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Can Microsoft be lust-worthy?

Microsoft needs to get its act together to create lust-worthy products before its customer base strays for Apple.

Microsoft is far from dead, but it's hemorrhaging on all sides, and particularly in markets closest to consumers like mobile where it is steadily losing market share.

As one example, though a potent one for me, a longtime friend and Microsoft employee wrote on Facebook that he had finally capitulated and bought an iPhone.

This is a man who dutifully stuck to Windows Mobile while the rest of the world fled. He's a man who resolutely continues to promote Microsoft for many good reasons..

He's now gone to the "dark side." Or the cool side, as the case may be.

Microsoft can hardly afford to lose its marketing mojo with mainstream enterprises and consumers (and boy, has it lost some with these ads), but when its own employees turn on it...? It's not looking good.

To stanch the bleeding and rediscover its glory years, Microsoft should take a page from Apple, a company that nearly imploded years ago only to rediscover its design and financial prowess.

Yes, from Apple.

The reason that the world gave Apple another lease on life is that it created lust-worthy products. The desire has become so intense that the markets starts to salivate, Pavlovian style, at the merest hint of Apple creating a tablet...or trash can. We will apparently buy whatever Apple sells, sight unseen.

Sure, Apple still has anemic market share compared with Microsoft. And, yes, Apple serves different markets--content with consumers while Microsoft owns the enterprise.

But this is cause for concern, not complacency.

The enterprise is increasingly becoming personal. Employees are being given more leeway about what technology they buy, and Macs and iPhones are increasingly within the general guidelines as to what enterprises will support.

They have to be. Employees demand these Apple products.

Microsoft generally makes technologies that consumers have to use. Apple makes technology that consumers want to use. Over the long haul, which position do you think will win? If you're recruiting the best and brightest, for which company do you think they'd want to work?

This isn't a suggestion that Microsoft should start shipping purple PCs. But it is a call for Microsoft to make more software that consumers want.

Yes, even within its core market of enterprise software. Enterprise software can be sexy. Well, sort of.

Look at Atlassian. It does phenomenally well by creating software like Jira that developers want to use. For that matter, Microsoft technology like SharePoint inspires the same reaction: it's not sexy in the Apple sense, but dramatically more usable than its curmudgeonly competitors like Documentum.

SharePoint, in a way, is Microsoft emulating Apple, albeit in a stodgy, enterprise sort of way.

Microsoft needs a lot more of it, and it needs to step up its game in mobile and other markets that directly touch consumers. Windows 7 is a good first step in reinventing the Windows brand. The company should go further.