One of the benefits of a long car trip with my wife is the opportunity to have really great and insightful conversations with the smartest person I know. Yesterday, on the first leg of our trip, we spent some time discussing Microsoft’s many missed opportunities. The failure to take the iPhone seriously. The failure to take the iPad seriously. And, on. And on…
Then I brought up to her what I thought was Microsoft’s biggest miss. That being this:
Microsoft’s DNA is software. They are primarily a software company. The very name of the company is a mashup of microcomputer and software. And of all of the software they produce, one is more important than all the rest and a huge revenue source that the very livelihood of the company has come to depend on.
Are you thinking Windows? Wrong.
This is also the main cross-platform software they build. Got it yet? Yep.
Why then, instead of laughing at the iPhone, iPad, Android, or anything else that comes along, not employ a strategy of “Office Everywhere” and build platform specific and complementary versions of Office for every device that popped up? That, to me, seemed to be their biggest miss. Can you even fathom how many versions of “Office for iOS” they could have sold at this point? I would guess in the millions.
This, I said to my wife was their biggest miss.
And, as usual, my wife disagreed. She then laid down a thought so insightful, so deep, so damned perceptive, that it just about brought me to tears in its completeness.
You see, she said, missing all of the opportunities was just the start of a much deeper problem. Microsoft for many years had convinced the world that, in order to get “real work” done, you needed Office.
In fact, my many years of Mac Consulting was proof of this. To my clients, Microsoft Office was a “must have” no matter how much I tried to convince them otherwise. And I tried very hard for a while before even I just finally gave up. If a client told me they had to have it I just nodded along and told them what to get and where. They were as sure as the sun rises that, without Office, they would not be able to work, open attachments, write letters, anything. They had to have it.
Then, she explained, the iPhone came. There was no Office. People got things done. Then the iPad came. There was no Office. People got things done. Android came. People got things done. All of those things that they, just a couple of years ago, were convinced they needed Office to do. They got them done without it. And thus, the truth was revealed.
Microsoft’s biggest miss is not the lack of a smartphone, or tablet, or Office apps for iOS and Android.
Like the curtain finally falling from the Wizard of Oz to find just a small, frail, man pretending to be far more powerful and relevant than he really was. Microsoft’s biggest miss was allowing the world to finally see the truth behind the big lie — they were not needed to get real work done. Or anything done, really.
And that will be what ultimately kills them.