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Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Archive for the ‘microsoft’ Category

The Big Switch – the debate

Posted by Emily on March 20, 2008

On Monday 10th March I attended my first Innovation Reading Circle. The book that we were all there to discuss was The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr. The name may ring a bell as this is the man who wrote Does IT Matter? – a book which did not make him many friends in the world of IT.

As both the discussion and the wine began to flow some interesting points were raised. In very simple terms, the book discusses Carr’s belief that the PC is soon to become extinct. Instead of every single user having to purchase PCs, software, servers, data storage security and all the other bells and whistles, these can be outsourced and provided over the internet.

Carr likens this to the introduction of electricity to the US. Before electricity, everyone who needed power had to generate it themselves onsite, then (eventually) a centralised grid came along and changed everything, especially costs. The same is proposed to happen in this new IT revolution.

Companies such as Amazon and are already offering what is effectively offsite hardware and software to rent. This eliminates the need to purchase and maintain such systems yourself.

Outsourcing practices seem like a logical step to take. The benefits of reduced costs, reduced space required and more choice and availability of IT systems are tangible to a company of any size. Imagine how wonderful it would be to never again have to call an IT guy to lean over you at your computer for 20 minutes before telling you to try turning it off and on again.

This idea can (and probably will) bring down giants. I speak, of course, of Microsoft. With no demand for expensive, individual software packages for very nearly every office in the world, how will Microsoft make any money? They will have to adapt in a changing market that will ultimately undermine the very nature of their business. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that is a sad thing or not.

Interestingly, in contrast to Carr’s first book, there was very little controversy. Rarely was there a raised voice or vociferous debate amongst the Circle. Perhaps Carr is losing his touch, or perhaps he has already got everyone’s attention and is now ready to offer up what he really has to say. Either way, the book steers you in a direction that is both interesting and logical.

Although lacking potency at times and neglecting to give a conclusion to satisfy the reader, the general thread of the book is highly relevant. It was enough to make our Reading Circle go on well past 9pm and on a Monday night that is quite an achievement.


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When did Microsoft become the little guy?

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 3, 2007

Is Microsoft deliberately attempting to reposition itself as the put-upon, misunderstood tech giant that’s had its beanstalk chopped down and golden eggs stolen by Google?

(That sort of approach might make some sense, given that Bill Gates and co are still in a bit of regulatory hot water).
Or does the following statement from Steve Ballmer really reveal Microsoft’s mindset these days, now that it’s not top dog in a market that it feels it should own?

During his whirlwind tour of Europe (and bits of Africa) this week, Gates’ right-hand man was talking about the dangers of an overly dominant Google.

“It could be quite an economic problem for anybody who wants to offer an ad-funded experience on the internet, or anybody who wants to buy advertising,” he is quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

He then put Microsoft forward as “the most sensible, credible alternative to Google”.

Microsoft? The “credible alternative”? The irony of a company with Microsoft’s history saying something like this doesn’t need highlighting of course (but I’ve gone and done it anyway).

Intel’s Andy Grove once wrote a business book called ‘Only the paranoid survive’. Sounds like Ballmer’s read it, and has taken a leaf or two out of it as well. (Hope it wasn’t a library copy).

This is very unlike Microsoft somehow. It has a reputation for ruthlessness, for crushing the competition underfoot. Just ask Marc Andreesen. And it’s used to being number one.

Ballmer himself is well known for his massively ‘confident’ displays at conferences (see below). The word ‘bullish’ fits him – and Microsoft – perfectly. Or at least it used to. Ballmer’s now sounding unusually contrite.

If I was a betting man, I’d say his ‘credible alternative’ statement was a deliberate, well-rehearsed line. The EU ruling must have hurt (reputationally, rather than financially – Microsoft can afford the fine). It doesn’t want the anti-trust lawyers sniffing around forever, and shifting some of the attention onto Google isn’t a bad plan.

It’s also true to say that Google really is in danger of dominating the online space in the way Microsoft dominates the desktop. Indeed, it already does.

That isn’t to say we need feel sympathy for Microsoft though. It could’ve been a contender… and still could be, if the levels of paranoia are high enough. Or maybe it’s missed the point altogether.

Robert Scoble has also just written a post about Steve Ballmer, and why he simply doesn’t ‘get’ social networking. He also touches upon what he sees as Microsoft’s misguided online advertising strategy. Interesting stuff.

There is no direct link between the EU ruling and Microsoft’s take on Google’s dominance, of course, but it will be interesting to see if this change of tone becomes a consistent feature of its public utterances.  

Back to Ballmer. If you need to see evidence of his ‘bullishness’, you could do worse than watch this clip. It’s a timeless classic. I shall be incorporating his presentation techniques into our next new business pitch…

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