stratechery
stratechery

Microsoft v Microsoft

In his first column for the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo advocated relying on Apple, Google, and Amazon:

When you decide what to use, you’ve got to play every tech giant against the other, to make every tech decision as if you were a cad — sample every firm’s best features and never overcommit to any one.

I rather agree with and follow Manjoo’s advice, and my reasoning is all about the incentives that arise from Apple, Google, and Amazon’s business models:

  • Apple makes money when you buy devices, and they differentiate those devices by making their own operating system. This incentivizes them to make the best devices and best operating system, and, in my opinion, they do
  • Google makes money when you access their services. This incentivizes them to make their services available, with the best possible implementation, everywhere, regardless of device. And, in my opinion, they do
  • Amazon makes money when you buy stuff. This incentivizes them to make their store and content available, with the easiest possible access, everywhere, regardless of device. And, in my opinion, they do

One person who didn’t agree was Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s chief spokesman, who was miffed by Microsoft’s conspicuous absence from Manjoo’s recommendations:

So while your readers could take your advice and blend in with the current crowd, we’d encourage you (and them) to take a look at some alternatives that offer even better ways to get things done. And with a cross-platform connected ecosystem that spans the workplace to the living room featuring best in class products like Office, Skype and Xbox, we’re a pretty safe bet too.

Actually, no, Frank, you aren’t, and your colleague, Tami Reller, explained why at the Goldman Sachs-sponsored technology conference when asked about Office – Microsoft’s most indispensable service – on iPad and Android. As recounted by ComputerWorld:

“As we step back and say, these core applications, these core brands that are so important to enterprise customers and consumers, how do we make sure that we’re thoughtful about what we’re doing on the Windows platform, as well as cognizant of the fact that there’s other devices in their lives (emphasis in original),” Reller replied when she was asked about the status of the decision to put the productivity suite on other operating systems…

A follow-up question from the moderator brought even more from Reller, who talked about the importance of differentiating Windows to customers, both end users and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), the vendors that make and sell devices. “A part of that [differentiation] is Office, for sure,” Reller said.

If that wasn’t clear enough, Reller pointed out that changes to Office’s platforms would be a business decision, not one based on customer requests.

“We come at it from that angle, which is ‘What businesses do we need to drive forward?,'” said Reller. “That’s how we will make the decision [to go cross-platform]. It really ends up being business by business, product by product. There’s no sweeping one decision.”

So to summarize, Office is not available everywhere, and probably won’t be anytime soon, because Microsoft has a devices business to prop up. Oh, and Microsoft’s business needs are a priority over user needs. Tell me, Frank, how is that a safe bet?

The truth, as I’ve written multiple times (here, here, and here), is that a “Services and Devices” strategy is fundamentally flawed. Either be everywhere with your services, or differentiate your devices. And, given this:

Methinks being everywhere with services is a much more sustainable strategy. And, perhaps, one that would earn Manjoo’s – and my – recommendation.

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