Schizophrenic Personality

At Mamusings blog there is an interesting response to a recent talk given at the Microsoft campus by Chelsea Hardaway and Brian Fugere, authors of Why Business People Speak Like Idiots : A Bullfighter’s Guide. These two Deloitte authors while flogging … uhhh promoting their book gave a lecture . The lecture raised a responsive cord among Microsoft blogger about the nature of the companys personality – but then the promoters got lost in spurious and odious comparisons.

The meat of the matter was the nature of the Microsoft corporate personality. So I posted the following comment there:

This talk appears to have hit its mark on the importance of personality and then got lost in the comparisons. Too bad. The essential point was – Microsofts Personality. What is the Microsoft Personality ? By having to ask the question – among Microsoft Bloggers – its almost an admission there is a doubt about the corporate personality in Redmond. And why not ?

The current corporate image campaign – hovering around the theme of “our purpose is helping you fullfill your passions” catches the underlying theme and commitment of so many people I have worked with at Microsoft.

But then there is Jekyll and Hyde – this is the personality problem at Microsoft. There is a schizophrenic disconnect between the rank and file and the people at the top.

Microsofts top executives are really committed to securing dominant monopolies (80%++ share)in its markets and by hardball tactics. And hardball, as people have seen with the incessant litigation and payouts with “no admission of guilt”, is the uncomfortable but persistent executive norm for the past 6-8 years in Redmond.

A 80%++ share of the market is zero-sum. It means for Microsoft to win just about everybody else has to lose. This is a very tough row to hoe. But the top brass from Bill and Steve on down are prepared to play hardball to achieve this Schumpeterian impossibility -“monopolies are the seeds of their own destruction”.

Yet in stark contrast to the ethos of passionate commitment to others success of the rank and file, top executives are committed to other ISVs, VARs, and software vendors success only as means to an ulterior end – their ultimate demise.

So therefore we have seen such actions as cutting off the oxygen by bundling for free. This tactic induced Netscapes demise by giving away Netscapes two major revenues sources for free- the browser and Web server. And the current complete BI Stack nearly free giveaway is done knowing full well former partners such as Crystal/Business Objects, Hyperion, Cognos, SAS, etc cannot respond becuase they do not have a database as a source of revenues.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of “hardball” tactics. There is the deliberate slowdown of key technologies when dominant market position allows Microsoft to do so and hardball tactics dictate doing so. Example, no updates to IE browser for 5-6 years thwarting such key Web technologiew as SVG, XForms, JavaScript 2.0 and E4X, XPath2 , JPEG2000, and even Microsoft pioneered AJAX methods. Part of this depended on the fact that Microsoft commitments in 1998 made to support a complete suite of Web standards for JavaScript, CSS, DOM, and XML just never got done, being swept under the table – and is still not done even in IE7 today.

This latter case is key to understanding the top level strategy of polluting markets where rival technologies could endanger market share. Another example, why does Microsoft insist on distributing a hoplessly obsolete JVM with Windows and offer non-standard J++ and J# – to pollute the Java market?

And so these are the incontravertible and uncomfortable facts of Microsofts corporate personality. It is schizophrenic and disturbingly bi-polar. For many in the rank and file of the company, their ethos and puposes are a direct impedance mismatch with their top executives. Not a pretty site – pun intended.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005