Imagining a Successful Microsoft Linux Strategy
So a successful Microsoft strategy would start with Microsoft. In fact, it might reside entirely in Microsoft. But starting with the development of a collaborative offering that would better embrace the related needs of Linux users than Microsofts current offering would only work if the folks participating trusted Microsoft.
So the first, and arguably most painful, step for the company would be to restore trust. To do that would require a stronger and more visible customer advocacy than currently exists in the company. But, once built, this advocacy, if done successfully, could alone do wonders for future product acceptance and related product success. Also, inside the company there needs to be stronger independent intelligence, which would help prevent failed strategies like Get the Facts, which reduced trust while fueling Linux community focus and adoption.
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In short, a successful Linux strategy wouldnt be one where Microsoft attacked Linux at all; in fact, they might often praise and emulate it, to create offerings and forums which allowed their customers to perceive Microsoft future offerings as superior. It could result in much more creative pricing and financial rewards for those firms who more aggressively contributed to making these future products better.
Strangely enough, if you ignore the unfortunate intellectual property statements coming out of the CEOs office at Microsoft, the move to partner with Novell could be the first big step to solving the intelligence problem at Microsoft, which goes to the core of their past failed Linux strategies. If they listen to Novell and dont accidentally torpedo them, the end result could be an ah hah experience that would result in the change that Microsoft needs to effectively move back into the center of software and move Linux back to the fringes.
But these kinds of changes are very difficult. Executives resist seeing change. Often the measurements needed to show how bad a problem is simply dont exist because executives fear they will be used against them in reviews.
However, Microsoft has a number of wake-up calls coming at them this year. IBM is at the heart of most of them. First, by using favorable perceptions of the Linux Foundation to eliminate one of Microsofts core advantages as an entrenched vendor, and second, a credible attack on the desktop that is only hindered by IBM own market blinders (which is a whole different column). Finally, Microsoft continues to bleed core executives to Google. And the folks they are losing, unlike those that went to Netscape, are really top employees, and each departure reinforces the message that problems that need to be addressed at Microsoft are being ignored.
I see the indications of change in some of the recent involuntary staffing changes, I see them in the emergence of approved and unapproved employee blogs, and I see them in the recent Novell partnership.
What I dont yet see is the realization that they are on the wrong path. That, I believe, is coming. Lets see how long it takes.