Why cannot Microsoft beat Google on web? After all, they crushed every one who dared to compete: Netscape, Lotus, IBM’s OS 2 and the list is endless. What is it with Google that Microsoft cannot catch up. Well, the real problem is simple: Microsoft is slowly killing itself. Microsoft has become fat and lazy sitting on billions of dollars and its past success.
A small example will make it clear: Microsoft needed a startup tune for Windows Vista. A team of 20 high profile composers, sound designers, engineers and developers worked for 18 months. Kid Crimson’s Robert Fripp, drummer Pat Mastelotto, composer Tucker Martine, and Oscar-winning sound designer Randy Thom also participated. The end result: a four second startup tune for Microsoft Vista.
Now, how is Microsoft fat & lazy?
You put 20 people on a project for 18 months to come up with a 4 second tune. In this age of rapid product development, 18 months is eternity and team of 20 on a project is crowd – the communication overheads and ensuing delays paralyze a team.
A counter example: in 18 months, Youtube went from a startup in garage to the Time Magazine’s invention of the year and a Google acquisition for $1.65 billion.
You can argue that it is worth spending 18 months when that 4 second tune is going to start the day of 200 million people worldwide. I am not against investing in product innovation, market research and customer satisfaction. However, listen to the product manager of the startup tune project, Steve Ball himself admitting that common user does not really care about the tune.
Microsoft is also non-caring.
Let us figure out the investment here. The cost of 20 people over 18 months, assuming an average salary of just $50,000 is $1.8 million. Add another $200k for other expenses over 18 months and an extra $2 million for the artists. The total comes to $4 million. For Microsoft with $35 billion in cash, $34million means pocket-change. Google’s first round of funding was from Andy Bechtolsheim for $100,000.
Here is the crazy part. Along with the startup sound, 45 other sounds were created and revamped for Vista. Out of the 45 sounds, who made the final call? The final call was made by Jim Allchin, ex-copresident of the Windows Group. Here is the beauty: Jim left the company after the Vista launched. It never fails to amuse me when a team spends 18 months in research and development and then one individual who is not part of the team makes the final call.
So, Google is not working hard to keep Microsoft behind but Microsoft is working hard to keep itself trailing!