Why can’t Microsoft get it right first time?

Owen Williams asks Why can’t Microsoft get products right on the first try? He talks about problems with recent products which mean following a big launch with a series of fixes.

It’s a good question. I’ve followed Microsoft for 30 years and have some insight into this.

This is how Microsoft has always done things. It didn’t matter when the company had an effective monopoly. Customers, business partners and the whole damn world had no choice but to stumble along behind Microsoft.

Believe it or not, Microsoft is now better. Remember how it took until version 3.1 for Windows to be usable? That period ran from 1985 until 1992.

Sloppy was fine when Microsoft’s competitors were dolts. Today Microsoft is up against sharp opposition who leave no leeway. Stumbling towards getting products right no longer works.

Despite turning over US$75 billion a year and thousands of employees, Microsoft is unable to focus. It’s a company that can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

I put that down to poor top leadership which in turn means an out of touch old-fashioned structure where the various parts of the company compete with each other for resources and top management attention. This automatically ensures the various parts don’t join up.

Microsoft won’t go away – at least not in the short term – but it is sleepwalking toward irrelevance. The market won’t forgive many more stumbles.