When Microsoft's customers aren't particularly important

Microsoft's strategy turned from making customers happy toward leveraging lock-in.

After Bob Lewis wrote that "it might be time for Microsoft to abandon its long-successful strategy of driving product sales through architectural lock-in," he received a reader comment calling the notion that the customers is the most important element in the business cycle, "a simple idea."

To which Mr. Lewis tends to agree -- but only for the most part.

"Part of what makes information technology such an interesting industry from a strategic perspective are the exceptions," Lewis explains. That would be IBM in the 1970's and then Microsoft, beginning in the '80's and continuing through the present.

When Microsoft's customers aren't particularly important.

For Microsoft Office specifically, the very nature of software critical mass resulted in a positive feedback loop that just so happened to create architectural, and in this case vendor, lock-in.

"Microsoft's strategy then turned away from making customers happy," Lewis writes, "and instead focused on perpetuating and leveraging its architectural lock-in."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.