Friday, July 12, 2013

Way to Go Microsoft! (and other tech companies).

   In a NY Times article today, it was outlined how Microsoft is now restructuring to be more like Apple. Hmmm...that's interesting. Microsoft (up 28.45% over 12 months) is playing follow the "leader with Apple (stock down 27.12% over 12 months. What? Hey, they're flying off a cliff, let's go too....Bon Voyage.

   Microsoft has been the company that Apple never managed to be. Apple had a great last run under Jobs and he made some amazing contributions before he left us, and that effect seems to linger a bit, but I would say the party is over for Apple. They turned a tech company into a consumer products firm with the hip factor of a night club. That's great. But as someone who lived in South Beach for ages, it isn't a model you'd want to count on long-term. Fashion is fickle. Very fickle.

   Why not give in on some non-core businesses where they have been banging their brains against the wall to the tune of billions? I know search is important, but I think Google has pretty much ended that discussion, at least as far as Microsoft's own internal development potential is concerned. An acquisition - maybe, but I think they are in a vapor lock on internal development.

   Moreover and more importantly, Microsoft can, with a modest effort, hang on to their highly profitable desktop/laptop OS ad infinitum. (or at least for a very long time). Why not focus on integrating some of their "old" Windows 7 software into a increasingly faster and faster, as well as more stable platform. People thought I was nuts when I was scrambling in December to latch onto a couple of high powered Windows 7 64-bit laptops. Why?

   Because I knew they were playing the "let's fiddle with the interface"game with Windows 8. Sure enough they blew that to pieces.

   This brings me to my central thesis.While I know that there are a never ending array of new tech products coming to market offering yet another alleged incremental benefit, those benefits are starting to seem mighty thin. It seems to me that perfecting execution of what they have been offering is a far superior and profitable plan. In addition, it would allow third-party developers to actually catch up, and clean up their offerings.

   My dream? An actual interconnected world where I can easily interact on my TV with my PC and Phone. Some of this is available, but much of it is still subject to painful "not as advertised integration". With every iteration of the "better interface" comes a host of bugs, and connectivity issues. Not to mention trying to figure out where everything went from the former interface. Phone, PC, tablet, the issues remain the same.

  Why does any of this matter? I'm just a retired business guy, albeit only 52. Well, I was one of the first to buy a PC when they came out at in the 1980s. People actually came to see my double 5.25" floppy system from Radio Shack. Wow. Then I did the unthinkable and got a 20Mb hard drive. A Ferrari at the time.

  I understand technology. Maybe not as a programmer or system manager, but it isn't scary to me. When something new arrives, I like to see what it has to offer. In short, not a Luddite.

   But there is a MASSIVE wave of baby boomers who will be wanting to use the internet, and their PC etc. and there is a pretty substantial amount of revenue there. Will  someone wake up and realize that they view the PC about the same as a screwdriver. It is a tool. The problem is it is a tool that keeps morphing into something new, and their desire (anecdotal but likely true) to continually adapt to new is fading. Steady and reliable is going to be BIG.

  So instead of launching Windows 8, 9 10 or whatever, try making 7 as elegant as possible. You can charge people an annual subscription for ongoing support and development of that program and my guess is that they'd jump on it. If Microsoft wants a new division, I suggest LEGACY OPPORTUNITIES. Yes, keep innovating, but remember that folks are (even some much younger than me) getting weary of learning a new phone, a new OS interface. Just make the one you have UNBREAKABLE. The profit in this will far surpass the continual effort to develop a system that will have great specs. If memory serves, that's rather the point of running a business.

  Improving, and streamlining existing OS code and apps isn't nearly as sexy as launching a new "idea' (with the shelf life of raw chicken in the jungle). But it is a puzzle as worthy of figuring out as any. And I'll stand by my assertion that it is a much more profitable path to chase. Any takers out there in Techville?

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