The world can be a strange place and our paths can take us to unexpected places.
And so it would be a surprise to many, myself included, that I found myself in a room of about 200 executives conducting a live question and answer with Steve Ballmer. Yes me, the Linux loving avowed Microsoft skeptic in a room with Steve Ballmer asking a question directly to the CEO of Microsoft. How did this happen?
As it turns out, every year Microsoft invites a handful of partners to it’s “Partner Executive Summit” (PES) which takes place the day before the Microsoft World Partner Conference (WPC). The invites for PES are given to Microsoft partner companies that have an existing strong relationship with one of Microsoft’s competitors, but have shown a keen interest in switching to use Microsoft products instead. In the case of the company I work for, we have an existing Unified Communications business but recently have embraced Microsoft Lync as the best solution going forward. Thus, Microsoft invited me to attend PES which included the Ballmer Q & A session.
But would I ask a question? Part of me wanted to lay-low in fear that the Microsoft Secret Service (I made that up btw) would say “a-ha! That’s him! Grab him before he says something critical and embarrassing!”. On the other hand I thought it would prove that I was nothing more than an internet Troll if I only criticized Microsoft from a safe distance and not have the guts to voice my opinion in person.
So, as the Q & A session wound down and it was starting to look like there weren’t many more questions, I raised my hand and asked my Steve Ballmer my question. To paraphrase, I asked this “Given that Microsoft is trying to recapture it’s “mojo” in the consumer space, and given all the recent talk about “start of a new era”, “Microsoft re-invented” etc. why didn’t Microsoft take this opportunity to name it’s new operating system, especially on phones something other than “Windows”?
When I asked this, Steve Ballmer kind of chuckled and dropped his head which I interpreted as a look of “I’ve had this argument before”. Then he said the following (again paraphrasing) “First, the number one most important thing is the product. Make an awesome product and it will make it’s own buzz and doesn’t matter what you call it. If we called it “Freeva”, to pick a name at random, it wouldn’t matter if it turns out the product isn’t very good. So if we are fixated on the name, we’re worrying about the wrong thing.”
“Second, intelligent people can have this debate, but ‘Windows’ is an incredibly powerful brand name that still has a ton of value. Something like the top 4th or 5th most recognized brand in the world, so I disagree that it’s something we should abandon.”
Steve Ballmer also revealed that there was an internal discussion about a name change about 2 or 3 years ago, but they decided to stick with the brand.
So there you have it. Straight from Steve Ballmer.
People have asked me what I thought of the answer and to be perfectly honest, I thought it was a great answer. With respect to “make a great product”, I 100% agree and it shows that Steve is focused on the right things. But I still don’t agree that “Windows” was the best name choice. While it may not make-or-break the new products, I believe that Microsoft could have created significantly more buzz if they had created the perception that they were launching a completely new operating system, rather than just an upgrade.
Brand recognition is important, but not as important as what the brand is recognized for. For example, “BP” has very high brand recognition, but unfortunately it’s for flaming drilling platforms and oil spills, so much so that they considered re-branding all of their service stations back to “Amoco”.
Certainly “Windows” is not in the same category as BP, but I think it’s fair to say a Windows upgrade or new device running Windows doesn’t generate anywhere near the kind of hype that Apple, and now even Samsung are getting out of their product launches.
So like Steve said, intelligent people can disagree, but I’ll give him credit for sticking with Windows and believing it can be re-invented.
Steve Job and Apple announced iCloud this week and this was revolutionary and exciting for the media because Apple has taken the name “cloud” and put an “i” in front of it! Wow! Thanks again Apple! We worship you!
Why does every Apple announcement remind me of the scene in toy story where the little green aliens say “Ooooohhh…the Claw” ?
“Apple’s cloud is timid: it’s about storage and synching as opposed to a streaming, real-time, extension to your actual machine.” – Article from Wired
But I digress… The point of this post is really that Microsoft continues to spiral down. Granted, they’ve traditionally been flying so high that the downward spiral will take years before it hits the ground and give plenty of time to pull the nose up, but for now that hasn’t happened.
Microsoft recently announced a new version of their OS. Supposedly a “radical” departure from past versions. And to demonstrate just how radical of a departure it really is, they gave it a new and exciting name … Windows 8! (yawn). I’ll just repeat what I’ve said a dozen times already, unless Microsoft can resist the urge to call everything “Windows Something”, it will never turn this ship around. Windows is un-cool! Nobody wants anything Windows related.
And get this, it’s going to have aspects of the interface from iPhone7 layered on top of the traditional Windows OS. So a user-interface layered on top of a user-interface. Sounds desperate. Microsoft grasping at anything as an excuse to launch Windows 8 without actually doing anything new. I predict that sales will show that they should have called it “Vista 2″.
Google’s vision is much more far reaching and long term. Google envisions a day when your device is nothing more than a window into your virtual computer on the cloud. All the power, all the storage, all the applications running “on the net”. That’s what true cloud computing is and I commend them for that. The problem is that to truly realize this dream requires a very high speed (and more importantly, low delay) network. Not today, not tomorrow, but soon.
Gartner is declaring that Microsoft will not even have a 1% share of the tablet space until at least 2015. Their reasoning is that since nothing Microsoft has today is suitable for tablets, Microsoft will have to wait until Windows 8 to re-launch their tablet strategy and that isn’t due until at least 2012.
