MS needs a lot of change.
Not sure BillG is the right person the help with those changes. Let us start with Ballmer’s quote about the iPhone when it was first released: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item.”
That type of arrogance and lack of vision has really hurt MS. To be fair, the iPhone caught a lot of the old phone guard by surprise, but every smart phone on the market today owes its existence to the original iPhone. Remember the first time Google showed off Android prototypes? Sure they had touch screens, many of them looked like cloned Blackberries, and the way the OS worked was nothing like what it is today. Say what you want about Apple, and Jobs, but they did lead the way with the iPhone. That Ballmer didn’t immediately recognize its technological potential and make moves to counter is the reason why WP is in the state it is in today. Again, the same could have been said of Blackberry, Nokia, etc… The only company that got it was Google. Those Blackberry clones were dropped, and Android was released with similar functionality and operation as the iPhone. Google continued to tweak/innovate, and it is now the dominate player in smartphones. For Ballmer and Co. to dismiss the iPhone like that shows their arrogance, and utter lack of recognizing a transformative technology.
Second: The “Courier” project. We will never know how far along this device was, or if it really did work as well as those demos that were on YouTube, but I do remember one thing. The “Courier” did something for Microsoft that has not happened in many, many, many years… It created a whole lot of buzz, interest, and dare I say excitement about a MS product. Geeks were generally excited about this thing on the internet. I cannot remember the last time outside of the Xbox that people were so excited about a product from MS. Why was it killed? Well the rumor was its lack of an email client. But I suspect it was because it had nothing to do with Windows. It wasn’t called “Win” something, it didn’t look like Windows, and I don’t think it even needed Windows PC to sync to. It was something totally new, and if those videos were true, something that could have been a killer notebook/e-reader/organizer/tablet/etc… Again this was right around the time the iPad was released, and back then iPads were considered to be overgrown iPhones, great for content consumption, but not really content creation. “Courier” could have beat Apple at their own game, a tool for the creative, the student, and the office. Instead the old guard killed it, and we now have Windows RT. Oh and J. Allard left the company, and the “skunk works” team he created at MS was disbanded. IMHO bring Allard back.
Third: I think this is the hardest, and I do not know how to fully articulate it, but MS needs to get back into the conversation when it comes to technology. Example: how many startups would even consider developing their website/application in ASP.Net? I’m sure that number is very close to Zero. Is asp.Net the greatest web tech? No, but it is a very good framework and should be at least considered. Except, well, it only runs on Windows, and Windows Servers are expensive. So if I were MS, I would seriously consider releasing a free version of Windows Server. Something that will run the .Net stack, and IIS, make it command line only. Do not cripple the .Net/IIS part of it. They might lose some licensing costs, but maybe they can get into consideration for having the next Twitter or something built on that platform. It doesn’t give them licenses, but it at least puts them back in the conversation.
Another example, if they claim IE is so great, make an OSX and dare I say Linux version of it. Release it on Android. It might not get much traction, but it makes a statement that yeah we can product a browser that can run with the best of them on all platforms. Don’t just rely on the fact that IE runs on Windows which still runs on the vast majority of desktops in the world. Throw in your software with the others on their own turf.
I guess my last point is best summed by stopping MS from just relying on their dominate position in desktops to promote their other technology. Linux, OSX, Android are not going away, and neither is Windows for that matter, but they cannot just rely on their monopoly to sell themselves to the world. They have to be able to break free, and not be afraid to cannibalize their own products. This is one thing that Jobs understood and was not afraid to do. Better you cannibalize your own, then a competitor to do it for you.