Disclosure: I had a Microsoft position which I unloaded at a slight profit due to the fact that I have lost complete faith in the current management of Microsoft.

I was surfing the web and every now and then I like to check the website MSDN.Microsoft.com. I check it out because I write .NET code, and I use Office in my solutions. So that I don’t confuse people to like .NET and C# quite a bit, and I like Office 2007, but my love of Microsoft ends there.

I use to be a Microsoft Regional Director (1997 to 2001) which meant I was a third party that evangelizes their technology. I quit being a Microsoft Regional Director because at that time I had a mid manager meeting where I said, “open source is going to present problems for you.” At the time I was listened to, but ignored. Though 8 years later Open Source has changed the development landscape to the determent for Microsoft.

Now I have another commentary and it is that Microsoft has become a zombie corporation. A zombie is something that has no life, and rambles from corner to corner uttering words that are unintelligible to most people. For example consider the following  article and another. Code words uttered that are unintelligible to anybody but Microsoft, and it is chasing the Nokia’s, Palm’s and Apple’s of the world.

This is what a zombie does and it is what Microsoft is doing. But why stop there. They announced and launched a new Zune player. The version is 3.0 and those that follow Microsoft know Microsoft gets the killer product at 3.0. At least they used to a decade past. The new Zune player is quoted as being the iPod Touch killer.

How else can you explain this statement from Chris Stephenson–general manager of global marketing for Microsoft Zune regarding the just-announced Zune HD (as quoted by CNET’s Ina Fried)?

"This device is created to go head to head with the iPod Touch."

Yet it is not an iPod touch killer. In fact it is a day late, and dollar short of being an iPod Touch Killer. So what is the problem here? Simple MANAGEMENT is too busy drawing little diagrams and slides on what technology will be created a decade down the road. Management is acting like a zombie as offered by the following comment.

An app store: One of the touch’s key features is Apple’s App Store. Microsoft sounds ready to launch something similar for games, but what about other applications? Seitz says that the company looked at the top 20 apps people used on the touch and found that most were games. Without a cell radio and constant Internet, this makes sense. The Zune team also wants to avoid duplicating work being done by the Windows Mobile team, and it doesn’t make sense to have two separate app stores.

This is completely misguided since the coolness of the iPod is not just games. The coolness of the iPod is the fact that it has the ability to do what the user wants. For me that is news, and data. Games is a third option. This is what makes the Apple portable device such a killer platform.

But the zombie bits don’t end there. I surfed to Jesse Liberty’s website and in particular I was interested in the article on how to teach a programmer. I actually disagree with Jesse since it is not about technology, but about solving problems. This is why Apple is so effective since it attempts to solve problems for a particular clientele. It is also why Oracle is doing so well in this market.

What bothered me is that I was constantly asked to install Silverlight. But when I did want to install I got a screen that said, “hey you are ok everything is installed.” I closed my browser, opened the browser, went to his page, and I got the same nag saying I needed to install the latest version of Silverlight. I had this problem in the past and this is why I ignore Silverlight. The fact that Microsoft has not solved this problem shows that they are more interested in pumping technology that actually solving my problems. For reference I have NEVER received this error with Flash.

I could go on, with examples being Vista, and a whole host of other technologies. It all boils down to the problem that Microsoft is a zombie corporation. Even as Goldman Sachs upgraded MSFT I would not touch Microsoft.

The bigger problem that I see with the share price of Microsoft is that too many Microsoftie’s want to sell! The moment MSFT moves up there will be selling pressure as people want to cash out. That is a train I want to avoid.

But Microsoft does not have to be a zombie corporation. In fact Microsoft has many things going its way. If I had to restructure Microsoft here is what I would do.

  1. Ballmer is put in retirement. He is given his formal adieu’s and told to buzz off. I feel Ballmer is the major reason why Microsoft is a zombie corporation.
  2. All of top level management is put under review for effectiveness. Effectiveness here is the ability to innovate and grow a business profitability. Those that don’t cut it are fired.
  3. For the remaining management they are put under review for being effective in terms of innovation and building a business. Not all are fired, but are asked to focus on the new direction of Microsoft. 
  4. 30% of tech projects are cut! It is an arbitrary number, but Microsoft has a dismal technology R&D record and they need to learn that you need to create useful technology. Examples being things like Oslo where to this day nobody can really explain what they are trying to solve and for whom it is useful. This is too nebulous. 
  5. Microsoft needs to focus on the technologies that their Open Source people have been building. The Microsoft dynamic language runtime, IronPython, F#, etc people have generated real buzz and real interest with real solutions. Keep these folks going.
  6. Make Windows client open source without any addons (eg IE, etc). Take the raw Windows operating system client and give it away under an Apache license with the catch that nobody can call it Microsoft Windows, but must call it [My Own Operating System]. While this will not bring in revenue it will ensure that Windows survives and thus ensures products like Office, and Visual Studio have revenue streams. Without this action Windows client might actually disappear and hence kill off the company called Microsoft. Because if Windows fails then so will all of the other products. Windows has become the liability.
  7. Drop Windows Mobile, Zune, etc since these are loss leaders. Apple beat you, even though Apple had no cred. The mobile market is too difficult for somebody who walking around like a zombie.
  8. Drop Windows Search like Bing. Yet again another example of not innovating, but playing catch up. Microsoft should buy out a company like Wolfram since they have a neat “search” engine called Alpha that has real potential.
  9. Focus on Cloud Computing and its legal ramifications. Cloud computing is an unwritten slate where there is no single dominate player. Cloud computing allows Microsoft to leverage its server software as a service.
  10. Allow the IIS/ASP.NET/SharePoint and Internet team to write to any operating system that they wish. This team is a winner! They are doing everything right, so why saddle them down with the anchor that has become Windows. Let them blossom.
  11. Visual Studio/.NET/Dynamic Languages are winners as well and let them write for any platform they wish. No more focus on Windows.
  12. Windows Server, SQL Server, Exchange should be allowed to do what they want. They are enterprise level software and as such should be allowed to focus on the enterprise and things like cloud computing, etc.

These recommendations are hard decisions, but if you look at IBM, Apple, and a host of other corporations that have survived they made those hard decisions. Compare that to the companies that failed to change and adapt. Those companies had dogma, and collapsed with examples being Wang, Apollo Computer, Digital Corporation, Sun, etc. The tech industry is littered with examples. 

As a final thought Microsoft should ask itself, “Is Apple and Google really scared of me?” The honest answer is a NO! I have been long enough in the industry to know that there was a time when NOBODY wanted to compete against Microsoft. No venture money would go towards corporations that said they had a better product than Microsoft. Those days are long gone. Now people just laugh and yawn when Microsoft comes out with their “killer” product. So you should think hard about buying Microsoft stock.

Would I change my opinion if Windows 7 does well? No…