But as I’ve said before, if Microsoft is going to put “Windows” on it, they might as well not bother.
Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said in a recent interview that Microsoft is increasingly irrelevant. “I think we just don’t care that much [about Microsoft] anymore … They used to be our big rival, but now it’s kind of like kicking a puppy.”
Zemlin points out that Linux is dominant in every sector except the Desktop. And while the desktop is certainly not an insignificant portion of the market, this is also likely to change dramatically over the next 5 years as mobile devices start to replace laptops and desktops.
Think of it this way, is your next purchase likely to be another $1000 home computer with windows, or with some other device like a $300 tablet? There is no longer any compelling reason to buy a home computer with Windows so the trend is inevitably away from desktop PCs.
It won’t happen overnight but I’ll bet that sometime over the next couple years you’ll cast your gaze over to your home PC and realize it has a layer of dust on it. At that point you’ll realize that your beloved PC, the one that you thought you could never live without hasn’t even been turned on for weeks.
A few weeks ago, nobody could figure out why Nokia announced it was switching to Windows Phone 7. As it turns out, the answer is that Microsoft payed Nokia 1 Billion. Now it makes sense (no, not really). Nokia’s sinking ship is willing to tie itself exclusively to Microsoft’s sinking ship because Microsoft’s boat is bigger and sinking slower.
But the decision still doesn’t make much sense given that Microsoft reportedly outbid Google. What that means is Nokia could have accepted a large amount of money from Google to latch on to it’s rising space ship (Android), but instead accepted slightly more money for a deck chair on the Titanic.
Perhaps Nokia decided to favor Windows Phone 7 because there are relatively fewer handset makers doing so. Android is now on so many devices that it’s hard to separate yourself from the pack. On the other hand, Nokia has traditionally been a commodity handset maker which would seem to align better with Android, to say nothing of the fact that Android is based on Linux which was invented in Finland, Nokia’s head office. I guess they have other ideas…
I’ve mentioned it on a few previous posts, now Wired is saying the same thing, “These tablets show just how wrong-headed Microsoft’s plan to use Windows for everything is.”
“the platform failed to live up to the company’s expectations of grabbing consumer attention.”
Back in November when Microsoft announced it’s phone and called it “Windows 7″, I commented that if Microsoft wants to get anywhere in the mobile world it has to stop calling everything “Windows”! The name “Windows” instantly associates everything with the legacy desktop and that’s just flat out boring. Nobody wants yet another Windows anything.
Sadly, Steve didn’t get memo. At his CES 2011 keynote he is quoted as saying “Windows will be everywhere, on every kind of device, without compromise.” Predictably, this excited nobody. The Windows interface and all the applications that Windows is known for are not suited to touch screens and mobile devices so cramming yet anther attempt at Windows compatible OS on a portable device is doomed to failure.
If Microsoft wants to succeed in the mobile space it needs a totally new interface which, by definition, wouldn’t be Windows. So don’t call it Windows!
By contrast, if Microsoft announced a completely new operating system for mobile devices, this would create a massive amount of excitement and interest. Instead, everyone just yawns and goes off to see what the other Steve is up to.
кухненско обзавежданеI’m not into “fads”. When everyone-and-their-dog is raving about some new product, I’m more likely to opt out. My logic is pretty simple, when something is over-hyped, chances are it won’t live up to expectations and you end up disappointed. It’s always more rewarding finding a that hidden gem than buying off the rack.
Sadly, hype also has a cruel cousin called “complete lack of interest”. It’s the opposite of hype because no matter what the merits of the product, the buying public just doesn’t care and many a good product has failed without even getting a fair chance.
That is apparently the category Microsoft is in. Even if Windows Phone 7 was the greatest phone in the history of phones, it won’t matter. Nobody cares. The launch of Windows Phone 7 was a complete non-event. I didn’t even hear about it in the business news.
Contrast that with Apple. If Steve Jobs even thinks about a new product, or even if people think he might be thinking about a new product, there is non-stop media coverage. Microsoft has completely lost its mojo and there is little chance of turning it around.
Microsoft just can’t seem to envision a way to transform itself from a legacy desktop PC software maker into a company that understands and competes in the mobile space. The problem is, when Microsoft “thinks mobile”, all it thinks about is how do we make a mobile device that is “Windows Compatible”…Can you think of a more boring phrase than “Windows Compatible”.
What Microsoft just can’t comprehend is that the truly great mobile devices of the future will be the ones that let you completely leave your desktop behind and never look back.
If Microsoft was going to hit a home run with their new phone OS, there was one thing they should NOT have called it; “Windows”. That one word more than any other associates with the legacy desktop PC business, and just in case Microsoft hasn’t been paying attention, desktop PCs are completely un-cool.
Microsoft won’t be going away any time soon. Never the less, it’s days as the dominant force in computing are certainly coming to a close. So just as IBM lost its top spot but still remains a large profitable company, so to will Microsoft.
As I’ve said many times in the past, as soon as you can dock a keyboard and monitor to a smartphone, the PC era will be officially over. And since Microsoft shows no signs of establishing itself in the post-PC world, it’s all down hill from here.
Here is the article in Information Week that inspired this post.