The Continued Softening Of Microsoft

Microsoft.JPEG

Microsoft should not be acting old and grey.

Yet they are throwing away another $26.2 billion dollars in purchasing the relative revenue and profit weakling, LinkedIn, the professional networking social media site (where odds are you have your high-level resume-type information).

Have you ever paid a dime to LinkedIn or have you ever paid attention to  single advertisement on LinkedIn (I can’t even remember if there is advertising on there—see I pay it zero attention!)?

Unfortunately Microsoft is following suite with it’s worthless purchase of Nokia in September 2013 for $9.4 billion that was all written off and then some with yet another ridiculous, desperate move.

Microsoft has been living off their legacy product suites of Windows, Office, Outlook, and SharePoint for years…and apparently, aside from the regular forced upgrades, they seem to have virtually nothing in the innovation hopper.

Hence, loser acquisitions of things like Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion (anyone use that BS Facebook-like service for inside their organization—work is not social playtime folks!).

Anyway, I like Microsoft products–they are functional, which is what I want from email, creating and editing documents, spreadsheets and slides, as well as sharing files–it’s great for bread and butter tasks–nothing sexy.

But every attempt that Microsoft makes in desperation to expand beyond their core competencies comes up soft and a big money loser.

Innovation and success is not bred by acquiring virtually worthless properties in terms of high-technology with no synergy to who they fundamentally are.

It is almost heartbreaking to see a once great company like Microsoft continue to drown in its own excess cash and strategically hollow ideas.

Microsoft will only be successful by thinking beyond the boxed in windowed organization that they have imprisoned themselves in.

I hope they can break a few windows and escape to some new technological thinking again soon–but the big question is whether they currently have the talent to make it so. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Ballmer Led Microsoft Into The Ground

Ballmer Led Microsoft Into The Ground

Steve Ballmer, one of the forefathers of Microsoft (with a career spanning 3 decades there) and its CEO since 2000, is finally retiring.

Well what can we say except, Thank G-d!

The Wall Street Journal reports how the markets cheered yesterday with Microsoft stock rising 7% at his exit and that’s with no successor identified.

In other words, better nobody, than Steve Ballmer somebody!

Ballmer managed to take the genius of Gates and a company stock valuation of $603 billion in 2000 and turn it into less than half–$290 billion–by the time he announced he was going.

Not bad destroying over $313 billion of value in a little more than a decade.

Gates was the visionary–the inventor (with the help of Apple) of Windows and Microsoft Office.

He was brilliant and he left us with products that still today dominate desktop computing, which was predominantly what existed up until he handed the reins to Ballmer.

But since 2000–we have smartphones and tablets–bringing Microsofts’s share of market to just 15% today.

Ballmer was an operations guy (not what you need in a fast-changing technology market), while Gates was a innovator (who could spearhead the change itself).

Ballmer was the wrong man for the right job.

A technology guru could’ve taken the lofty perch Microsoft sat on in 2000 and used it as a springboard to the technology stars and beyond, but an operations nerd could only run it into the ground.

Yes, Microsoft is still highly profitable at almost $22 billion last year on sales of $78 billion–nothing to sneeze at–but the problem is they are fighting last decades technology war.

That’s why Apple, Google, and Amazon eclipse Microsoft in prestige and excitement, if not all by market share (yet).

In almost 14 years, Ballmer couldn’t manage one major fully new product innovation–except Xbox in 2001 (let’s cough that one up to Gates), Bing in 2009 (a Google look-alike), and Kinect in 2010 (Ok, maybe one cool thing).

Ballmer couldn’t even put in a place a viable succession plan and is leaving the company in a chaotic leadership void for the top spot.

Gates was smart to sell the vast majority of his stake in Microsoft–not because they are not a great company with lots of talented people, but because without a true leader at the helm, they are lost in the vast technology sea of change without direction or innovation of their own.

Ballmer, it was 14 years too long, maybe now there is still hope for Microsoft to rise and be great again. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

That’s Not Window Dressing

That's Not Window Dressing

I remember as a child, the nursery rhyme that went something like–“How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggly tail.”

Now, it’s not dogs or even mannequins in storefront windows, but people–looking for work.

The job market and people’s self-esteem has gotten so miserably low that they are resorting to displaying their jobs skills or just sitting and looking pretty in storefront windows in an attempt to get attention and get offered a job–or as my mother-in-law says in this humorous way, spelling out each letter, a J-O-B.

In the picture at the top of this post, you can see one guy in the storefront window of the art studio bending wire–presumably for that long artistic piece behind him.

However, it’s not even just starving artists anymore taking this up as a marketing opportunity, as the Wall Street Journal (8 May 2013) reports–regular jobless folks in professions from lawyers, to tax experts, and even former CEOs are having to bare themselves in public displays to try and land a job offer.

Those who have been unemployed for months and years are becoming desperate for work as one unemployed political scientist states, “I’m willing to try anything.”

Despite it being so degrading that he “feels like a monkey…in a cage as people walk by and just stare at me.”

Assuredly, it is a sad commentary on society when people looking for jobs and to earn a basic income are treated literally like animals in cages to be examined, made fun of, or even marveled at in a strange sort of way.

Historically, in red light districts, scantily clad women have been exhibited behind glass enclosures to lure customers and money, but as most people would say “That’s the sex industry!”–however, what starts off as okay for the such social vices ends up by extension as the new normal for our educated, white collar workers.

