortable before they have performed for you, doesn't really work for anyone.

TOPICS: Microsoft

One of the recurring themes with our friend David Berlind is how Microsoft is taking over.

Here's an example from last week, the subtext being the "Microsoft Media Juggernaut." Here's another, about IM, and still another, about its XML patents.

I mean no disrespect nor criticism here. Berlind has a healthy skepticism about Microsoft's claims. But it did leave me thinking.

Microsoft is very, very big. Microsoft has been very, very big for a long time, and Microsoft puts billions-and-billions of dollars into R&D every year. Microsoft always gets the best-and-brightest into Redmond. Its campus may be the greatest Software University in the world.

So why don't they own more of the world? Why do they struggle to compete in areas like mobile telephony, in online media, in broadband, in embedded systems, and Internet servers?

There are many theories. It's a bigger world than it was in IBM's day. The open source business model is powerful. There are those nasty anti-trust suits, both public and private. Not to mention the popular bias that sees Microsoft as the Big Bad Wolf.

Somehow this doesn't entirely explain it for me.

Orson Welles in 1937My theory comes down to one word, hunger. Hungry people, and hungry companies, grow fast and innovate faster. Throwing money at people, making them comfortable before they have performed for you, doesn't really work for anyone.

I call this the Orson Welles syndrome, after the late, great director (left) who grew to enormous proportions, then died at age 70. His best work was done when he had that lean and hungry look. (This picture, from Wikipedia, was taken in 1937.)  As he prospered, so his art diminished.

The folks at Microsoft aren't fat. But they are comfortable. I'm not suggesting the hair shirt for anyone. I am suggesting that, when they find talented people, it might be best to stay in the background and leave them alone, to let them keep ample equity in their own efforts, rather than signing them to Redmond's "standard rich and famous contract," as Welles himself called it in The Muppet Movie.

Maybe open source wins because the people behind it stay hungry.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • So what happens...

    ...when the primary driving forces behind open source are corporations such as IBM and Sun? Does the movement still stay "hungry"? Or is the involvement of such large corporations actually bad for open source in the long run?

    Carl Rapson
  • Orson Welles didn't get fat and happy.

    Too unreliable.

    Why do you think he appeared in those wine commercials?

    The problem was, he didn't think about the realities of earning a living, just about what he could accomplish.

    In that sense, Orson Welles is more like open source than Microsoft. Except that he was not interested in ordinary genre movies.
    Anton Philidor
  • my opinion about fat and happy

    I think the editors are fat and happy and their best work is when they were lean and hungry.
  • Microsoft cannot manage business without monopoly

    The reason Microsoft does not do well has nothing to do with the disgust generated in every person using their products. It has little to do with the hate and lawsuits from their business practices. It comes from being run by several people with very poor business ability.

    Microsoft's management understands:
    1. If we have a monopoly, we will make money.
    2. When we have a monopoly, we must protect it.
    3. We should have a monopoly on everything.

    MS destroys competitors and partners, often illegally. MS fails at every business where they do not have a monopoly; they do not believe they can make money if they do not have a monopoly.

    With gaming consoles, they must fail; there will always be at least two, but MS will continue losing money attempting to gain a monopoly.

    For success with XML, the standards must be open. XML that only works with one company's products defeats the purpose of using XML; everybody could stay with proprietary formats and save some hard drive space (except with MS's file formats, which are incredibly bloated.)

    For IM, you either partner with AOL, or use an open standard. Nothing else has a chance. MS cannot partner or use open standards; either means admitting they do not have the monopoly.

    MS is hungry. They have always been hungry. They know their only profits come from MSWindows and MSOffice. Every other product either supports those monopolies, or is an attempt to gain a new monopoly before OpenOffice and desktop Linux mature enough to destroy them.

    It is possible that MS might survive as a company if Bill, Steve, and every manager they have trained were to relinquish control. The next decade would be interesting with someone else running a better, gentler Microsoft. (Carly is available, and MS does not have HP's diversity to confuse her.) But that is unlikely to happen before the stock crashes. And sadly, nobody will try to rebuild the company. It will be interesting to see if is worth as much as at the bankruptcy auction.
    • what a joke

      its pretty obvious that your hate for Microsoft blurs your vision.
    • What A Moron......

      No body necessary... read the subject...
  • eWeek Microsoft

    Got to love the news feeds! This is a little OT but might be worth the read. It looks like a score for some of our Pro MS people here at ZDNet. A linux hands on lab at it's partner show,1759,1835516,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03129TX1K0000616

    I'll keep my opinions to myself this time. You guys can cast your own for whatever it's worth :)
  • Monopolies breed mediocrity (at best)

    You can argue all you want whether MS is evil or good, whether
    they got to where they are by hard work or dirty tricks but you can't
    argue that a monopoly is good for anyone but the monopolist.
    Assemble a campus full of geniuses - the best and the brightest -
    and without competition the very best you can expect is mediocity.
    And that's about what you've got with Windows and Office.