Saturday, June 21, 2008

Review: How the errors of rivals helped Microsoft

The secret of Bill Gates' success is a very short and simple article from BBC, yet it manages to highlight a few key points which attributed to Microsoft’s Success.

"They (the competitor) did not understand how to bring in people with business experience and people with engineering experience and put them together. They did not understand how to go around the world."

I guess this is a very common issue in every company, either your company are more Sales & Marketing Centric like IBM, or more Developer & Engineering Centric like Microsoft. As a developer, I would always look for company which are more Developer centric so that my effort is valued and appreciated (rather than being treated as just a working drone). I guess Microsoft did more than that: being able to jell the business and technical people together, giving respect to both camp and have them working close together.

I remember I read an article about Brian Valentine from Microsoft, “Our role as manager is to allow the developers to do their job effectively, not getting into their way”. Too many managers try to tell the developer what to do, when they themselves have no idea what should be done exactly. We need someone (a manager) who is able to bring the best out of people, not trying to control or restrict them.

“Getting MS-DOS out there was more important than the price of any particular deal.”

Talking about market share, I guess it’s all about getting as much people to use your product as possible. I guess Microsoft did a lot to gain market share in the early days, even though it means loosing money. Is like nowadays Antivirus Company like AVG gives out free version so that more people would use it, talk about it and recommend it. It’s like free marketing, bigger market share and a higher chance that people would actually buy it. The more people use it (the more popular it become), and then there is a good chance to be successful.

“It was Mr. Gates' ability to understand the business as well as the technical side that gave Microsoft the edge”

This is really a rare skill which not many people have, and business people and technical people indeed think very differently. I don’t really believe a company would be successful because we have a MBA as CEO; and neither a Techie could be a great leader as well. Business people probably aren’t very interested with the detail of technicality, and Techie doesn’t really care about business stuff. To success in this Technology Business segment, you need both, and not many people have both the skill set. We need someone who really understand and appreciate technicality and technology, yet still know how to market it effectively and how to make money out of it.

It’s like the customers (usually a business person) who understand very well about their business, yet doesn’t have a very good idea to utilize technology to enhance their business value. He would then tell a Techie to develop what he wants, but the techie only understand on the surface how the business run. So it’s pretty hard to jell both brains together to get optimum result, unless you are the same person.

Microsoft had "evangelized" its software to other companies, begging them "please write software for our platform". Mr. Gates says that he had personally visited Lotus "so many times" to plead with the company to adapt 1-2-3 to work on Windows.

I found the recent trend on anti-trust and monopoly lawsuit it quite pointless (and a good waste of money and resources). It’s like the sour looser whining when they loose in terms of competitiveness or they fail to have a proper vision for the future many years ago. Those who bet with Microsoft in the beginning will probably be more successful than those who didn’t.

I believe Microsoft is very adopt a Developer friendly, trying to get as much people develop on Windows platform as possible, providing API’s and powerful development tools. Maybe they hide certain APIs, but I don’t think that’s the main reason why competitor loose out.

Microsoft is quite a Giant, and every domain which they move into is going to cause some casualty. For example Borland Development Tool is crushed by Visual Studio and Microsoft Office overrun Word Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3. It’s because Microsoft practice unfair competition or these companies just isn’t good enough? Microsoft did venture into database segment with Microsoft SQL, but Oracle and MySQL is still standing. Microsoft tries to venture into Internet and Search, but Google is still very much dominant. I think it’s all about survival of the fittest, and perhaps Microsoft did have more advantage with its cash flow and Windows platform. I mean, you can just hate them for being rich and successful.

"But they (the competitor) were quite slow, so our own Windows applications, Word, Excel, were doing incredibly well."
If Word Perfect or Lotus 1-2-3 believe in the potential of Windows in the beginning and start developing on the Windows since the beginning (and did a good job), Microsoft might just become an OS company without an office suite.

Everyone was once small; and Everyone has a chance at success. Can you make it, or not?

1 comment:

Mun said...

Hi Desmond, good comments on the success of Microsoft.