I have written more than once about various Microsoft follies over the years. You can read my personal favorites here, here and especially here.
The central problem at Microsoft is—as with most companies, sports teams and even hedge fund managers—also its greatest strength: to whit, the Windows Operating System.
By this I mean that Microsoft makes so much money from the Windows OS that everything it does—and I mean everything—is driven by the OS folks, whose mission it is to put Windows everywhere.
That’s why Microsoft’s hardware customers end up making lousy cell phones, lousy netbooks, lousy notebooks, and, pretty soon, lousy tablets: because all those products have to run, support and promulgate the Windows OS.
(For a really great video spoofing this topic, watch this “Microsoft Glasses Project,” based on the futuristic Google eyeglass caper.)
And in case you’re wondering about X-box, which is an undeniably good product—well, that just proves the point: X-box is not Windows-based.
As a result of its Windows-Everywhere mania, Microsoft has done many stupid things, like holding an “iPhone funeral” way back in 2010, when Windows Phone 7 was touted as the greatest cell phone software since…Windows Phone 6, I guess.
Now, you would have thought Microsoft might have learned its lesson about doing stupid things like that dopey “iPhone funeral”—or at least Steve Ballmer would have learned to steal a page or two from the Steve Jobs playbook and a) stop with the stupid gimmicks, b) keep his mouth shut until he had a great new product, and c) release the product when it was ready.
But no, he has not, if the “Surface” tablet announcement is any indication.
Still, I didn’t realize how badly Microsoft blew the “Surface” announcement until I was talking to what we 50+ year olds call “young people”—i.e. anyone under 30—at a family gathering this weekend.
They all said the “Surface” looked pretty slick, what with the keyboard-cover and all, and they all said how the Twitter chatter was going great guns until the thing ended with no discussion of price or availability.
Why, they asked me, the old man, didn’t Microsoft announce a price for the “Surface”? And why no release date?
I explained to these Apple-centric youngsters how, back in the day, when Microsoft saw a new thing coming that threatened their monopoly, they simply announced a new product, immediately freezing their customers from using whatever was threatening their monopoly until whenever it was that Microsoft got around to making the new product and releasing it.
So Microsoft’s seemingly illogical behavior with the “Surface”—i.e. announcing a product without a price or a ship date—was perfectly logical in the Microsoftian World, even though it totally blew the free publicity of the announcement itself and doomed the “Surface” to the inevitable irrelevance of, say, “Windows Phone 7,” about which I will bet dollars to donuts you have not heard since the “iPhone funeral.”
And that, it seems to me, is the stupidest thing Microsoft has done.
This year, at least.
Author “Secrets in Plain Sight: Business and Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett”
(eBooks on Investing, 2012) Available now at Amazon.com
© 2012 NotMakingThisUp, LLC
The content contained in this blog represents only the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice, and should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Also, this blog is not a solicitation of business by Mr. Matthews: all inquiries will be ignored. And if you think Mr. Matthews is kidding about that, he is not. The content herein is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.