At the Microsoft Build 2013 keynote in San Francisco, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer wanted everyone to know that Microsoft is not a lumbering giant.
"We're transitioning from a software company to a company that's building software, devices and services," Ballmer said. "And the only way we can do that is to adopt a rapid product release cadence. This is fundamental to what we're doing and what we must to do to mobilize our ecosystem and our partners."
To demonstrate Microsoft's rapid release cadence, Ballmer and team rolled out a preview of Windows 8.1 just eight months after the radically new Windows 8 became available. "The only way in which that transformation can possibly be driven is on a principle of a rapid release. It's not a one-time thing," Ballmer emphatically stated.
The faster cadence and rapid release meme is not new for Microsoft or Ballmer. It's just more urgent at this juncture.
In 2005 he talked "short twitch" cycles.
"The important thing we are focused in on across Microsoft is how through a combination of both product and through services that talk to those products--Internet-based services--all of our major businesses can have a short twitch capability--call that every six or nine months--and a medium twitch capability," Ballmer said. "At the same time we can't stop doing the R&D that takes every three or four years to get done. We just can't make our customers wait three or four years for things that should have been on more interim cycles. We try to orchestrate ourselves, so that we have innovations coming on all three of those cycle paths."
Eight years later, Microsoft is known for its slow twitch in failing to capitalize early on the shift to mobile and social. Instead, Apple, Samsung, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others are leading the charge in this first part of the 21st century.
Microsoft got back in the game with an ambitious Window 8 across all devices, but stumbled a bit out of the gate. In the case of Windows 8, users weren't happy about shedding many of the conventions in Windows 7. Microsoft's rapid response, according to Ballmer, was to "refine the blend" of its desktop experience and modern experience with 800 updates, including the return of the Start button.
While Microsoft may have found its short twitch muscle, the company will still need to convince more software developers and hardware partners that Windows, not just iOS and Android, is core to the post-PC world.