Microsoft Then and Now

#Opinion

Thu, Feb 6th, 2014 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

As you may have heard, Satya Nadella is Microsoft's new CEO (Nadella is from India, which brought up this interesting read). In a post-Steve-Ballmer-era, with the death of the company already predicted years ago, John Gruber of Daring Fireball thinks that Nadella may have some work to do to make Microsoft relevant again. One solution, rather than following its past modus operandi of a computer on every desk, the new mantra should be on providing "high-quality, reliable, developer-friendly, trustworthy, privacy-guarding cloud computing platforms."

“A computer on every desk and in every home” was incredible foresight for 1977. It carried Microsoft for 25 years of growth. But once that goal was achieved, I don’t think they knew where to go. They were like the dog that caught the car. They spent a lot of time and energy on TV. Not just with Xbox, which is alive and well today (albeit not a significant source of income), but with other ideas that did not pan out, like “media center PCs” and the joint ownership of “MSNBC”, which was originally imagined as a sort of cable news network, website, dessert, and floor wax rolled into one.

What they missed was the next step from every desk and home: a computer in every pocket. It’s worse than that, though. They saw it coming, and they tried. Pocket PC, Windows CE, Windows Mobile — swings and misses at the next big thing. They weren’t even close, and worse, Steve Ballmer didn’t even seem to realize it. That’s what’s so damning about that video of him laughing at the original iPhone. Whenever I drudge that video up, a handful of defenders will write and tell me it’s unfair to mock him for his reaction, that he was actually right — that the original iPhone was too expensive. But what should have scared Microsoft wasn’t what the iPhone was in 2007, it was what the iPhone clearly was going to be in 2008, 2009, 2010. Prices come down, chips get faster. Software evolves. Apple had unveiled to the world a personal computer that fit in your pocket. That was amazing. That the original iPhone left much room for improvement is simply the way revolutionary products always get their start.

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