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Microsoft, 26 and not growing up
By: SivaKumar Nadarajah
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Microsoft, 26 and not growing up.

Are you a Microsoft shareholder? God bless you. By now, you must have truly understood the real meaning of flat, haven?t you? Have you ever seen a mega billion dollar company so good at beating the street regularly, being so flat for three consecutive years?

What?s going on at Microsoft? Is Bill Gates sleeping? Why can?t they do anything to make the company more exciting for shareholders? Why can?t they shake things up to get out of the magical number of 26?
Yes. Microsoft stock seems to be stagnant at 26 and has become like a Bollywood oomph girl lately. I?m 26, and whether you like it or not, I will always be 26. Go figure.

It?s not that every Microsoft programmer is taking a long vacation. Every one of them are so busy trying to get the latest releases of SQL Server, Visual Studio, Office and Windows Vista out the door as soon as possible. Almost all of them are clocking the usual twelve to thirteen hours daily. But why couldn?t you see the same momentum in the company stock? Why isn?t the stock moving anywhere, although the profits are repeatedly higher than the previous years?

I?ve asked these questions for the last twelve months and seem to get no answers from even the gurus. No one knows the reason for Microsoft?s slow pace in stock growth and no one gave me a believable answer to explain why it?s not growing up. As I said before, it?s like asking Mallika Sherawat her age.

Looks like the street is expecting Microsoft to announce a brand new strategy. Something in the lines of iPod or even more exciting than that. Looks like the street has shifted its focus to Google these days. To add to this misery, Bill Gates publicly announced that ?Google is hot?. A business radio station repeatedly aired Bill?s comments for two consecutive days and guess what, Google was sailing above $300 and Microsoft was, mother dear, flat at 26.

In my opinion, Google seems to be the reason for Microsoft?s flatness. People think Google could gradually replace Microsoft in every front. The brilliant Wall Street analysts have a tendency to go after the ?hot? things, all the time. We have repeatedly seen this at every single high tech hot stock. And I think Google?s ?hotness? has taken a big toll on Microsoft and has hugely influenced the flatness.

So what should Microsoft do to make it more exciting and sexy? Just one move. Bring Bill Gates more on to the stage. Make him talk a lot about the exciting things that are going on at their research labs. Make the brilliant Wall Street analysts excited. In other words, project Microsoft as a ?hot? company again. In my opinion the due buzz that Microsoft deserves is totally missing in the industry. No one seems to get the exciting things that are happening at Redmond. If I?m Steve Ballmer, I?ll fire some of my marketing guys and hire a couple from Apple. You heard it right, from Apple.

Folks at Apple seems to know the mantra to create a buzz. Look what they did to the digital music world. Sony had digital music players for so long, well before iPod was even made it to the drawing board. Look where iPod is now. Microsoft had these same momentum ten years ago. They had the fire to create a buzz around a technology that already existed somewhere. Looks like that energy is long lost at Microsoft. As a shareholder, I?m really worried about the lack of momentum.

It?s not always easy to bring your sexiness back once you?ve lost your shine. But when there are enough reasons to bring it back, why not?. Bring ?em all and show it off. Here is what Microsoft should do, in my opinion. Create a big buzz around the following exciting things that they do at the Microsoft Research Labs that are spread across the world. Make the marketing guys work their butts off to project these technologies as hot as the Wall Street can handle.

  1. Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) is a special project incubated within Microsoft Research focused on making everyday devices (e.g., wristwatches) better at what they do, and enabling them to provide timely, personalized information in a convenient, ?glanceable? format.
  2. Bayesian Analysis - Technologies that build probabilistic models can be used to predict and anticipate users? behavior, preferences and needs, allowing software to automatically customize itself to a particular user.
  3. Smart tags - Technology automatically recognizes ?factoids,? specific data such as dates, company names and locations, and enables rapid access to information from the Web, Office or third-party applications via automatically generated links.

These are mind-blowing things Microsoft Research has successfully executed lately. Microsoft has already used them in many of their products, including Windows XP and Office XP. But how many of us are really aware of them? Without just making them as features of upcoming products, Microsoft should create a big buzz around them. Should make everyone excited about the technology and should come up with a cool gadget. May be a wristwatch. Yes a smart wristwatch, based on SPOT technology and should make it as hot as iPod. If a simple music player can create so much excitement around Apple, so will a wristwatch. Imagine a smart wristwatch with a Microsoft spin on it. It could be the hottest item for this holiday season. Why can?t someone at Microsoft think about it? Microsoft needs a hot and sexy product right now. It could be a wristwatch, pen or even could be an underwear. All Microsoft needs is excitement and buzz. The rest will just follow.

N.Sivakumar is the author of ?Dude, did I steal your job ? Debugging Indian Computer Programmers?. You can contact him at nsivakumar@divientree.com . Visit http://www.divinetree.com to learn more about his book. Opinions expressed in his columns are his own and not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sasural.com.

 

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