The trouble with Microsoft

(Warning: rambling post ahead. clearly my writing skills are quite rusty as my photography has taken over this blog)

Look, I am uncomfortable kicking a company when it’s down but I gotta take a moment and talk about Microsoft. It’s because I like the company and I’m friends with many folks that work there. 

Bill Gates needs to come back. 

I’ve said this before and every one tells me Billg is happy running his foundation. I don’t blame him for being inspired by the work he’s doing (it’s fantastic) but we are talking about one of the smartest and most competitive founders the world has ever seen. Ever.

He can’t be happy watching his company fade away to irrelevance over the years. 

The Surface isn’t a failure because it was late. I submit if the iPad never existed the Surface would have failed anyway.

It’s just a poor product. 

I say that with a heavy heart because I’m quite sure a number of talented engineers worked on it tirelessly. 

But I’m equally convinced they were forced into some decisions about Windows and Office (and other MSFT technologies and PC behavior) which were unnatural to people trying to think different and make something new happen. 

The Surface isn’t the only fail. Remember Zune. Windows Mobile. Bing. Sharepoint. Outlook on the Mac, hell, office on the Mac. Moving on past the consumer space, we see many/most portfolio companies are increasingly using Amazon infrastructure. This was MSFT’s birthright. 

There is a lesson from Apple during it’s dark days in the 90’s. 

Apple didn’t lose the desktop war to Microsoft because of an “open vs closed” approach. Windows beat Apple (in marketshare) in the 90’s because Apple’s OS wasn’t a great product in those days. Remember System 7? Remember the browser choices we had in those days on the Mac? Internet Explorer and Netscape. Oy. 

At our firm we moved entirely off of Microsoft technology several years ago and haven’t looked back. My current Mac at the office doesn’t have a single MSFT product on it (unless you include Skype). Same thing at home. 

I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen a founder come see us at Spark with a Windows machine. I haven’t seen a Windows phone in the wild in NYC, Boston or SF except in the hands of current Microsoft employees. Former MS execs that I interact with have switched to iPhone or Android. 

It’s not right. And if I was the founder I would be pissed off. 

Microsoft needs to start building amazing products. The current leadership isn’t getting it done.