Microsoft announced this week that it would purchase Nokia as part of its new thrust into devices. Rather than trying to pivot into an area which it has little experience nor expertise, it should get back to its core competency of writing great software. Software, unlike other forms of intellectual property, is and always will be an extremely profitable business. By the end of 90’s, Microsoft had established itself as the premier software company and a profit and loss statement that would make any business man drool. Since that time, Microsoft has not written much software and the software that was released was often horrific. Windows 8 and Vista are the most recent examples.
Because of the incredible accomplishments of Office and Windows, Microsoft still has ample time to right the ship and get back to writing great software. The world needs great software and great software companies. The world does not need another tablet nor another cell phone. Here are some ideas on how software is still in a position to change the world and breathe life back into the moribund PC market place.
The difference between PC and a tablet/phone is that a computer has abundant resources in processor, memory and disk space. Microsoft has failed to write software that takes advantage of the raw horse power of a computer, and the computer has been relegated to a rather large and not so portable internet viewing device. Back in the 90’s, software makers, including Microsoft, put minimum hardware requirements for CPU, memory and disk on their products. At Gateway, we called it the software / hardware spiral. The hardware would enable more powerful software and vice versa. Windows 8’s feeble attempt to make a PC behave like a phone and a tablet is an insult to the computer itself and exhibits a lack of understanding of how powerful a device the PC can truly be. Microsoft should be writing software to make computers more powerful not less.
There are many attack vectors. Perhaps the most important one is video content and distribution. The computer has devoured and destroyed so many industries such as the copy machine, the cassette player, the record player, the FAX machine and the list goes on. The next victim will be the television itself. Steve Jobs knew this and tried to crack the code but never succeeded but some day it will happen and Microsoft can lead the way. Here’s how.
Make Windows Movie Maker Awesome. Still today, content creation has been relegated to high priced Hollywood studios using expensive software, and then distributed via television through cable and satellite providers. Windows can and should enable almost anyone to make great videos and this will dramatically lower the cost of making a video and the sheer numbers of videos available for viewing. The distribution mechanism will not be cable and satellite providers but the internet through sites such as Vimeo and YouTube. The problem is of course that Windows Movie Maker is essentially useless except for the most mundane video editing.
Google’s flaw. Google is an incredible company but they do one thing and only one thing really well. Text Search. Google has become the masters of identifying and categorizing all the text on a web page or a video and displaying the most relevant results. The flaw is text is not the end game. There will be billions of new videos and even today, trillions of photographs and they are all categorized using text algorithms. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. The problem is how do those thousand words find their way into Google’s search algorithms? How do the lyrics to a song connect to the video of the song itself? There is a whole non text world that is evolving, and Microsoft should develop ways to find the best search results for video, pictures and music which would essentially leap frog Google.
Microsoft Live. Aside from online content, there is another key part of TV and that is live content such as sportings events, awards shows, and so on. Feeding live content to millions of viewers simultaneously is a massive and expensive undertaking, and Microsoft can lead the way by making it so anyone can provide live content and stream it via the internet. YouTube for live content. YouTube is extremely client server based and there is another paradigm which uses the excessive bandwith in our internet connections, and the excess power of our computers, and that is called torrents. For whatever our look on file sharing, the technology behind torrents is amazing and that same concept should enable us to bring freedom to live content.
Download Video. The internet has dramatically changed the world of pictures. Whatever picture you see, you can download on your computer. Most browsers conveniently allow one to download the picture to your hard drive. One very simple thing that Microsoft can do is to allow people to download videos to their hard drive just as easy as pictures. This would change the dynamic of video and suddenly make the computer a much more powerful device and quickly eat up gobs of hard drive space. Seagate and Western Digital will thank you. It goes without saying that one cannot do this on a tablet or a phone.
Cameras. One of the key problems with the television is that it is not evolving as fast as technology would dictate. TV’s are stuck in the world of 1080p because there is not sufficient content to display even at 1080p. The vast majority of content that we watch from our cable or satellite provider is at 720p or less. The reality is that television technology and camera technology are both capable of much higher resolutions than 1080p. We are already seeing television products from Sony at higher resolutions than 1080p, but there needs to be an affordable video camera that grows in resolution as the TV technology grows. Rumor has it that the iPhone 6 will have a 2K camera due out in 2014.
There is so much to do, but there is no doubt that the computer will over take the venerable television at some point. These are some of the baby steps that help us get there. Before any of this can happen, Microsoft must get back to its core competency which is writing great software.