Friday, October 06, 2006

Life after Bill: Microsoft tries to reinvent itself, again

Another great article in Wired this month, this time looking at Microsoft as the Gates era winds down and the Ozzie era spins up.

As seems to always be the case, Microsoft finds itself beset by tough competition on many fronts - Google is now offering Web-based apps which could compete with Office, YouTube is way out in front in online video publishing, Apple dominates the electronic music and video business, etc. This is, of course, nothing new for the boys and girls in Redmond. Since the early 90s, company after company and innovation after innovation has been hailed as the Microsoft-killer, and none have lived up to the hype yet.

However, that doesn't mean Microsoft can rest on it's laurels. Far from it.

Ray Ozzie, the heir to Bill Gates' throne in Redmond, is trying to shift Microsoft from a big, scheduled, marketed software release company into a much faster, much more nimble purveyor of online services. This is akin, as stated in the Wired article, to an aircraft maintenance worker, used to rolling an airplane into a hanger for regular maintenance, being asked to do all his/her maintenance work while the plane is in flight.

Can Microsoft pull it off? Can an enormous (and enormously successful) organization change itself in a significant way? While Microsoft has done so before (think back to 1995 and the start of the Internet Revolution), overall human history says it's unlikely.

This promises to be a fascinating struggle to watch (and be involved in, albeit in a small way). For starters, you should go read this article.


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