It seems that all Microsoft’s chickens have come to roost and have now tucked up their heads under their wings and are dreaming of wriggly grubs.
After years of being the bad-guy in many of the IT industry deals, the Imperium is reaching the point where the great unwashed will only buy its operating system, somewhat grudgingly.
For the last few years Microsoft has been entirely on the back foot and yet still regarded with suspicion. Its own attempts to enter the mobile industry have been treated with much mirth, somewhat unfairly. If any other company had produced it everyone would be praising it to the skies, and yet for some reason it is failing to move.
All those years of evil court cases, anti-trust actions, buying rivals out generally being the corporate Mr Evil have undermined its image to the point that people expect it do something nasty.
Lately however the sum total of the Imperium’s legal efforts have been defensive against other companies who are playing the patent wars against it.
The other problem that the Imperium has is that its software is perceived as buggy and insecure. This goes back to the days when the Imperium had total control of the market and did not give a monkey’s about fixing problems.
That changed dramatically after Redmond’s clunky Vista appeared, however, the great unwashed appears not to have forgiven it. Despite the fact that it is a faith based security system, it is a common perception that the Mac Operating system is actually more secure than anything put out by Microsoft.
Vista, which was another blow against Microsoft from which it has not recovered, was annoying because of Redmond’s obsession with security. The Imperium never recovered from Vista and when Windows 7 came out it took a while before it was trusted.
But while Redmond was blasted for not moving quickly enough on mobile, the market was not interested when Steve Ballmer showed up with his toys to play in the sandpit.
It was not that the things that Redmond had produced were bad, or anything better or worse than Android or Jobs’ Mob turned out. It was just that Microsoft was tainted by its past.
LG executives were secretly wondering why Windows Phone 7 sold so badly. Ironically it was because Steve Ballmer slavishly followed Steve Jobs by putting huge hardware specifications on his toys that restricted developers. In every market hardware makers have learnt that the only way to complete with the Jobs’ Mob machine is to knock out the same thing much cheaper and with much more openness
However, Ballmer wanted a locked-in phone, at a high price. While Steve could pull this off, Microsoft was still Microsoft and that brand is like a lead weight to innovation.
So what is Steve gotta do? Well there are some who say he should quit. But the reality is that Microsoft has a branding problem. Its name is associated with poo. When your brand is poo, all the press will do is poo-poo you all the time. And if you poo poo the poo poo then it is a fatal error. A lot of companies are destroyed by being poo pooed and if their image is poo then they have to do something about it before they are destroyed by poo-poo.
In this case a change of image is not going to cut it.
Ballmer needs to break the company up and do some renaming. Dividing the company into four would make sense. Operating system, internet businesses, games and data storage would be the best. Keep the Microsoft name attached to the operating system while the rest gets a new name.
Once the name-taint has gone and people think they are dealing with a different company, and judge it accordingly, Microsoft will no longer smell of poo. Or onions.