Microsoft. For a generation of technology executives, the name strikes fear into even the most iron-willed business leaders. A lion among gazelles, its very gaze into a market could cause investors and analysts to flee in terror. Yet, its name has become a punchline among today’s technorati, a joke about formerly dominant companies evolving into large, plodding kludges. Missed deadlines, delayed products, and canceled features are only some of the ways the company has disappointed both consumer and enterprise users.
The rest of the tech world has not moved slowly. Within just a handful of months of each other in 2006-2008, Apple introduced the iPhone, Amazon introduced AWS, Google introduced Android, and Facebook introduced News Feed. Together, these companies quickly became the quadrumvirate of tech, to the point that MG Siegler wrote last year that: “any rational thinker (meaning those outside of Redmond or anyone who hasn’t made a career as a .Net developer) knows that Microsoft simply no longer belongs” on the list of top tech companies.
Microsoft, though, has always had the critical ingredients for success. We expect our data to be portable, usable across all of our devices and apps. We want to be continuously productive and entertained depending on our mood, and we want services that work at the speed of our decentralized, mobile world. From Office to Xbox, Microsoft has had all the individual products and services it needed to fulfill our wildest tech imaginations. Yet it always seemed that inefficiency and politics prevented the company from becoming the key brand in technology.