Tuesday, 4 February 2014

IT departments are Microsoft's biggest problem

I read with interest Satya Nadella's first email to Microsoft staff as CEO. It's inspiring stuff and says a lot about his understanding of the future digital world that we'll  inhabit. He's much better equipped than Steve Ballmer to win in that world. He likes hoodies, for a start.

But Satya's got a problem, and that problem is one of Microsoft's strongholds: the corporate IT department.

I love all the words that he uses in his email - fun, excitement, clarity, the accomplishment of great things. Trouble is that the way most people experience Microsoft these days is at work. And that desktop and application experience is controlled by the IT department. And for the most part, that IT department will have created a "build" of services that stops the average Jo Bloggs doing very much that's exciting or fun.

Accomplishing great things is pretty tough on a glacially slow Windows XP, Vista or 7 machine loaded with bloated apps and locked down against anything remotely cloudy. Tough too when "bring your own device" schemes are letting people use a really exciting Apple or Android smartphone, or even a tablet as a work tool and a play thing.

This is a software powered world. Unfortunately for all the great ideas that Microsoft manifests through it, for the most part their vigour is extinguished by IT managers. The world never really sees the true Microsoft and until it parts the fog of enterprise IT I can't see it winning against Apple and Google in traditional IT. Even the Xbox seems to have fallen victim to design by committee. I, and many of my gamer friends have deserted the platform at this iteration due to the machine becoming a bloated "entertainment hub" at the expense of raw gaming power.

It's still the Xbox that Satya needs to look to, though. Microsoft needs another category and it needs it fast. Preferably one that's cool enough to be BYOD rather than enterprise IT.

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