“Bob Frankston is one of the smartest people I speak to. If you don’t recognize his name, Bob is best known as the programmer who wrote VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet, realizing the design of his partner, Dan Bricklin,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS.
“In a sense Microsoft is a lot like the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire’s growth and economy was driven by conquering and plundering neighboring regions. Within the Empire they created a sort of safe economic zone where commerce could work and technology could be developed. However, that came at a price, as they tended to destroy everything outside the empire as it grew,” Cringely writes.
“Same for Microsoft, whose leaders were greedy and made a number of good, shrewd business decisions. They were also ruthless. Over time they managed to destroy the surrounding software industry. Within Microsoft’s world was a sort of safe economic zone. If you were not a threat to Microsoft or if you did something Microsoft didn’t want to do (like make PCs) you were able to grow under the shadow of Redmond. When the emperor spoke, you listened,” Cringely writes.
“It is too early to predict the fall of the Microsoft Empire. Does Microsoft have the leaders and generals who can lead the company into the future? Who knows? In the software world there is nothing else to conquer or plunder. In other markets it will be hard, if not impossible, for Microsoft to dominate whole industries as it has in the past. Microsoft now needs to act like a responsible company, work well with others, and grow through cooperation and teamwork. This will be hard for Microsoft,” Cringely writes. “The Romans couldn’t do it. The Romans neglected one of their ‘partners’ and eventually that partner did them in.”
Cringely writes, “Today’s Microsoft is a great generator of cash. With some good product refreshes, this cash generation can continue for years to come. The BIG decision is what to do with the cash. Microsoft needs to develop new businesses. Microsoft could have a great future doing things that have nothing to do with computers. They could be making a great electric car, or great new medications, or any number of other things. Microsoft could create new industries that could have a huge benefit to the economy. Microsoft could change the world, again. Ten years from now Microsoft could be a huge holding company of which PC software is but one part. They don’t have to gut the software unit, which is viable enough to be a great moneymaker for another 25 years if Microsoft manages it well.”
Cringely writes, “Right now Microsoft is like a deer in the headlights. They are stuck on software and computer stuff. They can’t move. There are much more interesting growth opportunities out there.”
Full article, including much about Net Neutrality and the idea that “making almost any regulation specifically to hinder OR HELP the Internet can only make things worse,” here.
MacDailyNews Take: Microsoft has never been a maker of great, inspired, elegant, innovative, original software. The best Microsoft products have been bought or copied/stolen. Ideas generated inside of the Redmond behemoth are… well, two words: Microsoft Bob. Maybe Microsoft should take their billions and do something else with it; something more useful, at which they might prove to be more adept?
For example — forget Cringely’s electric cars: electric, schlmetric — GM has so far invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in hydrogen fuel cell research. Imagine what Microsoft could do in that field with their many billions? Gather the best scientists and engineers in the field, pay them extremely well, and let them get to work. Certainly, leading the world into a hydrogen economy and a truly sustainable future is a better use of their big sweaty piles of cash than slipping and then finally shipping another bloated, ugly, counterintuitive, inelegant Windows operating system along with an equally affected office suite and other software products?
Although, it would take a good bit of PR to reconcile “Microsoft+Hydrogen” (see: Hindenburg), such an endeavor might even be more profitable than floundering around in software trying desperately to cling to “backwards compatibility” to maintain their market position. One thng: just focus on the fuel cell technology, Microsoft, and let Apple handle the vehicle control software and the user interface, okay?
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