January 17, 2005

microsoft needs to play more


So earlier I ask Microsoft's Robert Scoble what their next "big idea" is.

Robert comes back to me, saying the answer is to "Sell what we got."

That's not a "big idea", Robert. That barely qualifies as an "idea".

A couple of months ago, I loosely defined "Creativity" as "that place where work and play become the same thing".

Microsoft lacks a certain playfulness. Their arch rival, Apple doesn't [Of course Apple does have other issues etc].

Apple calls their new OS "Tiger". Micorsoft calls their new OS "Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005".

Man, already it's beginning to bore me, and I don't even know what it does yet.

Apple has the "Newton". MS has "Microsoft Windows Tablet PC Edition."

There ya go, boring me again.

Apple has the iPod. Microsoft has the iRiver H320 Digital Music Player.

Boring boring boring boring boring....

Look, I really don't need 50 bullet points to know I want something. I just need to be shown a little leg. I can get all the details later, back at the hotel room etc.

Back in the good ol' days, a rising stock price gave MS employees all the playfulness they needed. But now, sadly, it has to come from somewhere else.

Where's that playfulness going to come from? It ain't coming from Bill Gates. That's not his style, let's not kid ourselves.

Then from where? From whom? Serious question.

Posted by hugh macleod at January 17, 2005 11:21 PM | TrackBack

Today I met a researcher at Microsoft who is working on curing HIV. You'll meet him in a couple of weeks on Channel 9.

Is that boring? I don't think so.

Posted by: Robert Scoble at January 18, 2005 1:06 AM

Heh. I would certainly NOT call that boring, Robert ;-)

You're the most "playful" thing Microsoft's got going at the moment, I believe.

I just think more would be good. That was the whole point of this post. Would you not agree?

Posted by: hugh macleod at January 18, 2005 1:14 AM

Robert, seriously... do we think that MSFT will cure HIV and aids ??? our XP/ W2K os need constant updates and its crashes most often and most venurable to virus.. let alone HIV !!

When will I put our brother or a sister on HIV/AIDS cure from MSFT ?? God Forbid , even if this is true, that MSFT comes out with a cure !! Robert, I am utterlly dismayed by the fact that you will even think of commenting such facts/ or forwarding looking statements in the face of evanglism.. and I mean personally ..lets forget MSFT !!!!

I will blog this ...

Posted by: /pd at January 18, 2005 1:15 AM

I blogged my rebuttal to Robert/ MSFT here


Posted by: /pd at January 18, 2005 1:26 AM

Actually, Robert, that is boring.

But then good work is. And good to see MS is attacking a virus it might be able to get a handle on.

What will this cure be called...? Over to you Hugh.

And btw, Hugh, when are you going to realize that you are amongst the three to four per cent of the population that think/believe that work is /should be/can be playful?

97% of the population are dullards that live the bullet point lifestyle. You think those account types exist just in advertising? These are the meat puppets living in the middle of meatspace.

What's Microsoft to do? Lead the meat elsehwere? Call their next big idea "Sheepherder"?

Hey wolf bait, come to poppa.

Let's be real.

Posted by: brian moffatt at January 18, 2005 1:41 AM

Robert way to avoid the question and say a really boneheaded rubish statement. VERY MICROSOFT OF YOU!

Posted by: Kinja at January 18, 2005 2:19 AM

Working on curing HIV? That's great. I imagine the only thing delaying release to manufacturing is coming up with a profitable licensing scheme.

Posted by: richard at January 18, 2005 7:09 AM

Please tell me. Microsoft has grown to dominate their market (software) at a speed and totality unseen in business history - with none of their products (Excel, Windows, Word etc) ever being the first-to-market or leading edge offerings. Why do they need to be the holder of the "Next Big Idea"?

In the past 15 years Apple has always been the "Idea" company - but who rules the technology market now?

The Newton was a flop and no longer exists - Tablet PC's are now being used in many "real" business applications, ie it is no longer a play thing or concept.

