Saturday, 9 February 2008

Microsoft to become Big Blue II?

I ran into a blog entry today Is Microsoft a doomed dinosaur and felt I had to respond.

For me the more I hear and read about Microsoft, the more I think they are doomed. And its not Open source thats going to take over, its sheer middle management inertia that is going to slowly choke Microsoft. A while back I heard Microsoft had 7 layers of management between Bill Gates and the developers. I figure Steve Ballmer has recognized this with his "Developers Developers Developers" speech, the problem here is that as soon as Steve goes the next CEO will be a person who is good at playing internal politics. They will not be an entrepreneur, they will not be an exceptional businessman with an eye for an opportunity like Rupert Murdoch. They will be smart, a great presenter and wear really nice suits. But they won't be what made Microsoft the behemoth it is today.

They will be Big Blue II style middle management rising to the top.

And just like Apple in the 80's during Gil Amelio's tenure at the top, they will slowly drown in company politics and stupid decisions.

In some ways I feel Steve Ballmer is already making some ordinary decisions, that appear to focus on near term profits for and from businesses, not on building communities, but he is trying to focus on developers which I will give him credit for. No one person in IT has all the ideas and one of Microsoft's historic strengths has been to steal other peoples good ideas (Windows, Browsers, tabbed Browsing the list is endless). This is leading to some really good ideas like Silverlight and the profits are growing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Microsoft is going to go away pretty much ever, like IBM, but I suspect it will be a long (20-30 year) slow grind downwards, based on the wrong people, too many middle people, average decisions, bad internal culture and some shocks along the way. Eventually they will get to where they do not have a single no 1. selling product in any category just like IBM got to in the 80's. Oh and more people will wear suits to work, than not.

Maybe Steve will have an epiphany before then and split the company up into Baby M's, but you can almost guarantee no one new will do it. It won't be in any new CEO's own interest ever to do it.

But I'll be about retirement age when that happens, so I'll just keep along for the ride.