When Will They (Microsoft) Ever Learn?

By Shlomo Maital

Microsoft bin Laden     

    To paraphrase Peter, Paul & Mary:   When will Microsoft ever learn?

    To paraphrase Bob Dylan: “ …how many times must Microsoft look up  before it can really see the sky?   Yes, how many ears must Microsoft have  before it can hear people cry?”

    Writing in the Global New York Times, Nick Bilton (“Microsoft finds habits die hard”,  Monday July 29, p. 14) asks,  what if Microsoft made the iPod? 

    Simple. It would be named “The iPod Pro 2005 XP Human Ear Professional Edition with Subscription”.  It would promote 3,495 technical features  and the box would look like a Times Square billboard.   It would achieve maximum marketplace confusion.

    Why?  Because like many high-tech companies, Microsoft is basically run and managed by engineers.  They think like engineers, not like people.  They give us needlessly complex software, they keep piling on feature after feature we don’t need, and they don’t understand the need for simplicity, for beauty, for clean design. 

   When will they learn?   Not for a while.

   Microsoft, Bilton reports, last month took a $900 million write-down (!!) for unsold inventory of its Surface RT tablet, which went on sale just a year ago.

    Why did it fail?  For starters: MS offered two products, the Surface RT and Surface Pro.  One came with a pen.  They had two different screen resolutions and two types of Windows software. Confusing? 

   As the founder of Gdgt website Ryan Block observed, “Windows is a hammer and everything looks like a nail” to Microsoft.

    Some Microsoft products are empathic with consumers, like Windows Phone 7 and Xbox.  But most are not. Why doesn’t giant MS learn from its successful consumer-empathic products, and above all, from its competitors, like Apple and Samsung?

     For those of us who use Office, how many of its features do we really use daily?  One percent?  Or less?

     I urge Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to read John Maeda’s little book, The Laws of Simplicity.  Microsoft breaks every single one.  And despite endless failures, it seems to stubbornly insist on continuing to do so.   Must be part of Microsoft’s DNA.