Reports of internal bickering at Microsoft

A couple of former Microsofties are coming out of the woodwork and starting to offer constructive? criticism of the Redmond giant..

From Mary Jo Foleys blog:

Don Dodge, who was cut in the last round of Microsoft layoffs, only to resurface days later at Google as an evangelist, is extolling the virtues of Macs this week. Dick Brass, who retired from Microsoft in 2004 and was instrumental in the Tablet PC launch, is airing his grievances about what went wrong back in 2000 in an op-ed piece in the New York Times. Bill Hill, the leader of the ClearType team at Microsoft who left Microsoft last summer, has a post on his personal blog that also criticizes Microsoft’s development and commercialization processes.

Everyone is Monday morning quarterbacking about Microsoft’s level of innovation and after a spirited discussion with one of my cousins, I was fascinated with what he thought.

His position is, Microsoft make great software and make so many different products well that it is easy to overlook their successes and nit pick about one or two failures.

He points to SharePoint, Xbox Live, SQL Server, Office and the Windows suite (both client and server) as some examples of triumphs that Microsoft gets no credit for.

My other friend insists that Microsoft can do nothing right.

From their issues with the Justice department a few years ago to the Zune to Windows Vista to IE 6, there are a tone of valid items to blame the software giant for.

My position however is the following: Microsoft is a mature company that for now, doesnt seem to have a sense of direction beyond the obvious.

Of course they are going to develop Windows 8 and it will probably be great. Office 2010 is looking awesome already and I am sure Windows Server 2010 will look great too.

The problem is, those are low hanging fruit. Microsoft makes great office software. We knew that. Microsoft make good operating systems (most of the time), we knew that too.

The question is, what is the future of this company?

Bill Gates was great at articulating his vision of the future and where exactly Microsoft fit into that vision but recently, there hasnt been that clarity or articulation.

The problem isn’t that Microsoft can’t make a great browser, it’s that IE just isn’t as pleasant as Firefox or Chrome. They are not leading the way.

It’s not that they can’t make a media player device, just that the Zune is not as good as an Ipodo/Iphone.

It’s not that they can’t make a search engine…. you know the rest..

The problem is that other companies are starting to define communal problems and solve those problems (Ipad) and Microsoft seems to be predominantly attempting to play catch up.

My concern at this point is that if this continues, Windows 7 could face serious competition from Chrome OS or some other competitor. Microsoft needs a coherent sense of direction and an artful articulation of that direction a la Apple.

Steve Jobs has created the image of a company that creates items that make our lifes happier, better, more productive and fun. Even better, they solve problems before we realize they are problems.

I think Microsoft needs to figure out what their 10,000 foot message is, articulate that message and match that message with action. Otherwise, we may one day soon be talking about the Windows operating system with a 10% market share.

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