By Greg Mills
When I read stories in the press about defections from Microsoft’s executive suites, I consider the overall long term business situation at the Redmond campus. Since Ballmer took over from Bill Gates in 2000, Microsoft has shed half its market cap. That is a fact.
Rather than a string of successful new product launches, it looks more like a laundry list of epic product disasters when one considers Microsoft’s failed strategies and dismal product failures. Anybody want a Kin phone?
There is a “me, too” element in Microsoft’s genetic makeup. From the Windows OS inspired by the early Mac OS, Microsoft has followed the leader.
From a strictly financial theory, attempting to emulate only successful products ought to be cheaper and more successful than actually innovating in-house. Flawed planning, marketing and execution of product development has plagued Microsoft since Bill Gates retired to spend his money.
If I had written the article I saw regarding Hank Vigil’s moving on, I might have use a different approach. Rather than a back-slapping, corporate golden parachute story, “Rats abandon ship at Microsoft” seems more appropriate. Rather than honoring Strategy and Partnership Senior VP Vigil, who is quitting “to pursue investments in startups,” he should have been fired outright, long ago. Rewarding corporate morass is stupid.
If indeed Vigil was responsible for the innovative morass at Microsoft all these years, his 25-year tenure is a miserable flop from any reasonable perspective. Just ask any long term Microsoft investor. Microsoft was, at one time, the most valuable company in the world. That is an honor Apple is likely to have as soon as they edge Exxon-Mobil out of the way.
Microsoft has simply lived off the legacy Windows OS all these years. Windows has been badly managed, but still amounts to the great cash cow that enables the company to go on wasting money hand-over-fist on failed enterprises while still keeping the lights on. Microsoft was satisfied to pump out lackluster smartphone operating systems until Apple showed the world what users ought to expect.
It is four years now since the iPhone was released and only recently Windows 7 Mobile came out. With barely 1% of the market, they had to pay Nokia a billion dollars to get them to use their new mobile OS instead of adopting the more established Android platform.
That was a gambling decision that might well take Nokia down in the long run. Nokia staffers and stockholders would rather stuff the US$1 billion down Ballmer’s throat and build phones for the Android OS.
Apple developed iPad while Ballmer and his fellow bunkmates slept through the tablet revolution. That left hardware manufacturers desperate for an off -the-shelf touch screen tablet operating system that could have, should have, been a Microsoft product. Google was wide awake, rose to the occasion, and Android was launched. The rest is history.
Microsoft released the Xbox and spent money on it lavishly until it turned around and is making money. You figure they did something right until you consider the revolution in portable video games that run on Apple’s iOS and Android devices. Console video games are likely to decline in market share over the next few years, taking the Xbox down. As the iPhone and iPad gear up to do the Kinect trick, watch the Xbox decline.
Google’s Android tablet platform also should have been a Microsoft platform had the leaders at Microsoft not been convinced that, since they couldn’t get Windows to run worth a hoot on a touch screen tablet, no one could make the tablet platform user friendly. That opening was all it took for Apple and Google to launch first and second to beat Microsoft in an area they should have owned. The coma at Microsoft’s campus continued until the iPad went viral.
When you are “Senior Vice President for Strategy” you are paid very big bucks to anticipate what is going on in your market. I submit that, by any reasonable standard, Vice President for Corporate Strategy Vigil failed miserably. Sorry to state the obvious, Hank.
Actually, Apple and Google owe Hank Vigil a nice letter of gratitude for his long years of service to them in keeping Microsoft running around in ever tighter circles while failing to see the train wreck coming to pass in the PC world and the burgeoning mobile OS revolution they missed. If Microsoft staff and investors can’t blame CEO Ballmer or Vigil, who is at fault?
Microsoft missed the mobile computing revolution completely in both smartphones and tablets and only when the sales numbers showed the “rounding errors” level of market penetration by Apple growing exponentially and beginning to cut into Windows OS sales, did anyone wake up at Microsoft from the 10-year long coma.
Now awake at last, Microsoft curiously, is patting the architect of their own demise on the back and undoubtably giving him a nice cash bonus as he walks out the door? Nice work, Captain Hank. You set a giant corporate Titanic full speed ahead on a course towards giant iceburgs lurking the dark. “The rats are abandoning ship” has got to be the way business history is going to write this!
That’s Greg’s Bite out of Microsoft’s hide for today.
(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He’s also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustrySolar.com Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg’s art web site at http://www.gregmills.info He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org )