There are a few things you must understand about me. First, I'm not an Apple Fan boy, quite the contrary. They make an amazing product, but I can't buy into the over pricing and iron grip they put on everything. Also, I am not a fan of Windows 8. Most of the consumer tech coming out, I've already been there done that literally, 10 years ago. Only thing that's really changed….. The hardware has gotten faster.
I am honestly tired of hearing the multi-child blame game from the peer level siblings of Microsoft and PC OEMs. Even the head of Samsung comes out and states, their slow PC sales can be blamed in large part on Windows 8. Why? In another term, HOW?
Microsoft has come out with a brave UI endeavor which is targeted well to take on Apple's "iMonopoly"(I used quotes around it calm down fanboy). This was exactly what the OEMs wanted, it's what they begged Microsoft to accomplish for them. As we all know the new Windows 8 OS and its related family of device specific operating systems were not received that well. Even worse, at launch, there was very limited publicly available hardware to showcase the major benefits of this new OS design. This has made for slow adoption. It has also contributed to lower PC sales, but it is NOT the only thing.
I have, for years now, discussed my ideas with any and all that would listen. I'm not talking about this perspective piece here, but actual business ideas with value. Even the 5 years I spent as an outside vendor at Microsoft afforded me access to spread ideas in a way most others could only dream. While there I found it wasn't that Microsoft people weren't interested and willing to go with said ideas, but most of the time, would be held back by concerns of their OEM partners. Allow me to provide an example.
Did you know, you could have a smartphone, tablet or even laptop, that was modular? To the point that you would literally just pop out the screen or board or battery and replace it with a new one? So instead of spending $1000 for a new laptop, you, not a technician, could just pop out the piece to repair or upgrade. Same with your smartphone and tablet. I've researched this idea for 13+ years now. Every engineer, designer and developer I've talked to has thought it was genius and could be done fairly easily. However, the hurdle I faced everywhere was, "It doesn't fit our partners' business model". Meaning, the PC OEMs we work with need to sell computers or units, not parts. To which I would state, "Not our problem. We find companies that want to do this with us." But it always came off as too risky to bite the hand. So, where Microsoft, Amazon, HTC or any other company I've discussed this with over the years, could be ahead you all choose to keep your business model.
You can't just blame Microsoft for your poor PC sales. What have you given us, the consumers, to get us to part with the $1000+ premium price for which you ask on a $600 device on which you've slapped a touch screen? This is supposed to get us so excited? I had a touch screen ultra-portable laptop in 2000, where have you guys been? As one person, I took Windows XP and made my own touch-style interface on Windows using a more configurable window manager. My point here is, if I could do that back then, what are you doing with your multi-million or billion dollar company, NOW?
I read so many articles about innovation, creating it, making a good environment for it and so on. But what's the point of innovating as a dreamer, designer, engineer, whatever, if the world will never see it? You have great people with great innovative ideas running around you all the time, you just have to be receptive to them. Too many of you at the higher levels worry about the business aspects to allow the innovation in your companies to grow into something meaningful. You allow bureaucracy to overtake your company's ability to release innovation to the world. Sometimes it's really just greed. I'll elaborate on the greed below.
Even further back, before I worked as a vendor to Microsoft, I did a run of warehouse contracts. Labor jobs. I worked at a telecommunications node in Kirkland, Washington for a large company called WorldCom. You may remember them, their executives were indicted for fraud. I saw that coming, and here's why. After being there a while I could see how poorly it was run. Multi-million dollar networking equipment left outside in open parking lots and yes some was stolen, though not on my watch. They still had not integrated systems from the MCI merger over a year later. To make it even worse, they paid a few million for the development of a purchasing system, that did not even have the specific products their field teams and engineers required.
Many of the team there really liked me. They felt I was smart, got things cleaned up and could learn to be a switch tech. All very cool, but after what I saw I was not all too interested in a perm role with them. There was even a visit from the VP of the West Coast one week. On a crisp Washington morning, with the sun shining, he and I stood out front of the building leaning against a cold metal rail. He said to me, "John, the team here really likes you. They would like you to come on perm. Why aren't you interested?"
I replied, "You know the company is in a position to do something great. I've been researching it and you could start investment in lighting up all this dark fiber. We have the means, you could last mile it to homes by a fiber line or even use some type of wireless till we could complete the hard line runs. It would be like nothing else on the planet. It would leverage all of the company resources and put WorldCom 10 to 20 years ahead."
He seemed a bit thrown back by this idea. Kind of churned it for a minute then re-focused, "That sounds good. But that's not our focus right now. We're going to sell the company so everyone can get rich on the stock. Don't you want to make a bunch of money on our stock options with us? That's Bernie's plan."
"Sir, I've been watching you stock. I've seen your company from the inside out. Though it sits at $35 a share currently, I don't believe it will be worth more than $7 a share by the end of the year.", I stated. "Also, WorldCom is HUGE! There's not another company on earth that could buy you out in whole. The only way that could happen is if you pieced off the company." He didn't like my answers and I was not at WorldCom much longer. I think I was let go at the end of the week.
As you may know, Bernie Ebbers and some of his team were indicted on stock manipulation, Bernie was borrowing from the company to buy company stock to keep the price inflated for a buyout. A buyout which never came. Now, today, we see Google pushing fiber to the home. There's some small build out via Verizon and Comcast others are starting to pop up as well. But could you imagine, had WorldCom's VP of the West Coast been able to see the innovation there and not just $$$$$$ how much farther we would be? Perhaps, Bernie might not have needed to falsely inflate the stock price, as most people will follow an idealist's dream. Especially if it works to their benefit.
These are just some personal examples of my experience with expressing innovative, forward thinking business ideas to high level individuals. The norm has been not to shake up the status quo, not to disrupt the current flow. I have quite a few others, but these are just a couple thatt come to mind.
So, you PC OEMs who would say, "Microsoft gave us a lame OS that no one wants to buy." Take a look at the product on which you offer it. Does it stand out from others on the shelf? Probably not. If you want people to rush to buy your newest product, you need to lay fiber to the home. Even more specifically, you could make devices more modular for easy repair and upgrading. Before you as a PC OEM go blaming Microsoft and its Windows 8 OS, remember you're the ones slapping a touch screen on a laptop and charging a large premium. I think they call that "lipstick on a pig".