Never-the-less, some employers are taking notice–they see these window displays of professionals, not as loafers or weirdoes, but as go-getters and even sometimes highly creative based on the sophistication of their window displays–with them in it.

In the picture, the guy in the window with his feet up, glasses off, and soda bottle on the floor behind him is making a marketing statement about himself, but I’m not sure I would hire someone based solely on the callouses, corns, and bunions on their feet. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

iRobot For Your Windows

A Chinese company, Ecovacs, has developed a robot that cleans your windows–and it looks quite like an iRobot that cleans your floors.

You spray the cleaning pad, attach it to your window, and it senses that boundaries of the window and calculates a path to clean them.

The spray pad wipes them, the squeegee collects dampness, and another wipes it dry.

There are multiple safety features including dual suction rings, a safety pod with a tether, and an alarm if Winbot runs into problems.

The spray pads once used can be removed, washed, and dried for another cleaning run.

I like Winbot as long as it is just cleaning windows and not also looking in the window and listening to what you are doing to gain competitive advantages in a cyberspace that these days, knows few, if any, security bounds. 😉

The Materiality of Super Strength Graphene

Scientific researchers in Britain, Norway and the U.S. are bringing us a major breakthrough in material science—by developing a “super strength” substance called graphene.

According to the Guardian (26 December 2012), graphene has “unmatched electrical and physical properties.” It’s made of an “atom-thick sheet of carbon molecules, arranged in a honeycomb lattice,” and promises to revolutionize telecommunications, electronics, energy industries, not to mention the untold applications for the military.

– Conductivity:  Transmits electricity a million times better than copper
– Strength: The strongest material known to humankind, 200 times that of steel (Sciencebuzz)
– Transparency & Flexibility:  So thin that light comes through it; more stretchable than any known conductor of electricity

Just a few of the amazing uses graphene will make possible (some of these from MarketOracle):

– Home windows that are also solar panels—clear off that roof and yard
– TV in your windows and mirrors—think you have information overload now?
– Thinner, lighter, and wrappable LED touch screens around your wrists—everyone can have Dick Tracy style
– Medical implants and organ replacements that can “last disease-free for a hundred years”—giving you that much more time to be a helicopter parent
– Vastly more powerful voice, video and data and palm-size computers—giving the average person the “power of 10,000 mainframes”
– Both larger and lighter satellites and space vehicles—imagine a skyscraper-size vehicle weighing less than your “patio barbecue grill”!
– Tougher and faster tanks and armored personnel carriers with the plus of an invisibility cloak—even “Harry Potter” would be jealous

The potential is truly amazing, so whomever thinks that the best technology is behind us, better think again. Better yet, soon they’ll be able to get a graphene brain implant to help them realize what they’ve been missing. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to University of Maryland)

>ZyPAD + iPad = Wow!

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This is great–the ZyPAD by Eurotech.

A true wrist-mounted computer.

Rugged, wearable, ergonomic, GPS, bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled.

Turns off when arm is down and lights up when arm is up.

According to Trendhunter, sales are initially targeting military, law enforcement, emergency services, and healthcare.

I can see this expanding to sales, delivery, production, warehousing, and loads of service-based jobs–such as in “may I take your order please?” or “how would you like to pay for that?”

Runs on Windows CE–ugh!

I’d like to marry up the function and operating system of an iPad with the fit and form of the ZyPAD and then I think we may just have a real winner!

>An Apple Turnover and Enterprise Architecture

>CIO Magazine, 15 July 2008, has an interesting article called “A Tangled Paths for Macs in the Enterprise.”

The question posed: is it time to switch our enterprise from PCs to Macs?

“Apple—a synonym for awe-inspiring design and coolness—the antithesis to stodgy old corporate technology…the iPhone’s favorable reception portends something more: Some believe it could usher in the era of a more enterprise-friendly Apple.”

Macs have come a long way…

Macs have increasingly become the consumers’ brand of choice. Apple shipped 2.3 million Macs in the second quarter of 2008, which represents a 51 percent growth for the product.”

Will Weider, the CIO of the Ministry of Health Care and Affinity Health System compares “Macs to luxury cars in a PC world of Chevy Impalas.”

Aside from the design wow factor and their innovativeness, historically, Macs are safer from viruses and have lower maintenance costs. All good reasons to consider an enterprise roll-over to Macs.

From a User-centric perspective, Apple understands how people use technology and their products seem to be the choice many would like to make!

What is holding Apple back in the enterprise?

Consumer-orientation: “Business adoption of Macs and Apple software has been sluggish, perhaps, in part, because this is a low priority for Apple. While Apple, of course, deals with businesses, it remains a consumer-oriented company, by the numbers.”

Technology refresh schedule: “Apple does not provide technology roadmaps…what’s worse they make their hardware incompatible with the previous version of the operating system, and their schedule is impossible to keep up with.”

So what is an advantage to Apple in the consumer marketplace—catering to consumer needs and rapid innovation—is a boondoggle in the business environment. Ah, a double edged sword indeed.

Further, a wholesale switch-out to Apple in a Windows shop typically involves desktops, servers, operating systems, and reworking oodles of legacy systems; this is quite a costly endeavor that is not easy to justify in resource constrained organizations.

Further, one of the core principles of enterprise architecture is standardization in order to reduce complexity and achieve cost-efficiencies, so introducing new platforms or a mixed environment is frowned upon.

In the future, as more and more applications become commoditized and moved to the Internet, thereby reducing the cost of transition to Apple, perhaps Apple will have a better chance to challenge Microsoft on the business playing field.