Nothing left to lose

Today’s been a productive day. Lot of code written, good conversation and a lot of reading done. I caught up with my backlog of stuff I had to read around the internet and even let myself carry on reading links. Out of everything I read, there are two things I read that I feel worth writing.

The first was about Microsoft and the recent Kin debacle. It’s a good article with lots of remarks from people inside Microsoft and it’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested in technology or business at all. The article paints a pretty grim picture of where Microsoft is going. MS is definitely not my favorite technology company (and I’ve been Windows free for a while now) but it still hurts a little to see a once-great company go so tragically wrong. As I was reading that article I kept thinking that Microsoft really needed a cold, hard reboot. A complete restructuring where they would identify their core strengths (Windows and Office), unify their various disparate projects (Mobile/Kin, all their various web efforts) and bring more developers onto their side (C#, F# and the rest of .NET). Is any of this going to happen? I don’t know. I hope so, but my gut says no, sadly.

However, when I read this next article (about weak AI applied to cars and massive data sets) one line stuck out that pretty much summed up what I thought about Microsoft and its current situation. The line was this: It turns out that, innovation, like freedom, “is just another word for having nothing left to lose.” Very fitting, yes?

I think what everyone is feeling that Microsoft is simply far too big and unwieldy to make the drastic changes that are really necessary for it to stay in the game against the likes of Apple and Google. Restructuring a large company to fend off faster moving rivals is never an easy thing to do and it’s even harder when:

  1. You’re company is violently divided politically into jealous corporate fiefdoms
  2. Everyone in the world seems to know about how bad it is

The feeling that I think is prevalent is that even though Microsoft desperately needs to make an about turn in a lot of different areas, they’re not going to. Not yet, not unless more heads have rolled and not until they’ve lost a lot more, both in terms of interesting products and shareholder value. In other words, Microsoft will have to be forced into a situation where they have nothing left to lose before they start to really make the changes that they need to.

And that is sad. Sure, I’ve bashed Microsoft before and I’m certainly not a fan of Windows, but I too want them to get their act together and become a formidable software company again. I have good friends working at Microsoft who have had good experiences and I’ve heard good things about C# and .NET (language geek that I am). If nothing else, diversity is good and the more sources of interesting technology we have, the better. So I wish Microsoft the best of luck and really, really hope that the Kin (and Courier before it) are what finally kick Microsoft into action and push themselves to get back to the top of the game. Will that actually happen? We’ll see.