I’ve been unconsciously paying attention to the goings-on at Microsoft lately. Some part of my brain has been filing away snippets here and there. As the most visible company in the computer industry, they’re important to watch. A lot has been happening lately, and Redmond seems to be in a turmoil. A couple different interviews with Microsoft leaders seem to indicate opposing philosophies.
In a recent interview with Steve Ballmer, Telis Demos asks Steve if he has an iPod. I can imagine his response is instantaneous: “No, I do not. Nor do my children…. I’ve got my kids brainwashed. You don’t use Google, and you don’t use an iPod.” Whether he meant it as a joke or not, it’s obvious that he’s actually quite serious. Now, I’m all for a little company rivalry, but that’s hardly a healthy attitude. As a leader of the industry, I’d rather embrace the successes of my competitors and work to push myself beyond them to the next level. It makes you wonder if iPods and Google are banned on Microsoft’s campuses too.
On the other hand, Bill Gates seems to have the right idea. A recent article on CNN Money talks about Bill’s daily workflow, and it’s obvious that he’s passionate about technology. Based on the interview, which stresses his desire to go paperless, and other articles I’ve read about his home, Bill always wants to find new technology that makes his life better and easier. I noticed that he dropped product names for some of the technologies he uses on his three-monitor PC. He talks about Outlook, SharePoint, and OneNote. Then he says that he uses a desktop search program, but he never says the name of it. Unlike Ballmer, I’d expect Bill, thanks to his technophilic desires, to actually be willing to use Google’s program. Sure, he probably has plans for Microsoft to make a better version, and he certainly wouldn’t say he uses it in an interview, but he’s a guy who seems to be more passionate about exciting technology than bitterly choosing sides.
Other initiatives at Microsoft, such as live.com, show that a lot of the employees are looking to innovate. I’m personally excited about the pageless AJAX results in their new search engine. With all the excitement that Apple is generating, Microsoft needs to focus on the ideas coming from those innovators. I don’t know who led the restructuring of the Windows group, but I hope it will help refocus their direction. I’ve loved my iPod since I got it, and my next computer will be a Mac. I want Microsoft to try to win me back with bigger and better ideas.