>Microsoft, Jerry Seinfeld, and Enterprise Architecture

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ComputerWorld, 21 August 2008 reports on a news article in the Wall Street Journal that “Microsoft hires Seinfeld to bite Apple.”

“Continually painted by Apple and other rivals as uncool and unsafe, Microsoft plans to spend $300 million on a new series of advertisements designed around its ‘Windows Not Walls’ slogan that will feature Seinfeld and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.”

“Microsoft is not only trying to turn around a stodgy corporate image, but also wants to reverse recent product misfires, including the Windows Vista Operating System and the Zune digital music player.”

“Apple has rubbed in Microsoft’s lack of success and highlighted its own winning streak in a series of ‘Mac vs. PC’ ads.”

Is the Seinfeld ad a good branding strategy?

Well as my wife said, “this is as close as Microsoft can get to cool.”

Seinfeld, while rated by TV Guide in 2002 as one of the greatest TV programs of all times, is at this point somewhat dated—having aired nine seasons between 1989 and 1998—so it was over ten years ago! (Wikipedia)

In perspective, Seinfeld was already off the air before Vista, Zune, or the iPhone was ever created.

Microsoft’s attempt at reversing their “stodgy corporate image” is a feeble attempt that in fact solidifies that very image. It is no wonder that Microsoft is enamored with the 1990’s when they were the king of the hill in corporate America and in the technology arena with the launch of Microsoft Office in 1989 (the same year Seinfeld episode 1 aired) and before Google was founded in 1998 (the last season Seinfeld aired).

The Wall Street Journal, 21 August 2008, reported that “Microsoft is a little like the General Motors of technology. The software giant is, of course, much more successful, financially and in market share, than the troubled auto maker. But as at GM, Microsoft’s very size—over 90,000 employees—and it bureaucratic structure often make the company seem more stolid and less innovative than smaller, nimbler rivals like Google and Apple.”

From an enterprise architecture perspective where is Microsoft going wrong?

Microsoft is still living in the past—hence, the choice of the historic Jerry Seinfeld as their new image maker. Rather than acknowledging their current architecture and looking to the future or target architecture and how to transition forward, Microsoft keeps looking in the rearview mirror at where they were 10, 15, 20 years ago.

Microsoft keeps trying to catch up to the new generation of innovators like Google and Apple by either trying to acquire the 2nd tier competition like Yahoo or developing copycat products like the Zune.

More recently, Microsoft has tried to become more agile and take advantage of smaller groups to break their bureaucratic and cultural logjam. One example is Live Labs, “a small operation that aims to turn technology theories into real, Web-based products relatively quickly. It has only about 125 employees, and even that modest number is broken up into smaller teams tackling specific projects.”

Even if Live Labs succeeds, what are the other 89,875 employees at Microsoft doing?

To really compete in the future, Microsoft needs better planning and governance and this is what enterprise architecture can bring them—a forward looking and improved decision making framework.

>Apple’s OS Leopard and Enterprise Architecture

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The Wall Street Journal, 25 October 207 reports that Apple’s new operating system (OS), Leopard, is “faster, easier than [Microsoft’s] Vista.”

Overall “the Mac is on a roll…Macintosh computers has surged in popularity in the past few years, with sales growing much faster than the overall PC market, especially in the U.S. By some measures, Mac laptops are now approaching a 20% share of U.S. non-corporate sales.”

Reasons for Mac’s recent success:

  1. Security problems inherent in Windows platform
  2. Spillover from success of Apples iPod music players
  3. Macs can now run Windows (with third party software Fusion, can run OS X and Windows simultaneously)
  4. Apple’s hot retail stores
  5. Mac versatile, easy to use OS X (now called Leopard, previous version called Tiger)

Advantages of OS X versus Microsoft Vista

  1. Apple has upgraded far more rapidly (~ every 18 months) versus Microsoft (5+ years)
  2. Faster than Vista
  3. Easier to use than Vista
  4. Preinstalled on all new Macs
  5. Sold in 1 full featured upgrade version for $129 versus Microsoft 4 upgrade versions for between $100-$249 (from basic to ultimate)
  6. Automatic backup of entire computer (called Time Machine)
  7. Free software to run Windows on a Mac (called Boot Camp)
  8. Few to none of the compatibility problems with printers that Vista has

Apple continues to be the technological leader, ahead of Microsoft, in terms of functionality, user-friendliness, speed, and the cool factor. From a User-centric EA perspective, Apple is the game to beat, even though Microsoft remains the 800 pound gorilla. As an EA practitioner, I am trained to look 3-5 years ahead and it is hard to not see Apple continuing to make major inroads against Microsoft.