Microsoft STILL Doesn’t get it

June 28, 2010

Just when you think Microsoft may start to get the Internet, they dash your hopes again.

They just don’t get it.

In the most recent Business Week magazine, Steve Ballmer was interviewed about opportunities in Asia. He commented about the problems of what makes a country interesting and about the problems Microsoft has with software piracy. See the interview here

Two things really stood out to me:

1) On the question What excites you about Asia now? Ballmer answered, “Two things make a country interesting… One, they buy a lot of personal computers…”

Note that he didn’t mention mention Internet access or Smart Phones or broadband penetration. Just personal computers. I know Microsoft makes a ton of money from Windows and Office, but emerging markets and emerging technologies aren’t going to function the old way. The old metrics simply aren’t going to cut it. How could I ever believe that Microsoft cares about Search, or about SaaS, or Office in the cloud when the CEO doesn’t even mention mobile or the Internet when discussing opportunities in Asia? There are over 750 million mobile phone subscribers in China alone.

2) The second thing Ballmer comments on is the issue of software piracy in China. I won’t diminish the issue of piracy, because it is a real issue for all forms of IP. But Ballmer’s comments highlight how little Microsoft understands software as a service (SaaS). In a SaaS model, the software is typically paid for over time and accessed via a browser. SaaS doesn’t eliminate piracy, since users can share user names and passwords, but it does reduce it substantially. But Ballmer doesn’t think of the world this way.

They Don’t Get It.  Why Does it matter if they get it? Because Word and Excel and Outlook are industry standard tools, and they would be so much more valuable to all of us users if Microsoft did get it. If I could access all my documents easily in one place. If I could sync all my contacts easily. If I had a truly unified “In Box.”