For several decades, Microsoft was a juggernaut that dominated the enterprise computing landscape. Desktop computing, server operating systems, productivity software, e-mail… you name it, Microsoft owned it. However, with PC sales dropping by double-digit figures every year for the past five years, Microsoft’s once-‘Darth Vader’-like grip on the throat of the industry has weakened and new companies are making Microsoft seem stodgy and irrelevant.
Recognizing this, Microsoft spent much of the last year reorganizing and retooling itself, including announcing a company wide restructuring, the stepping down of long time leader Steve Ballmer, the acquisition of Nokia, and the launch of the Surface tablet, breaking its long-standing business model of not delving into vertically-integrated hardware and software solutions. These changes may look nice on paper, but ultimately they’re simply putting a finish on top of a bad surface — it may look nice, but the foundation is cracked.
For Microsoft to regain its position as a dominant software company, I would like to see it do the following:
- Focus on Enterprise buyers with mobile solutions. There’s arguably no company in history that has done a better job of marketing to IT pros than Microsoft. Given the history and success of this strategy, they should keep doing that with IT’s biggest pain point today: solving BYOD challenges. Microsoft’s mission should be to be as valuable to CIOs in the mobile computing era as they were in the desktop computing era.
- Buy BlackBerry. The acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone business gave Microsoft a vertically integrated solution, but not one that’s really business focused. While BlackBerry may seem like a dead company in the eyes of the consumer, BlackBerries can still be found in well over half of businesses today. Want to be enterprise-relevant? Buy that install base and offer solutions for it.
- Create a separate consumer brand. As strong as the brands Windows and BlackBerry are in the enterprise, they’re just not all that sexy today with consumers. If Microsoft wants to stay in the consumer game, they should create a brand with some appeal to the younger generation. Google created Android to go after those edgy buyers that don’t want mainstream Apple devices. How about a brand like “Blade Runner”, or something else that kills Androids?
- Buy Good and to deliver Mobile Application Management. Most people think of Good as being that hard-to-use interface that gets in the way of being mobile. That may have been true five years ago, but the company has rolled out an end-to-end mobile application management solution. Microsoft could build its own but that would be far too slow to capitalize on mobile now.
- Create an end to end “business experience”. Consider the model that Apple created, where iTunes, iCloud, and all those other iWidgets are integrated into the usability fabric of all Apple devices. Microsoft could create a similar model with Office, Exchange, Share Point, and Windows integration to have a seamless business experience. And related to what I mentioned earlier, I would dump the brand “Windows” for something that isn’t so 1990s.
- Make Azure the Microsoft mobile delivery platform. In the words of John Travolta, mobile and cloud go together “…like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong”. Luckily, Microsoft has an excellent cloud services platform called Azure, and it needs to become Microsoft’s mobile delivery service and offer public, private, or hybrid cloud services. This requires some shift away from selling IaaS services and more SaaS services but Microsoft should be able to do both successfully.
Image credit: timBern (deviantArt)