Microsoft's youth problem

The software giant needs to get into the minds and hearts of college students again.

TechCrunch's Dan Kimerling suggests that Microsoft's stodgy enterprise software focus is largely irrelevant to a Generation Y reared on Facebook and Google. He may be right.

As Microsoft continues to bloat its products in an attempt to entice upgrades, the rising generation is looking for Web-based applications that are "simultaneously powerful and simple to use."

This, however, is just one aspect of the youthquake. The other is that tomorrow's programmers don't grow up with Microsoft tools or ambitions to code the next great .Net application (perhaps because they can't remember the last one).

Instead, they're using open-source software before, throughout, and/or instead of college, writing the Web and its future in PHP and Ruby. They aren't waiting for CEO Steve Ballmer to bombard them with his "Developers!" song. They already know it. They wrote it themselves in a text editor.

The ground is shifting beneath the feet of Microsoft, as well as other corporate behemoths. It may well be that tomorrow's programmers will eventually settle into a catatonic existence of manipulating Microsoft developer tools. I doubt it.

Kimerling sums it up:

Until Microsoft starts listening to young people and creating products and services that simply work, and that means no crashes, no blue screens, and a dead simple user interface, it will not surprise me that a melancholy mood will hang over Microsoft, and its share price.

All true, except that instead of "Until" Kimerling should have prefaced this sentence with "Even if..."

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Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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