Microsoft: the good and the bad

Microsoft has been in the news quite a bit lately, some of it good and some of it bad. The software giant has done everything from creating an incredible computing environment to building one of the most successful online gaming environments in history. And like most mega-companies they’ve collected their fair share of lovers and haters. With that said, it’s beginning to look like the haters are starting to out number the lovers.

The good:
I recently read an interesting article at The Motley Fool that talked about how Microsoft will become a top player in health care information technology. In the article the author talks about the partnership between Eclipsys and Microsoft and the use of Amalga to bring multiply data systems together. “It sounds obvious, but free-flowing data is hard to find in healthcare. Instead, administrative staff, nurses, doctors, mid-level managers, and chief medical officers, even in the same organization, often can’t share information efficiently or collaborate on problems a patient brings to light after being discharged, say, because of incompatible silos of data.“ Integration of information systems in health care is certainly problematic and a solid foundation on which to build is a great idea. With that said, Amalga has been around for quite some time and I almost never about it. Why is that?

In addition to Microsoft’s apparent leap into the health care market their most recent version of Microsoft Office has received general words of praise from most of the people I’ve talked with. I’ve been using Microsoft Office 2010 beta for a couple of months now and am thrilled with the improved tablet functionality. I think it could be better, but it’s pretty nice. The ability to ink directly in the applications and the continued improvement of OneNote is refreshing. Now, if I could only get them to offer this functionality via the web.

The bad:
My brother and I had a long drive yesterday and we spent some time talking about some of Microsoft’s recent activity. The company appears to be taking a laze-fair attitude toward much of what’s going on around them. Is it arrogance or self-confidence? I have no idea, but as a bystander looking at it from the outside it appears that Microsoft has dropped the ball and is in a tailspin that may be unrecoverable. Throw in the news from today that Apple passed Microsoft in market cap and you have enough evidence to begin speculating on the long term future of the company.

It’s unfortunate that Microsoft has taken the low road as the company has the resources to do pretty much whatever it wants, but instead has chosen to take a wait-and-see approach to several key areas of technology. I’m speaking about their continued poor showing in the smartphone arena, their inability to fine tune Windows for the tablet PC and their poorly integrated public cloud offerings.

Tablet PCs are a favorite of mine and I use Live Mesh, Office Live and Windows Live SkyDrive . In addition I am a huge proponent of cloud based computing and desperately want these applications to work seamlessly with my workflow. Besides the one serious problem I had with LiveMesh, the treo of applications above feel disjointed and require a little massaging to get them to do what I want. They don’t operate as if they were designed to be used together, which is unfortunate because the combination has so much to offer.

Office Live should provide the end user with the same functionality that they get from the desktop version of Microsoft Office with the usability and seamless synchronization of files over multiple machines and the cloud that is available from applications like Dropbox. In theory Live Mesh should provide the Dropbox equivalent, but it falls way short. In addition the incredibly generous 25GB of free storage offered by SkyDrive should provide the same level of folder functionality and usability that is currently available from applications like SugarSync; back-up features, folder drilldown, email options, seamless sharing, etc. Unfortunately SkyDrive has limited functionality. Microsoft has all the key components in place to build a complete solution, but at the moment the execution is less than stellar.

I would never count Microsoft out, but they are certainly down. For my own selfish reasons I’m hoping against common sense that I will see a resurgence in their popularity, creativity and resourcefulness that will deliver what I’m looking for. I said in a previous post that “Microsoft may be aging and their bite may not be as vicious as it used to be, but they are still an 800 pound gorilla in the the software industry.“ I may have been a little over zealous with that statement.

Posted in | | 2 Responses

2 responses to “Microsoft: the good and the bad”

  1. May 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm |

    Misspelled Sugarsync :)

    Once someone comes out with an Office buster, MSFT will be out of business.

    Jerry they are exactly like IBM in the mid 1980s. They were the first to market for a major paradigm shift in society (use of personal computers) and they capitalized on it heavily. They innovated around that business and end user model for a few decades.

    Then something new came along (mobile computing) and threatened their livelihood. The choices they have are to continue down the self destructive path as a stagnant company that makes a household product for awhile longer, or come up with something truly innovative to society.

    What they need to do is fire Steve Ballmer and get a CEO that is excellent at change management to revolutionize their infrastructure and business model.

    Windows 7 is a great OS. However, it has nothing that Apple didn’t have in OS X 8 years ago. Stale. The only thing they have is the user base. They are slowly loosing it to innovators in the market.

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