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Microsoft declare war on, well .. everyone!

There’s nothing like ambition. Aiming high, and all that. After all, that’s the stuff of success, isn’t it? And there is many a businesswoman and businessman that will claim that aiming high is key to success. As a business, Microsoft aim higher than most. But they also aim wide, too. Thing is, I have a feeling this isn’t doing them any good…

So far, Microsoft have opened up a number of fronts.

Firstly, there’s the night assault on home entertainment in the living room, territories currently held by Apple and Sony, who’re not exactly allies.

But there’s that old Russian proverb; the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

On the plus side, Sony blinked. They’re a former threat and appear to be on the wain.

On the down side, Apple are rapidly picking up where Sony left off and don’t look to be even remotely anxious at what Microsoft have in mind.

Secondly, there’s a the battle to keep what territories they have grown and gained in corporate office productivity space and help protect them from Google.

What you have here is Google building infrastructure first, in the absence of a more substantial suite of applications, such as Google Apps.

Whereas on the other hand, Microsoft have the substantial and market-leading office suite, but can’t figure out a way of making Microsoft Office web-enabled without it cannibalizing their desktop market share.

Thirdly, there’s probably some room for some political maneuvering with Yahoo! though to a lesser extent via their old “mbrace & extend” idea.

By that I mean Microsoft will attempt to come over all friendly and then when the most advantageous moment presents itself, suck Yahoo! dry.

As recently covered over on Pronet Advertising, Microsoft may be ramping up something ambitious:

“A massive offensive by Microsoft is underway. The signs are all there, maybe you just haven’t notice, but it’s more than likely that you have. Take a look at your RSS feeds over the past few days, glance at Digg’s popular stories, browse the headline stories of Techmeme from this week – Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft, on multiple fronts too.”

OK, let’s take a more holistic look at this point – Microsoft are always planning something new and ambitious and brazen and fueled by the customary bullish bullshit Balmer marketing speak. So this hardly qualifies as news and really doesn’t interest me.

However, the article does provide a snapshot of a typical Microsoft pattern; that of aggressive acquisitions and subsequent business plans, sales projections et cetera.

You do realize this means war?

You know what I see? A couple of war analogies.

Firstly, there’s this guy called Hitler, he got the Germans all worked up over world domination in the ’40s. He opened up a couple of fronts and totally over-committed his resources.

Why did he do this? He believed he was unstoppable, and history will attest to his failure in that regard.

Then there was the US in Vietnam, who through sheer force of firepower thought they’d cut a neat swathe through Asia. They had this thing what they called “mission creep” where they were over-committed, too.

Why did they do this? In a very real sense, they massively under-estimated the resourcefulness of their enemy.

I don’t see Microsoft removing either Apple or Google from their respective theaters of war. They’re agile and adaptive in ways that Microsoft aren’t or would either struggle to or are incapable of replicating.

Despite the various ‘leaked’ stories of their alleged in-house hip culture that crop up from time to time, I also read the real leaked stories from the developers who have worked for Microsoft.

They talk of weird Byzantine and convoluted interdepartmental politics, in-fighting, huge product and service overlap and a failure to spot the real trends.

Worse still, Microsoft can’t even react to some trends because those technology trends are too small.

Anything worth less than $1bn isn’t worth their time. So most of the smaller technology trends merely serve to get under their feet by wreaking havoc with their own technologies.

Size isn’t everything. And it’s not how big a thing is, it’s what you do with it that counts.


History is often a good teacher, but businesspeople are more often really bad students…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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