I woke up this morning to a great Techcrunch review of Microsoft's new/old strategies. For those who watch Microsoft on a regular basis, it's no surprise to hear that the company's dedication to its 20th-century businesses (more billions, please!) cripples its ability to move forward and catch up with the 21st Century.
Microsoft is a company with a lot of good people doing amazing things, but those people are like a horse that has been handicapped out of the race with the baggage of Microsoft old. They are putting up a good fight to be seen and listened to, but it's a hard ask. Microsoft is clearly a company that is changing, the only remaining question is will the whole organization transform into the new Microsoft quickly enough to survive the rapidly changing way companies and individuals interact with technology.
And so Steve Ballmer at Mix'08 was relegated to old jokes about Apple and panicky suggestions that Microsoft is the "little engine that could" against Google. It's not. At some point Microsoft will have to admit that its old model of install (Microsoft) once, control everywhere" is precisely why it isn't relevant in the 21st Century of software.
How do we know that Microsoft is struggling to catch up?
One of the easiest ways to see Microsoft trying to wring its last few monopoly rents from Windows is to analyze the cost of new hardware versus the software running on it. Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation notes the bloated price of Windows on ever-decreasing prices for hardware. Something has got to give.
At some point, Microsoft will as customers and competitors force it to realize that its tired old monopolies don't command the respect that they once did. By that time, it will be too late.
The old methods of control are...old. Google doesn't control through closed standards and proprietary lock-in. It controls by opening up information, applications, data. Microsoft is going to have to learn some new tricks to compete.
Until that time, it will remain its own worst enemy.