When I worked at Microsoft back in 1990-92 we spent a lot of time laughing at big, lumbering IBM. Today Microsoft is IBM.
It’s important to note that IBM isn’t dead. They just aren’t “it” anymore.
On the rare occasion I get to talk to someone well connected inside Microsoft, they’re quick to point out that they’re doing great. Revenue is up, profit is strong, and they’ve got enough cash to pave the parking lots with gold.
True. Enterprise customers, partnerships, and platform lock-in will keep Microsoft strong for years to come. Generous compensation, great benefits, and a reputation for stability will ensure enough dutiful wage slaves to keep the engines humming indefinitely.
It just won’t be cool.
If you’re willing to slow growth and concede leadership, you can be profitably uncool for a long time.
But when you’re a platform company, you need everybody on your platform to make the numbers work. And while many of us are locked-in to Microsoft’s platforms today, it’s now because we have to be, not because we want to be.
Microsoft needs to get cool again. Fast. Before there’s an iPhone/iPod dock built right into our brains.