Monday, November 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Ballmer

Well, Steve it's been about 10 years since I wrote to you last and I hate to say it but, "I told you so." When I wrote to you last I pleaded with you not to "chase your tail." I spelled it out for you what Microsoft does best, but you didn't listen. Instead you spent your time as head of the company chasing everyone else's progress and forgetting what Microsoft does best, appeal to many users and business software. Apple has marketed themselves well by somehow convincing the masses that their operating system is more user friendly and that they don't gouge their customers with constant updates. What? People are falling for this because Microsoft hasn't convinced them otherwise. I know you're leaving but if you impart any wisdom on your successor, let me help you by reminding you what Microsoft does well:

Microsoft was a company of standards. Yes, it felt like, to many, that this was a bad thing, but it's because you didn't sell it well. You sold it in a box that read, "Do what we tell you and your software will work on our Operating System" instead of, "Let's agree on some standards so people that are NOT technology freaks can understand the system." Standards are good, they don't have to be creativity crushing. Apple and Google want to change the Save Icon because the floppy disk is outdated, but this will be a problem for all the people that don't care about technology and just care that the little square means "SAVE." They don't care if the icon is an obsolete floppy disk. I saw a web site recently with a new look for the floppy disk, there's your creativity... it was still the symbol for Save, just updated. When you throw out your standards, you lose people and they get frustrated. When the mouse appears as a hand it means you click once to get somewhere. When you access a menu it means one click. When you see an ellipses... it means a dialogue box will appear when you click on it. Sign out of an account appears in the upper right corner. The "cog" symbol means tools or settings. With things changing so fast, those folks not keeping up are grateful for the standards. Don't forget the little guy.

Microsoft appeals to many types of users. You like to use your mouse? You can do that. You like to use your keyboard? You can do that. You like to see the icon on the screen? It used to be there. After the big change with your Vista Operating System when people were so angry their stuff didn't work because the new operating system couldn't work with the old stuff, you listened. Microsoft isn't that company, Microsoft keeps things around for a little while, lets people transition, allows for multiple Windows Operating Systems to be out in the marketplace and tries to support and have room for them. This is not true for Apple. Apple requires that you have the latest and greatest. Your Apple Device goes out of date fast in this world, but because they've marketed themselves so well, people are falling for it and they are enticed into having the newest device. Apple is burying us in discarded technology... don't be that guy, stop chasing that dream, because in the long run, it can't be sustainable. You can already hear the grumblings with this latest Apple OS upgrade, customers are finally catching on... a little.

Microsoft's Business software is far superior. Google Docs? Really? I feel like we've dumbed down the constituency. You can't do the things we can do with Word, Excel and PowerPoint in Google Docs. They've just lowered expectations. We've stopped learning how to use software and we're just throwing them into the jungle of technology, so of course people are choosing the simplistic Google Docs. Start teaching again. Start encouraging the marketplace to learn again. Is the MS Office Software perfect? No. But it's far better than the lower end quality we are allowing now.

You don't have to be the other guys, there's room for all of you. Technology geeks live at Apple, but it's really not the place for people wanting stability and long term. Easy to use, simple design, no frills, this is the spot for Google. Microsoft has good products, but you have to believe that again, and then start teaching everyone how to use it again, and to demand higher quality. Slow down. Take a deep breath and be yourself, you will bring in the middle, the variety, the people that aren't Tech Geeks and that aren't looking for "quick and easy." That market is out there, they just need to meet you again.

Good luck in whatever you do next. I hope the next care taker of the company will be someone that remembers Microsoft When and hopes to re-emerge itself in what it did well.

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