If there is any hopeful upside in Microsoft's recent announcement that it is laying off 5,000 people is that the harsh economic and marketplace realities correctly identified by TMC Group Publisher Rich Tehrani in his recent blog will at last force this software behemoth: the 'General Motors of Tech' to focus on delivering quality products that customers want than have to buy. For the risk that Microsoft may find itself in similar straits as GM is today is all too real.
Empires collapse because they fail to deliver the goods: prosperity, reasonable order, and security that those who buy into them expect. Microsoft has had too many adventures away from its core business and consumer applications, and it has failed to make too many of them, such as the atrocious Windows ME as well as the much-maligned Vista perform right. My wife, an ex-senior IT manager, had experienced so many nightmares with the former she junked the computer, and she is scratching her head with the quirks from the latter on her latest box.
I can also attest to the value prop of WinXP-based netbooks Rich talked about. I was checking out an Acer unit at my local BestBuy for use on the road; the screens and keyboards on BlackBerries and other smartphones are not feasible for the heavy-duty e-mailing and surfing I do as an editor/writer. The machine happened to be the cheapest, and the one the sales rep recommended. I'll take another look at it just before I need to do some serious travelling by which time the prices of it--and for the telco data plan I'll need to sign my life away for--should drop even further to make the device even more affordable.
Which brings the discussion back to Microsoft. Small, rugged, and cheap works. That's why Netbooks are becoming popular. They can be the ideal solutions for contact centers because there is no need for all those guts for what are essentially dumb terminal applications, which also minimizes security risks. So go with the flow: keep XP for them and then design Win7 as an ultrareliable, bug-free, easily migrateable solution for use on larger machines.
Microsoft actually has it right in one key but undermarketed area and that is speech rec. This is one of the potential company's killer apps as its offering is well-written, priced right, and has proven itself with demanding firms such as JetBlue at a time when firms are looking for a speech solution that will enable them to cut costs quickly while retaining customers but without huge outlays and horrendous lead times.
Configured and formulated correctly, Microsoft's speech tool also has the power to revolutionize voicemail by enabling time-saving/convenience-providing/cost savings interactions for both consumers and businesses alike. No more answering services or getting back to those with simple inquiries.
Microsoft has its traditional delivery model i.e. premises installation plus it has the excellent and successful Tellme vehicle for hosting. It does need to position speech rec clearly as integrated buyer choices: on your server or ours...
Convenience, choice as well as quality and pricing, yes it is a brave new world, but that's the environment we're in, and only those companies that offer all four features have the best chances of surviving and prospering.
Microsoft had these attributes, which is it became enormously successful, overwhelming competitors who produces technically superior offerings (yes, I used and loved Apple's machines in the early part of my career but they were and are too expensive) but which failed to deliver the other three. It can regain that edge once again by doing all four right.