What is Microsoft’s vision?
Two decades ago, Microsoft’s vision was clear and Bill Gates was executing brilliantly on it. His vision was to simply put Windows in the center of everything making it the most popular platform on earth, helping developers build hundreds of thousands of applications on it, and deliver it to hundreds of millions of customers worldwide.
Looking back at that vision and how Microsoft succeeded executing it, you have to wonder about Microsoft’s current vision. The leadership at Microsoft has changed, the times have changed, and the competition is stronger but the same old vision remained the same.
Microsoft is still putting Windows, an operating system that was built for the “PC era”, in the center of almost everything while other companies are inventing new markets, building new devices, and innovating on many different levels to disrupt many different industries.
If you look back at the last twenty years, you will need to think for a while before pointing at something or an industry that Microsoft has invented or innovated in except for the XBOX (and of course, Kinect). There has been tons of small innovations here and there inside of existing products like Office and even Windows itself, but Microsoft missed tons of opportunities in many different markets including Mobile, Music, Movies, Tablets, and tens of other markets Microsoft either ignored or simply entered way too late to make a real difference.
Microsoft is not only losing its fan base, they are also losing marketshare by refusing to “update” their vision and maybe even their strategy. The company has become too big to move quickly, something Google is trying to avoid by continuing its efforts of getting the best talent and producing the most innovative products as quickly as possible by giving engineers inside the company the opportunity to make new products, launch them to market, and test the waters to see if they will succeed.
Microsoft’s official mission statement is “to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential”, that’s very nice but completely vague and means absolutely nothing. It is like saying my goal is to “change the world” but I am not saying how.
What Microsoft needs right now is the “Think Different” ad campaign. They don’t need it to restore the trust they are slowly losing from their customers (especially small businesses and college students), they need to tell their employees what Microsoft is all about.
Microsoft’s problem is not with revenue, they are doing well and will continue to do well the same way Yahoo is still making profit. Their problem is that their future is uncertain under the current leadership. Windows should no longer be the center of everything because Windows will no longer be relevant as it is. It needs to be redefined, re-imagined, and reimplemented. I am not sure if Windows 8 has done that. The Metro interface is really cool but it is not really redefining what Windows is the same way Apple redefined how tablets should work or what Music Players are (regardless if you agree with their definition or not).
Microsoft needs to “Think Different” and Ballmer needs to define a clear vision for his employees and the general public. After that, he needs to leave, someone else with a more technical vision needs to lead. Bill Gates had a real passion for technology. In addition to building a very successful company, he had a passion for technology. Ballmer doesn’t have that passion, at least, it is not more important to him than simply reporting higher profit margins. A CEO’s job (in my opinion) is not to make money, it is to make money while making sure the company is innovating and building a solid future for itself.