Dan Farber questions whether Microsoft is able to cross its chasm in this Sunday morning post. He points at Gates' musings on how to avoid the scrap heap of history--by innovating its way out of the Xerox Parc deadend user interface. In suggesting an open source project to redefine the desktop, Dan implies that Microsoft can't be the one to do this.
Tonight I decided to go to a party, and clicked on the provided link to get directions. It was Google Maps, and it was slick. It's a rainy night here in San Francisco, and I was somewhat ambivalent about going out. I wasn't sure how to navigate, but double-clicked just to see what would happen. It centered the map on the spot. The stickpin with the location of the party hovered above the location with an elegant drop shadow. It's the new operating system at work--not Google or Flikr or Scoble or podcasting--but the spirit of discovery, of freedom. The cat is out of the bag, the genie out of the bottle. Nobody can put us back in the box except ourselves, by not caring, giving up, despairing, opting out.
This goes for Bill and Steve just as much. Microsoft can do anything it wants, if it just gives up on the Plan. Embrace the unembraceable. Jim Allchin, relax your guard. If you press against the power of the hive, you give it more power, and fundamentally, authority. It's not a time for safe bets, for incremental wins. You can't play out the clock, Jim. Don't believe me--be honest with yourself. Don't you guys long for the days when your imagination outstripped your resources?
It's right there in front of you. Lock-in around formats will only poison your position, dilute your base, erode your models. Run the numbers: what would it cost to open InfoPath to a free runtime? What would it cost to put RSS at the center and Outlook at the edge. Can't you see that the DRM code is the very thing that empowers your competitors by making it a sacred trust not to consolidate the power to lock people out of the network in any one hand?
Me--I'm going to the party. Hope to see you there, Bill.