I spent the last 36 hours visiting with various folks at Microsoft, including CMO Mich Matthews and head of MSN/Bing Yusuf Mehdi. I also spoke with a number of senior marketers across the company and had a chance to preview a bunch of recent and percolating thinking in a talk I gave yesterday. All in all, I came away with way more ideas that I started with. The musing below is just one of them.
It’s a very big year for Microsoft, in terms of the initiatives the company is launching, in particular in the consumer space (its business/commercial space is already cranking out tons of products, but the company’s focus on consumer products has hit a tipping point). Natal, Bing (updated version is coming soon), Windows Phone 7, Office 2010, the company’s cloud initiative (which has sigificant consumer angles)…it’s quite a lot.
I came away with two distinct impressions. First, Microsoft feels like a company invigorated. Tons of really smart people who are very, very focused on winning in their respective product and market categories. This was most clear with Bing and Windows Phone – but I sensed it across the board. Microsoft knows it has a number of potentially Very Big Hits on their hands. In short, the company feels like it “has hand.”
The second impression has to do with how the company ties it all together. Microsoft has always been a very “matrixed” organization. One employee joked to me that it takes at least three years there just to understand the org chart and who works in what group and for whom (and then it often changes). This means that products and initiatives that may well be Very Big Hits could get sidelined or delayed as leaders in different parts of the company fight for attention, resources, and cooperation from other divisions or leadership structures inside the company. Put another way, Microsoft has a lot of hands, and sometimes one hand doesn’t want (or have time) to play nice with the other (or doesn’t know what the other is doing in the first place).
At first blush, one could argue this isn’t a big deal – let Bing make great search, Xbox make great game platforms, and Office make great productivity apps, right? But products created in the markets where Microsoft plays are no longer disconnected. More and more, they will be integrated, and it’s in that integration where real hits will be created.
Recall three of the major trends that I predicted for 2010: One, that someone will create an open gaming platform; two, that Microsoft will take second place in search share (from Yahoo); and three, that we’ll see a major advance in the user interface of the web.
Here’s how Microsoft might address those opportunities, in order: Xbox, Bing, and Natal (not to mention Pivot and stuff like PhotoSynth). Now, imagine how these all might work together. Xbox is more than a gaming platform, it’s a major portal to social networking and engagement in the living room (there are more than 20 million users of Xbox Live, for example). Combined with Natal, you’ve got a new gestural interface to the digital world. And there is no reason why you can’t use Natal to surf the web on your TV (and, in time, your PC), given the right UI and apps. Were Microsoft to decide to open up a web-savvy API and SDK into the Xbox and let its legions of developers innovate on that interface, imagine what might occur. And, of course, Bing would be the search engine of choice for this living room environment, driving share.
Sounds like a stretch? All the pieces are there. It’s now about whether the company can take many hands, and make great work.
Meanwhile, linkages for the day:
Smoking guns, dark secrets aplenty in YouTube-Viacom filings (Ars) Wow, some fascinating stuff coming out of the YouTube/Viacom lawsuit.
The Role of Leadership in Social Media (SocialMediaToday) Good thoughts from the head of social media at Ford.
Yahoo Finally Allows Real-Time Bidding on Network and Exchange (ClickZ) More news on the DSP front. It’s almost like you need a degree in MIS to understand this stuff now.
‘Advertisers should fear Twitter and Facebook more than regulators’ (Guardian) Havas global chief: “Social media is inherently a more negative than a positive medium on many levels.” I do not agree. Better put: More honest than dishonest….
John Battelle On The Future Of Search (SEL) Who is that guy?
The State of Social Marketing Integration (eMarketer) Far less than half of campaigns are integrated across other efforts.
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