Microsoft - Crossing through the Gates & Windows to Connect with the Consumer

The Road Ahead

Today’s brew is for Microsoft Inc.,
Brew Date: 19th May 2015
Type: Served Hot – Redefine and Transform brew

Charting the Road ahead for Microsoft when the Consumers (and hence businesses) are changing at the speed of thought.

Though Microsoft is one of the world’s most valuable company (Companies have greatest market caps), this read will rather discuss creating and adding value for consumers (rather than self), creates a long term value for all, the secret is to strike a fine balance between value created, value captured and value shared, and at different points of time, this equation changes.

The above statement does give most of the things, which will be discussed in this read, however, one of the things observed while analyzing the giants, is that they tend to be myopic (short sightedness), and more so, the Giants are a lot more difficult to change then envisaged (Cos they are Perceptionally driven, and experiments are a logical fallacy) , especially the firms for whom bĂȘte noire is a failure or a drop to market cap. 

For a better understanding of Microsoft’s (Read as MS from here on) business model, please visit the following links:

The Brew will analyze Microsoft on 2 aspects:
    1) Business Analysis
    2) Improvisations to Business Strategy

1) Business Analysis:
a) Though MS is largely seen as a Technology offering company, it has tended more of a Product offering company in the realm of technology.      The difference being, the former explore more of technology in every thing it does progressing to an area of relevance and acceptability, the latter explore more of the Product side, often offering consumers things of lower relevance and acceptability.  The former tries to evolve technology thus creating significant impact and contribution to the overall ecosystem, the latter attempts to evolve products to create more of profits and revenues, only to realize later to pursue the larger trajectory of technology.

b) MS ideally was a Consumer Technology firm, at least that’s how it started, in the era, where the UI was not imagined, it made Computers acceptable and understandable to people without requiring a tech competence. This was the essence of Microsoft’s success, and it seems to be relevant even today, in the lagged results of Microsoft.

After Industrial Revolution, it’s been the Technology Revolution that has been creating success waves for companies. Computers took around 25 years to hit deck of Saturation, Internet halved that period with higher spreads and now the Smart Phones and Mobiles have halved it again with much higher spreads (see some Moore’s law in this ??).
Precisely, MS made the computers acceptable to retail users, lowering the cost of technology, bettering the usability, and both of these resulting in to higher acceptability and enhanced revenues for MS. It certainly missed the rest of the waves by a mile, and possible continues in the catch-up mode.

By being a Consumer Technology firm, one identifies the Consumer Needs along the Larger Innovation Cycle of Technology and then helps Consumer with offerings enabled by better technology, higher usability and value, creating and capturing a higher mindshare and value with all the stakeholders. Its as well a recipe for disruptions when a firm understands the technology paradigm along with evolving consumer needs and behavior.

c) Extending the above point, bcos MS lags in technology and understanding the Consumer patterns, a lack of vision or purpose only aggravates its case. While leveraging on the wave of Computers, MS outlined a vision of making Computer Personal and Available to every one, and thus Personal Computing got conceptualized. However post the era, MS has not established a larger goal for self, though society and world have transformed their living continually and at a faster rate.

d) The Competence of MS was its tech model and its strategy of creating a usable product for the larger market resulted in high competitive advantage (helped by almost nil competition), And it was this competitive advantage that followed the success of MS Office (where again its Competence was Tech and Strategy was to make Product Usable), and beyond it, neither has its Competence nor has its strategy been effective either to create or leverage the competence or the competitive advantage. For that matter, moving its dominance to the OEM’s did extend its competitive advantage but in a way stagnated the organic competence of technology and innovation at MS.

e) The brand promise of MS is enhancing Productivity, which is what it should target to do with its offerings, and then moving to the continuum of Life Enhancing. Effectively, MS should regroup as Productivity Solutions company that offers solutions or productivity hacks to Consumers (Not an OS,  but a Faster and Better OS, Not an Office, but more result oriented Office etc etc). The positive for MS here is it has end-to-end offerings of Hardware and Software in Gaming (Xbox), Communications (Skype), Entertainment (MSN), to create this brand promise and extend it to Life Enhancing Solutions.

f) Another point, which needs to be taken in to cognizance, is the Ecosystem evolution. Bcos Windows OS had a Competitive advantage, the application ecosystem got developed on Windows platform alongside Suppliers and OEMS providing built in MS products. This resulted in to a Sustainable Competitive advantage in the overall Ecosystem from hardware to software. Developing and nurturing the Ecosystem is the key to have a sustained advantage, rather than exploiting it (MS was successful in exploiting all the stakeholders in the value chain). It certainly has to be winning circle for all.

g) MS needs to identify the key drivers of technology and consumer needs and revamp the offerings and organization in the lines of those. The simplicity of this model is both are known; yet wisdom is to prevail. The Cloud, Personalisation Experience, and Social is going to drive Consumerism for a while, until it becomes a way of life reaching performance plateaus and saturation. MS will have to get all its offerings to web and cloud (along with MS OS etc) so as to make its accessibility universal along with delivering Personalized experience, at the same time retaining its brand promise of Productivity Solutions, along with having Convergence and Continuity to all of its offerings (Hardware to Software) to carry the progress and beyond.

Its possible next vision can be have to Every Person as identity on Personal Cloud (which offers personalized OS, Email Connectivity with Outlook, Productivity Solutions like Office365 etc, Life enhancements like Games, Entertainment, MSN etc., Communications like Skype, Socialising prowess like Yammer, Auto Discovery platform for interests in Bing, Personalisation Analytics with Cortana and similar convergence and congruence for Hardware as well)

h) Establishing and Reviving Innovation cycle at MS along with Redesigning the organizations on dimension of Consumers and Consumer needs, supported with the framework of Design, Experience, Value, Security and Openness.

2) Improvisations to Business Strategy:

a) Identifying Key Drivers, Consumer Needs: In the Lines of Key Drivers, its certainly going to be Cloud, Analytics, Social, Mobility, Personalisation, Experience, Artificial Intelligence - incidentally, MS has offerings in all of these areas, it now has map them Consumer Needs, for a higher value creation rather than offer them in their elemental state to market. This where MS progresses from a Product firm to a Solutions Offering firm.

Its next big vision and offering can be To Offer Every Person an identity with a Personal Cloud which offers personalized Cloud OS, Email Connectivity with Outlook, Productivity Solutions like Office365 etc, Life enhancements like Games, Entertainment, MSN etc., Communications like Skype, Socialising prowess like Yammer, Auto Discovery platform for interests in Bing, Personalisation Analytics with Cortana and similar convergence and congruence for Hardware as well.

b) Continuity and Convergence of Technology and solutions for new offerings with Leveraging Kinect (Motion Sensors and Gaming), Yammer (Social Network for both, Work and Personal, with dual identity management), Bing (Auto Discovery Platform of Users Interests and Search in Physical and Virtual world), Cortana (AI with Human Interface of Voice), Skype for Communications etc.  All these Consumer Solutions need to Converge in every MS Hardware (Xbox, Tablets, PC’s, Entertainment systems, Smartphones etc).

Precisely, all the Solution based offerings can be experienced on Cloud from any of the hardware but the specialized hardware can get the Consumer, a relevant realistic feel. This helps User experience an end to end of MS Value chain progressing it to a Life Enhancing firm dealing with all spheres of life (Play, Work, Communicate, Share, Experiential like Travel, Leisure, Food, Clothing etc)

c) Developing an Open Ecosystem and Platform with offerings of enhancing Work Productivity & Life Enhancements (both in hardware, software and solutions). This Ecosystem remains the same in the realms of all MS hardware with high Personalisation feature, and as well can be installed in Non – MS hardware to Users to be productive and have an MS Experience. Its change in philosophy, but its something that needs to happen to drive change in MS business models as well the perceptions in Consumer’s mind.

This should not be difficult given MS still has a dominance with its offerings acceptability & usage.

d) MS’s brand promise is productivity Solutions Company, it will actively have to closer to the relevant consumer continuum in terms of Engagement and creating other avenues of enhancements. Hence focusing on Companies like a LinkedIn, Udemy, Twitter, Trello, Evernote etc for enhancing productivity and skillability. As well focusing on the web automation tools like IFTTT, which can be part of virtual OS on cloud to improvise productivity and efficiency along with other elements on personal cloud.

e) Extending the model of iOT (Web Automations like IFTTT, AI of Cortana along with Motion Sensors of Kinect, Skype for Video recording and character recognitions etc) to Engage with Consumers on Wearables, Plug and Play Intelligent devices etc is road ahead.

Incidentally, MS is the only player, which has presence in all of Intelligent Hardware, Software, Analytics, Gaming, Entertainment, Universal Accessibility with higher offering maturity which should be leveraged to be the next disruptor.

f) Rebranding the firm: MS needs to go in for another massive rebranding with reinforces its brand promise (refer above) on the lines of a Productivity Enhancing form for Work, Play, Experience, Entertainment, Personalisation, Intelligent Living, all experienced through a single and all device of MS.

g) MS needs to leverage its gaming solution offering to make it more universal and accessible to the larger crowd, making it an integral part of other Life enhancing solutions like Entertainment, Communication, Social, and Universal accessibility. 

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