Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome to Microsoft’s Nightmare: Weak Quarter and Still More Yahoo Questions! | Kara Swisher | BoomTown | AllThingsD

While "search" is a valuable market to be in, I continue to see no compelling reason why Microsoft should obsess over it to the exclusion of so many other things (including their core competencies). Well, there is one reason, namely that Ballmer pronounced Google to be public enemy number one a few years back and he hasn't been able to think of anything else since.

Think back to the beginnings of the Internet. Microsoft didn't even want it to exist. You had to ADD the TCP/IP components needed to access the Internet to early versions of Windows. Microsoft had visions of everyone connecting to Microsoft, and only Microsoft when they wanted to connect to the rest of the world. Fortunately that fantasy didn't last too long, and when Netscape and others started producing the first graphical web browsers Microsoft decided they couldn't be left out, that if they didn't outright own the net they at least had to control it.

The rest, as they say, is history. But has Microsoft's success with Internet Explorer really accomplished much for them? Quite the opposite. IE is free. Nobody buys either Windows or Office because of the compelling nature of Internet Explorer. It has cost them, what, hundreds of millions in legal troubles. Irony of ironies, the features they introduced to beat Netscape are the gateway for the security holes that have made both Windows and Office user's lives miserable with regular reboots re-installs and mysteriously sluggish computers. Every Windows user on earth would be better off running any browser other than IE, and Microsoft wouldn't lose a cent in the process.

So, now they want to do search. Doesn't it sound like a re-run to you? Does to me. They are after all a BIG company, no matter how you measure it. Why not tackle something BIG. Rather than toe dipping into hardware with the Xbox, produce Microsoft TVs, Toasters, Cell phones (now that Apple has shown how "easy" it is) or even cars?

Why in software, are they willing to have their operating system not be the primary choice for the major Internet providers? Does Google depend on Microsoft servers? Yahoo? Facebook? AOL? In fact the only major Internet company using Windows servers is Microsoft. And that's true primarily due to a Bill Gates mandate, not a technical decision. What's with that? Surely it's not a cost issue right? MS Marketing tells us it's all about TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Am I missing something in their message?

How much more successful might Microsoft have been had Ballmer pronounced EBay or Amazon or Circuit City as the company they wanted to morph into? Or Dell for that matter? These companies have all suffered stumbles in their hi-tech ventures at one time or another. They have all at one time or another rested on their laurels and had to play catch-up, and in some cases failed. These would all be ideal areas for a company that has apparently exhausted their mental capital on existing products to swoop into and take over.

But search? Why?

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