Interesting Microsoft Op-Ed

I hate being sick. I don’t write when I’m this sick. I don’t do anything except read and watch the Style Channel mindlessly — and the Style Channel doesn’t even show clothes anymore. In this morning’s reading I came across a very interesting Op-Ed in the NY Times by Dick Brass, the ex-VP of Microsoft called Microsoft’ Creative Destruction:

As they marvel at Apple’s new iPad tablet computer, the technorati seem to be focusing on where this leaves Amazon’s popular e-book business. But the much more important question is why Microsoft, America’s most famous and prosperous technology company, no longer brings us the future, whether it’s tablet computers like the iPad, e-books like Amazon’s Kindle, smartphones like the BlackBerry and iPhone, search engines like Google, digital music systems like iPod and iTunes or popular Web services like Facebook and Twitter…..

…… The company’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer, has continued to deliver huge profits. They totaled well over $100 billion in the past 10 years alone and help sustain the economies of Seattle, Washington State and the nation as a whole. Its founder, Bill Gates, is not only the most generous philanthropist in history, but has also inspired thousands of his employees to give generously themselves. No one in his right mind should wish Microsoft failure.

And yet it is failing, even as it reports record earnings. As the fellow who tried (and largely failed) to make tablet PCs and e-books happen at Microsoft a decade ago, I could say this is because the company placed too much faith in people like me. But the decline is so broad and so striking that it would be presumptuous of me to take responsibility for it.

Sitting here watching Eric play Mass Effect 2 reminds me that the Xbox360 is likely Microsoft’s most popular product. You cannot say that Windows 7 is “popular” the way people go out of their way to buy Xboxes. Windows 7 is a “grudging upgrade.” No one thinks Office is “popular” the way the new iPad will be popular. It is necessary — and slowly being overtaken by other, cheaper, less bloated applications. (I like Abiword but I know I’m an island.)

Read the whole editorial. It’s fascinating. I have been watching the Microsoft in my life slowly disappear and now it is condensed only in the Xbox360 and vestigial Office apps. Like a shark, in technology, you either keep moving or die, and when the business people get involved in the technology decisions and people start guarding territory with knives, what you end up with is a dead shark.