The Palmpilot is still the handheld market leader but at hi-tech restaurants and warehouses where a handheld is useful as part of a business applications - most of the time the MS platform is being used.

I think they have got their big idea - "dominate the market with other people's designs".

Posted by: Ron at January 18, 2005 9:39 AM


Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 tells me exactly what I need to know about the product.

Tiger tells me nothing. LC345dF-A45 as a name would give me as much information. Let's cast our minds back at IBM with their playful Warp designation. Oooh..cool name.

The idea that playfullness can be artificially generated by naming conventions is pretty lame, to be honest, especially for someone who seems to despise existing and conventional marketing and advertising structures.

As for MSFT's big idea, I thought it was "developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, " as I read on someone's blog recently. Frankly, who cares what MSFT's big idea is as long as they give other people the tools to create lots of little ones.

Oh, and the Gates Foundation is now an important source of funding for HIV/AIDS research. I know that's separate from MSFT, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were researchers doing interesting stuff in this field within MSFT.

Posted by: anu at January 18, 2005 10:49 AM

Microsoft used to play more... some blogosphere buzz even provides photographic proof of that. Check http://blog.monkeymethods.org/2005/01/bill-gates-strikes-pose-for-teen-beat.html


Posted by: Stefan at January 18, 2005 10:57 AM

(The comments here have taken a slightly different direction, but--) in regards to playful naming conventions, I think Microsoft's "internal" names for projects can be pretty playful. Indigo and Avalon are cool names (methinks). And heck, Longhorn itself is named after a pub at a Canadian ski resort~!

Posted by: rob burke at January 18, 2005 11:26 AM

That's great, Rob Burke... but why only internal playfulness? What kills it off by the time it reaches folk like me?

I'm a big fan of "external playfulness", in case you hadn't noticed ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at January 18, 2005 12:29 PM

Microsoft is Corporate Corporate Corporate. (sung to the tune of Fatboy Slim's California)

I bet they think people's idea of fun on the weekend is sitting around at home wearing company golf shirts and making corporate presentations for their upcoming week at work.

Posted by: Brad Whittington at January 18, 2005 2:14 PM

I'm one of Moffat's three percenters, but unfortunately's play's not the thing. The (not-so) Softies are gynormous cuz they play to big bidniz and big bidniz don't play.

Consumers play. Business "just works."

Posted by: memer at January 18, 2005 3:20 PM

There's no need for the PS distinctions when you only have one desktop and one server OS. They could call Tiger "OS X for Professionals, Home Users, 64 bit processing, Media, and More" but it is, de facto, all of these.

At MS's web page, I count seven versions of the OS just under the XP heading. Whether their targeted focus of OS's is a better move than Apple's is debateable, but it certainly requries the long-winded callouts in the product name.

Posted by: eric at January 18, 2005 5:46 PM

I dunno, Bill Gates looks pretty playful here:


Now THERE'S a "Tiger"...

(yeah yeah, I'm sure everyone's seen it already ;-)

Posted by: chris at January 18, 2005 7:42 PM

Brad: for fun I wear Apple and Firefox t-shirts to work.

Really, I do. I'll take a picture sometime.

Posted by: Robert Scoble at January 18, 2005 10:50 PM

Robert : Thanks for the rebuttal offering.

Posted by: /pd at January 19, 2005 12:23 AM


Maybe, but what does the word Tiger tell you when compared to Panther and Jaguar ? Is it an earlier version, or a later version ? It's a meaningless word in this context, but I guess some people get sucked into thinking that form=function.

Hugh is probably not a fan of Ronseal product naming conventions either - eg Ronseal Wood Varnish, as opposed to Ronseal Leopard, which would be a much more playful name.

Takes more than a name to delight me.

Posted by: anu at January 19, 2005 10:42 AM

To even worry about the idea of 'work/playfulness' means you're in a fairly small cohort. Most folks in the world are just trying to earn a living.

Posted by: Joy at January 19, 2005 4:49 PM

Most folks in the world live on less than $5 a day, if you want to be REALLY brutal.

Posted by: hugh macleod at January 19, 2005 5:06 PM