Microsoft's reality problem

Apple's big iPad splash highlights Microsoft's failures as a company, notes a former Redmond exec. And things are only going to get worse

Just when Microsoft thought it couldn't get worse, ex-VP Dick Brass has taken a sockful of manure and beaten his former employer with it.

[ Also on InfoWorld: At the other end of the spectrum, Apple's iPad continues to stupefy and astound, much to Microsoft's consternation. | Send your crazy-but-true tale of IT gone awry to If we publish it, anonymously, of course, we'll send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

In a New York Times opinion piece titled "Microsoft's Creative Destruction," the recovering Redmondite dissects why a company like Apple can introduce technology like the iPad to huzzahs, while Microsoft's efforts to create a tablet PC over the years have earned it nothing but guffaws. He writes:

Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator. Its products are lampooned, often unfairly but sometimes with good reason. Its image has never recovered from the antitrust prosecution of the 1990s. Its marketing has been inept for years; remember the 2008 ad in which Bill Gates was somehow persuaded to literally wiggle his behind at the camera?

While Apple continues to gain market share in many products, Microsoft has lost share in Web browsers, high-end laptops and smartphones. Despite billions in investment, its Xbox line is still at best an equal contender in the game console business. It first ignored and then stumbled in personal music players until that business was locked up by Apple....Perhaps worst of all, Microsoft is no longer considered the cool or cutting-edge place to work. There has been a steady exit of its best and brightest.

The biggest enemies to innovation? The internecine political struggles between different groups at Microsoft, who'd poison the work of another group just to maintain an advantage. Sure, the company has clocked hundreds of billions in profits, so it must be doing something right, but in Brass's analogy, Microsoft is GM, and Windows and Office are SUVs: hugely profitable in their day, but dinosaurs sinking into the tar pits soon after (a pretty good analogy, methinks).

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