For a decade, Microsoft botched so many big tech trends that the company became a hitting line. But Microsoft more than survived its epic mistakes. Today, he’s (still) one of the tech superstars.
Microsoft’s ability to thrive despite almost everything that’s wrong could be an encouraging saga of business reinvention. Or it can be a distressing demonstration of how extremely difficult monopolies are to kill. Or maybe it’s a bit of both.
Understanding Microsoft’s endurance is relevant when considering an important current question: Are today’s Big Tech superstars successful and popular because they are the best at what they are. do they, or because they become so powerful that they can profit from past successes?
Ultimately, Big Tech’s angst in 2021 – antitrust lawsuits, proposed new laws and screams – comes down to a debate over whether the hallmark of our digital life is a dynamism that drives progress, or whether we really have dynasties. And what I’m asking is which one was Microsoft?
Let me go back to the dark days of Microsoft, which arguably stretched from the mid-2000s to 2014. They strangely weren’t that bad. Yes, Microsoft was so uncool that the company was roasted in Apple TV commercials and a lot of people in the tech industry didn’t want anything to do with it. The company failed to build a popular search engine, tried unsuccessfully to compete with Google in digital advertising, and failed to sell its own search engine. operating systems for smartphones or devices.
And yet, even in the saddest years at Microsoft, the company made a lot of money. In 2013, the year Steve Ballmer was half pushed retire as general manager, the company generated significantly more profit before taxes and other costs – over $ 27 billion – than Amazon did in 2020.
No matter how bad Microsoft’s software may have been – and a lot of it did – many companies still had to buy Windows computers, Microsoft’s e-mail and documentation software, and its technology to run. powerful back-end computers called servers. Microsoft has used these must-have products as leverage to enter new profitable lines of business, including software that has replaced conventional business phone systems, databases and file storage systems.
Microsoft hasn’t always been good over those years, but it has done pretty well. And more recently, Microsoft has moved from stagnation to financial success and the relevance of advanced technologies. So, was this turnaround a healthy or a disheartening sign?
On the healthy side of the ledger, Microsoft has done at least one great thing: cloud computing, which is one of the most important technologies of the last 15 years. That and a culture shift were the foundations that turned Microsoft into a winner despite its strategy and products to be won through them. This is the kind of business turnaround we should be hoping for.
I will also say that Microsoft is different from its Big Tech peers in a way that perhaps would have made it more resilient. Businesses, not individuals, are Microsoft’s customers and the technology sold to organizations doesn’t necessarily have to be good to win.
And now for the disheartening explanation: what if Microsoft’s lesson was that a declining star can leverage its size, shrewd marketing, and attract customers to be successful even if it makes meh products, loses its grip on new technologies and is plagued by a slack bureaucracy? Was Microsoft so big and powerful that it was invincible, at least long enough to come up with its next act? And is today’s Facebook or Google comparable to a 2013 Microsoft – so entrenched that they can thrive even if they’re not the best?
I don’t have definitive answers, and size and power don’t guarantee that a company can overcome many mistakes and stay relevant. But much of the drama and fights around the tech in 2021 hinges on these questions. Maybe Google search, Amazon shopping, and Facebook ads are amazingly awesome. Or maybe we just can’t imagine better alternatives, because powerful companies don’t have to be great to keep winning.
Miniature Online Chaos Campaigns: My colleague Sheera Frenkel has a crazy story about Iranian agents posing as Israelis post messages that divide into small groups online on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. Targeting small groups has allowed agents to create problems within trusted communities and has been a way to avoid detection by tech companies who monitor mass online disinformation.
Video games without sophisticated computers: Kellen Browning examines the efforts of companies like Google and Microsoft to take video games from specialized hardware to be accessible remotely on the web. The technology isn’t here yet, but cloud gaming could allow people to play any game on any device, and it could be. the beginning of the end for applications.
Tweet for good: Automated account in Indonesia turns people’s tweets into maps showing locations and real-time information on floods, earthquakes and other hazards, Rest of the world reports. The bot, called PetaBencana, is also working with Indonesian authorities to help them respond to disasters faster.
Kisses to that
You want to see these images of koalas photographed at mid-jump. They are graceful little balls of down.