Should-Read: Ben Thompson: The End of Windows

Should-Read: Ben Thompson: The End of Windows: “The story of Windows’ decline is relatively straightforward…

…a classic case of disruption:

  • The Internet dramatically reduced application lock-in
  • PCs became “good enough”, elongating the upgrade cycle
  • Smartphones first addressed needs the PC couldn’t, then over time started taking over >* PC functionality directly

What is more interesting, though, is the story of Windows’ decline in Redmond…. A mere five years ago, when, in the context of another reorganization, former-CEO Steve Ballmer wrote a memo insisting that Windows was the future:

In the critical choice today of digital ecosystems, Microsoft has an unmatched advantage in work and productivity experiences, and has a unique ability to drive unified services for everything from tasks and documents to entertainment, games and communications. I am convinced that by deploying our smart-cloud assets across a range of devices, we can make Windows devices once again the devices to own. Other companies provide strong experiences, but in their own way they are each fragmented and limited. Microsoft is best positioned to take advantage of the power of one, and bring it to our over 1 billion users….

That memo prompted me to write a post entitled Services, Not Devices that argued that Ballmer’s strategic priorities were exactly backwards: Microsoft’s services should be businesses in their own right, not Windows’ differentiators. Ballmer, though, followed-through on…. buying Nokia… dysfunction… allowed to spend billions on a deal that allegedly played a large role in his ouster. That dysfunction was The Curse of Culture:

Culture is not something that begets success, rather, it is a product of it…. The espoused beliefs and values of their founder(s)… lead to real sustained success… slip from the conscious to the unconscious…. The founder no longer needs to espouse his or her beliefs and values to the 10,000th employee; every single person already in the company will do just that, in every decision they make, big or small. As with most such things, culture is one of a company’s most powerful assets right until it isn’t: the same underlying assumptions that permit an organization to scale massively constrain the ability of that same organization to change direction. More distressingly, culture prevents organizations from even knowing they need to do so….

The story of how Microsoft came to accept the reality of Windows’ decline is more interesting than the fact of Windows’ decline; this is how CEO Satya Nadella convinced the company to accept the obvious….

April 4, 2018


Brad DeLong
The End of Windows&via=equitablegrowth" title="Share on Twitter" onclick=",'targetWindow', 'toolbar=no, location=no, status=no, menubar=no, scrollbars=yes, resizable=yes, width=800px, height=600px'); return false;" class="e-share-link e-share-link__twitter">
Connect with us!

Explore the Equitable Growth network of experts around the country and get answers to today's most pressing questions!

Get in Touch