I read this really rather tough appraisal of Microsoft by one of the technology papers the other day, and of course it was focussed on Microsoft as a supplier of technology for the enterprise. Not so strange as that is the way most people in our line of work relate to Microsoft, but is that really the whole picture?
I am really struck by the difference in the generations and their view of Microsoft. To the younger generation Microsoft is the Xbox and very cool in terms of what an Xbox can do for their extended social lives. It’s also pretty popular for MSN, and that’s before we get to the whole idea of Microsoft ‘Live’ services. Contrast that with the enterprise users’ perception where Microsoft is seen as the tool by which the corporate IT department restricts their choices and capabilities.
It wasn’t till I really started thinking about this and looking at Microsoft in more detail that the extent of the divide between the Application based enterprise systems and the Web based ‘people’ services started to become clear. The ‘Software + Services’ marketing line really has started to mean something, and the latest Ray Ozzie internal memo from a month or so back (leaked as usual) brings a real clarity to the whole topic in my humble opinion.

Ray states after some scene setting as to what is happening; ‘Given this context, its strategic that we invest broadly in solutions and partnerships that advance our position in current and future generations of content, community and commerce … (the 3 ‘C’s ) … their impact barely scratches the surface for the broader effect that Internet innovation will have on individuals, businesses and developers’.
So that pretty clearly sets up the backdrop to Software + Services, but its Live Mesh I want to focus on. One of the three ‘overarching principles’ in the memo is ‘the web is the hub of our social mesh and device mesh’ which translates to me as the challenge I have around lot of different devices which I use at different times in different ways; i.e. social, and business over the common Web environment. I would like to have all of these devices synchronised so that any activity and changes on any one device will be replicated on what ever device I choose to use next and that’s exactly what Live Mesh does. I add devices to my Live Mesh account, of all types, not just with a Microsoft operating system either, and Microsoft manages my software centrally so each device pulls up the latest version of my activities when it is used.
Okay it has been possible to do this before, but not easily, and here is Microsoft making my Web based lifestyle readily manageable by providing the ‘software plus services’. It’s cool, and for the generation who lives their life through their various technology devices, it’s got a lot going for it. Makes Microsoft look pretty good to me. But do notice it’s not what Capgemini needs as an Enterprise; it is what I need as an individual.
Maybe we all need to look a little more carefully at the cool online Microsoft for the innovations, and a little less at the enterprise environment which we have all played our part in creating in the ‘locked down’ situation that we are complaining about?
By the way Ray – I really really liked the clarity of your view and the direction it provides!