“What are you on? The ‘fuck Windows’ strategy?” Back in the late
1990s, when Bill Gates was still Microsoft’s boss, any employee
who had the temerity to suggest something that could possibly
weaken the firm’s flagship operating system was sure to earn his
wrath. Even after Steve Ballmer took over from Mr Gates in 2000,
that remained the incontestable law at the company’s headquarters
in Redmond, in Washington state. Everything Microsoft did had to
strengthen Windows, to make it ever more crushingly dominant. Many
of the company’s best innovations were killed because of this
“strategy tax”, as it was known internally.
Today the rules are different in Redmond. The new boss who took
over last year, Satya Nadella (pictured, centre, with Mr Gates to
the left and Mr Ballmer on the right), recoils when he hears the
term “strategy tax” and says he now tells his staff simply to
“build stuff that people like”.
Sounds like just what Microsoft needs. Then this:
Yet Mr Nadella’s biggest achievement so far is that he has given
Microsoft a coherent purpose in life, as it enters its fifth
decade. He sums it up in two mottos. One is “mobile first, cloud
first”: since these are where the growth is going to come from,
all new products need to be developed for them.
At first I wanted to quip that they can’t both be first. But maybe they can. They’re not in conflict, and they’re potentially complementary. The idea is, everything Microsoft does should be of primary relevance to mobile (devices being used) and the cloud (for storage and incoming data). That strikes me as a good focus for Microsoft.
★ Wednesday, 1 April 2015