Last fall I found myself thinking about Microsoft and their strategy a lot…I really don’t know why I spent so much time thinking about Microsoft, I think it was because they seemed so utterly absent from the activity (Flickr acquisition, delicious acquisition, etc.)…I guess they were the elephant in the room.
Last week HighRoad – Microsoft’s PR firm – invited myself and about five other Toronto area blogger/developers to meet the director of Microsoft Live, Phil Holden.
I gave the team at HighRoad my feedback on the meeting which was basically, “Why invite us over to see a bunch of your ME TOO apps?” Part way through I asked Phil, “So what is Microsoft doing that is new or different?” The answer (“tightened integration across all our products”) was frankly lacklustre, though I can see how having your contacts simply managed across your email, your cell phone, your social network is compelling. But will Microsoft allow you to easily participate in non-Microsoft social networks? A murky answer was given…almost a “Why would you need that?” feel to it, though Phil was clearly listening.
I’ll give the reason why they should allow you to move freely between networks for your future reference. Social networks and communities are only as good as the people within them. There will come a day when any given person will need to be a part of a very specific community. Let’s use a niche/vertical knowledge network as an example and let’s assume the network is not based on a Microsoft platform. If I can’t easily take my identity with me to that other network, it’s going to piss me off. So much so that I will probably never come back to Microsoft once I leave. If they made it easy to move out and back in, well then, I’d probably come back.
So basically they still have not learned to LET GO. They still want to tell you who you can play with. I would not hang out with a person who told me who I could associate with and held me back from joining a new group of friends…at the end of the day, it’s not very social is it?
Anyhow, the reason for this post was actually something totally different. The reason was the one really positive thing I took away from the day. As I mentioned, in the fall I had got my head stuck thinking about Microsoft’s strategy. Here are some of my posts from that time:
The one thing that Phil Holden said that really caught my attention was some numbers Phil shared. Basically Microsoft has about 350 million MSN users and 350 million hotmail users and 300 million unique users between the two services. Phil said Microsoft is going to focus on serving those 300 million. As someone who believes deeply in serving his users, and from years of consulting knows that your current clients are your best prospects for new business, I think Microsoft has settled on a strategy I can live with for now. Well done.