For a decade or so, Microsoft has achieved so many significant technology trends that the company has become punctual. Microsoft’s epic has survived more than mistakes. Today, it is (again) one of the superstars in the technology world.
Microsoft’s ability to succeed without making almost any mistakes can be a heartbreaking story about corporate restructuring. Or how final it is to kill monopolies, it can be a disturbing demonstration. Or maybe it’s a bit of both
Understanding Microsoft’s enduring power is relevant when considering an important current question: Are today’s Big Tech Superstars the best in their work, or have they become so powerful that they can benefit from past successes and are they successful and popular?
Finally, the turmoil about Big Tech in 2021 – the no-confidence lawsuits, the proposed new legislation and the outcry – is a dynamic feature of our digital life that sparks debate over whether or not we actually have a dynasty. And what I’m asking is which is Microsoft?
Let me go back to the dark days of Microsoft, which controversially extended from mid-2000 to 2014. They weren’t too bad with the surprise. Yes, Microsoft was so quiet that the company was roasted in Apple television commercials and a lot of people in the technology industry didn’t want to do anything with it. The company failed to create a popular search engine, tried in vain to compete with Google in digital advertising, and had little success selling its own smartphone operating system or device.
And yet, even in the saddest years of Microsoft, the company made money. In 2013, the year Steve Ballmer was half-pushed to retire as CEO, the company made a much higher profit before tax and some other expenses – more than ২ 220 billion – more than Amazon did in 2020.
No matter how much Microsoft’s software has been hampered – and much of it has been – many businesses still need to buy its technology to run Windows computers, Microsoft’s email and document software, and powerful back-end computers called servers. Microsoft used the products needed to branch out into new and profitable business lines, including software that replaces conventional corporate telephone systems, databases and file-storage systems.
Microsoft hasn’t always been good these years, but it has done quite well. And more recently, Microsoft has become relevant to both financially successful and cutting edge technology from running water. So was this change a healthy sign or a discouragement?
In terms of health, Microsoft has done at least one big thing right: cloud computing, one of the most important technologies of the last 15 years. This and the culture change is the foundation that freed Microsoft from a win-win in spite of its strategy and products. This is the kind of corporate turnaround we should have
I would also say that it is different from Microsoft’s Big Tech peer in that it can make it even stronger. Businesses, not individuals, need to be good at winning technology sold to Microsoft customers and organizations.
And now the discouraging explanation: what is the lesson from Microsoft that any faded star can create products that match its size, intelligent marketing and meh with customers, impose control over new technology, and succeed even when plagued by a flexible bureaucracy? Was Microsoft so big and powerful that it was indomitable, at least enough to prolong its next legislation? And is today’s Facebook or Google comparable to Microsoft’s 2013 – so involved that they can be successful even if they’re not the best?
I don’t have a precise answer and size and power don’t guarantee that any organization can make a lot of bad weather and stay relevant. But many dramas and battles over technology in 2021 depend on these questions. Google search, Amazon shopping and Facebook ads are incredibly great. Or maybe we can’t imagine better options because strong firms don’t have to be great to win.