Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Microsoft, Free Software and Enterprise Mobility

Three years ago, Microsoft's Windows Mobile dominated the world of mobility.  Thirty-six months later they have disappeared from consumer mobility and are fighting to defend their last foothold in enterprise mobility.  How could a company as successful and technologically astute as Microsoft fail so completely in a market as large and important as mobility?  They roared right past Palm with their marketing power a few years ago but then they seem to have taken a sabbatical.

In the July 5th edition of The New York Times, Ashlee Vance wrote an article entitled, Microsoft Calling. Anyone There?  In this article she writes that one of the key challenges Microsoft faces is attracting young developers.  Vance writes that young cash strapped entrepreneurs are working with free or low cost software from places like Google's Android and Apple.  They are avoiding expensive developer licenses that Microsoft often requires.  The hip young developer community doesn't even consider Microsoft when looking to develop cool new mobile software applications.  They don't believe it has market potential worth pursuing.

Microsoft is striking out on just about every attempt in mobility.  Not only have they lost incredible market share, but they bought mobile phone designer, Danger, released a mobile phone designed for social networking called Kin, and then canceled it after only eight weeks.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, "A problem cannot be solved with the same thinking that created it."  I think Microsoft needs a new spin-off company that focuses on mobility.  It is painfully clear that the Microsoft of old is struggling in the mobility arena.  It is not just their mobile technology but their business model.  If young developers are focusing on developing applications with free software from Apple and Android and looking to make innovative applications for tens of millions of users, then Microsoft must have a solution for them if they want to be a contender.

A spin-off strategy is not new for technology companies.  Motorola announced this week that they are splitting their company into two separate entities the first quarter of 2011.  They are splitting the company into a consumer company and a company focused on enterprise mobility.  The purpose is to focus.  Focus on what it takes for each group to be successful.

Organizational changes are very interesting to me.  I have seen market leaders like Palm, Microsoft, GM and others simply lose their ability to compete.  Today, a company can go from market leader to after thought in a few months.  What makes the difference?  Is it luck or strategy?

Microsoft is making another attempt to jump back into mobility now with their new strategy that is summarized nicely in Gil Bouhnick's blog article: 
http://clicksoftware-mobilefever.blogspot.com/2010/06/microsoft-announces-windows-embedded.html.  It will be very interesting to see if they can right the ship.

I am serious when I say that the chaos therory, and the study of how ice crystals grow may be useful in understanding how to manage and build a mobile technology company nowadays.  Chaos theory is a field of study in mathematics, physics, economics and philosophy studying the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. This sensitivity is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect.

The phrase, butterfly effect, refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events (compare: domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different. While the butterfly does not "cause" the tornado in the sense of providing the energy for the tornado, it does "cause" it in the sense that the flap of its wings is an essential part of the initial conditions resulting in a tornado, and without that flap that particular tornado would not have existed (source Wikipedia).

Read the latest enterprise mobility news at  http://mobileenterprisestrategies.blogspot.com/p/kevins-mobility-news-weekly.html.

Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, SAP Top Contributor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
CEO/Principal Consultant, Netcentric Strategies LLC
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.