The first article is an Aaron Tan BusinessWeek piece. The discussion is about Microsoft’s “innovation”. I think it’s wise for Microsoft to try to play this card since the perception is that they innovate very little. Look around you, game platforms (Xbox), music players (Zune), search (Live search), and even their latest Operating system (Vista), are all just “me too” products after PS3, iPod, Google, and Mac OS X Tiger.
Microsoft wants nothing more than to dispel the notion they don’t innovate, but the record, and their products, are not on their side and don’t really support that conclusion. Ballmer’s statements in the article fall back on Microsoft’s tried and true strategy: Quote big numbers and hope that’s enough. From the article:
“A key factor in embracing disruptions such as Internet applications, while staying ahead in the technology industry, is to engage in long-term research and development (R&D), he [Ballmer] pointed out. Microsoft spends US$6 billion on R&D each year.”
He then attempts to give stockholders a warm and fuzzy feeling about the future by reaching back to the past:
“If you want to be an innovator, you have to take the long-term approach,” he said. “There is a view that innovation happens overnight and that’s simply not the case. It took us eight to 10 years to get Windows popular, and many years to get databases popular.”
“Microsoft, Ballmer noted, has “more patience than most of the people in our business”.”In our business, people give up quickly,” he said. “When I arrived at Microsoft 27 years ago, there was a company that owned 70 percent of the IT industry.”
So is this just a message to the shareholders to sit tight and in 5-8 years Microsoft will dominate the landscape again? Maybe, but it won’t happen. It is at least a PR message intended to quell potential questions coming from the stockholders.
The second article is from Christie Loh at TODAYonline.com. Should you have any doubts about Microsoft resorting to PR to help assuage potential stockholder concerns, look no further than this piece: Ballmer runs every morning; he has kids; he’s punctual; he works hard; and is an excellent time manager. Aw, gee.
Maybe these two articles will have the intended effect, buying Microsoft time in the face of some restless stockholders. That remains to be seen. I do not own Microsoft stock, but if I did the articles wouldn’t be working on me.