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Microsoft Knows No Bounds

So, a friend from outside tech world calls me at work today as I’m preparing the newsletter. Right as I pick up the phone, I see a link to a story about a Microsoft-powered coffee maker. I tell her about it, and she says, "Why does Microsoft want to make technology for coffee makers?" Good question.

I went on, to her considerable shock and dismay, to tell her about everything Microsoft is into: embedded operating systems that run gas pumps and slot machines (among other things), uncool iPods, third-place search engines, video-game consoles, washers and dryers -- and a lot of other stuff. The latest effort is a video-sharing service aimed at taking on the wildly popular and ridiculously entertaining YouTube Web franchise. Good luck with that one, Redmond.

It struck me as I babbled on to my friend just how widespread Microsoft is. This, of course, is not a surprise to anybody. Microsoft is a massive organization, and a lot of its -- let’s say "nontraditional" -- technology generates good revenue and makes sense for the company and its partners alike. Plus, innovation is never a bad thing, as long as my dryer doesn’t blue screen my sheets and towels into some sort of laundry oblivion.

But (and you knew this was coming), with partners still waiting for long-delayed new versions of Vista and Office, and with security snafus still a concern, it’s not hard to wonder yet again whether a little more focus on the old Windows bedrock might do Redmond some good these days.

And, with every new foray into a market that somebody else already owns (and that Microsoft can’t just snatch by glomming something into Windows), questions arise as to exactly how far Microsoft can stretch itself and how much sense it makes to wander further and further away from the traditional desktop moneymakers. New streams of revenue are important for any company, but losing focus on core competencies and spending too much money on too many risky propositions can be dangerous at best and harmful to investors, partners and customers at worst. All we’re saying, Microsoft, is look before you leap and don’t forget about the products and partners that got you where you are today.

Which new initiative would you like to see Microsoft drop? Any at all? Or more than one? Let me know here or at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 19, 2006 at 11:53 AM


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