February 20, 2009
The world's largest software company is making a lot of boneheaded moves lately.
Big companies are going to make big mistakes from time to time. It's inevitable. However, when a big company is making too many small mistakes, it makes one wonder.
Let's go into just a few of my beefs with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) these days. Let me know if you agree.
- Mr. Softy is taking the heat for its recently announced layoffs, after it was lobbying for more guest-worker visas. Bloomberg claims that Microsoft is the country's leader in issuing H1-B visas for foreign workers in this country. The media is jumping to conclusions, as always. We don't know how many of the 5,000 employees whom Microsoft will be laying off are Americans and how many may be foreigners willing to code for less. Since Microsoft isn't on the shortlist of TARP recipients, it should have some degree of freedom in -- you know -- deciding how it does things. However, this is stirring up a problematic public relations quandary for the company, regardless of how you feel about the move itself.
- "Openness is central because it's the foundation of choice," CEO Steve Ballmer said at this week's GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009, taking jabs at Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) closed ecosystem. Gee, isn't that app-selling ecosystem similar to Microsoft's thriving Xbox Live marketplace? Isn't this the same company that had to fork over a huge $460 million penalty to RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK ) because Microsoft chose to piggyback its proprietary media player into its operating system?
- Speaking of Apple, how dumb was it for Microsoft to feature a snow leopard on the landing page of its Live.com search engine? Snow Leopard is the working nickname for Apple's next operating system, gearing up for an interesting battle with Windows 7.
- On the marketing front, after stumbling with the costly Jerry Seinfeld ads, and making a somewhat valiant return with it's "I'm a PC" ads, what's the deal with the new "The Rookies" campaign? Cute kids doing amazing things with computers can be an effective message, but am I the only one who just feels like a flawed parent because I don't have a 4-year-old who just happens to be a whiz in manipulating digital photographs?
None of this should matter, of course. Microsoft's financial performance should be enough to overcome its iffy actions and words. Unfortunately, it's still way behind both Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) in search, it's letting Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) run away with the video game market, and it saw profitability slide on a mere 2% top-line advance in its latest quarter.
More meat on the Microsoft bone: