Microsoft Myopia

The technology business has more than its fair share of lose nuts.  Some are wealthy as well as insane, while the dot-communist are poor and insane. 

Perhaps the key to success in this business is being bonkers.

Sadly, some of the insanity is settling in Microsoft, as witnessed in a blog written by Sergey Solyanik.  Sergey recently escaped from Google and landed back at Microsoft.  Perhaps he had been on a spying mission all along.  Regardless, he seems to have mentally drifted in the direction of a room designed with very soft walls.

“I can’t write code for the sake of the technology alone — I need to know that the code is useful for others, and the only way to measure the usefulness is by the amount of money that the people are willing to part with to have access to my work.”

(emphasis mine) 

“Only” is a rather exclusive word.  It means alone; solely; exclusively;  It means no exceptions.  It means Sergey left a marble or two in his cubicle at Google.

The true measure of usefulness is how many people actively use something.  Google uses a lot of Linux, and basically pays nothing for it.  Has this company with $166B market capitalization not found use in Linux?  Have users who perform 62% of their web search using Google not found it useful despite not giving Google a dime of their own money?  Certainly advertisers — who don’t buy Google technology directly and yet they toss about $5B into Google coffers every quarter — find Google technology useful.

Sergey confuses revenues with value.  The two are not unrelated, but one can create technology that is fantastically useful and not make a dime on it.  Or they can create technology that is useful and widely used, and for which revenue is generated indirectly.  His defense of the traditional marketing model for software make sense if you are at Microsoft — that is the game they play best … having failed at most of the newer technology business models.

He goes on (and on) with more off target insights:

I was using Google software … and slick as it is, there’s just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10% of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it’s a different 10% every week – the old bugs are getting fixed, the new ones introduced. This across Blogger, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, and more.

Aside from sounding like a normal software development side effect, Sergey ignores the history of how Open Source and Freeware evolves.  Linux was buggier than a night in a swamp when it was first launched, and for a few years thereafter.  Like a small child it was learning to walk and falling down a lot in the process.  But walk it did.  Then it ran.  Then it ran away with the market.

Google has the brain- and horsepower to do unguided R&D, putting tools onto the net in their formative years to field test what is and is not useful.  Companies like Microsoft that thoroughly study concepts before writing code are slow.  Companies that try, fail, try again are nimble and visionary.  Google will make mistakes but in the process will create technologies that never existed before, are insanely useful, and will indirectly earn them even more money.

Sergey missed this lesson.


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