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Microsoft reality check?


There has been a wave of posts in the blog world recently, related to Microsoft, how it is perceived and what it may be doing wrong. Sometimes the debates seem a bit absurd because of the very different values of the participants (like what is success, what is good or evil,...), but it is good to see that the communication channels are continuing to open.

I believe the Microsoft main problems to be its many coupled or conflicting interests, while being so dominant in the desktop market. For example, few (or none?) companies are in such a multi-faceted position: to develop an audio format, license it, have it supported by 95% of the end-user computers, tie it to its other products and sell online content in that format.

ISVs and developers:
Darcy recently shared her surprise about the suspicion that answers to all Microsoft moves. It reminded me of Peter's post "How Microsoft could help Tablet PC ISVs ", that mentions how ISVs may be threatened by Microsoft's attitude.

There is also the question of the Longhorn flood 2+ years before the ship date. I don't doubt that Longhorn will ship and have great advances for both users and developers, but I still remember the Hailstorm stir and fade.
Jon Udell takes a step back and announces his article project to evaluate the .NET framework against its promises.

Media formats and content:
On the media front, Scoble unleashed a much debated argument about how iPods suck and there is no way you'd want to pick Apple's DRM instead of Microsoft's. His reasoning is there is more choice in terms of hardware for WMA, more online stores, more desktops (and Windows Media Centers) to support it, amongst others.

One point that struck me is because Microsoft doesn't make hundreds of dollars off the hardware, their marketing isn't good. Well, then what about the Xbox, MS doesn't make money off the hardware does it? Also, who pays for the Xbox advertisements? It's in fact not only the Xbox customers, but the Windows customers as well. Is that any better?

My advice: the iPod and AAC have their problems, but they're successful. Take a hint. There has to be at least one thing that isn't wrong with iPods/iTune, isn't there? They may not have tons of features or tons of devices, but what they do they do pretty well.

There was another interesting article on Microsoft and the music industry (and a reply by Scoble). It tackles the conflicts of interest between Microsoft the WMA format owner and Microsoft the content provider (MSN Music), and the threat it creates for those in the industry that want to partner with it.

I think Microsoft still has a little bit of an attitude problem. Given its position in the market, it shouldn't complain about how competitors are successful, but really, its own products are way better. Open your eyes, just do it right (and do no evil, ala Google, although some debates are starting there too).

Maybe there are too many shared or conflicted interests between the various groups (Windows, Office, MSN,...), too much cash redirection between them (MSN and Xbox both had their first couple years in the red) and too much tainted history for Microsoft to ever succeed in ridding its customers from their suspicions.

Update: What's So Bad About Microsoft? and Cringely's "Now the Only Way Microsoft Can Die is by Suicide".

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