Microsoft’s failure in the web space

I read an article in the New York Times while I was away that was largely based around the failure thus far of Microsoft’s internet strategy.

Steve Berkowitz, who has joined Microsoft from Ask Jeeves as their Senior VP for Online Services, was quite candid about this failure, probably because it happened before his time. "A lot of decisions were driven by technology; they were not driven by the consumer […] It isn’t always the best technology that wins. It is the best experience."

He’s right, but he’s also right in that aligning it to a more successful path will be hard, like turning an ocean liner. To give an idea of scale, Microsoft employs a 20,000-strong unit dedicated to its operating system. I know the feeling, working with an organisation five times that size.

I for one find Microsoft’s online presence phenomenally confusing. Alongside Microsoft.com, there’s MSN which is playing in the portal space that Yahoo! used to dominate, and the relatively new Windows Live which is trying to emulate Google; and so far failing.

I’m confused. I’m not sure what Microsoft is trying to achieve, and I’m less sure how it’s trying to achieve it. Google certainly has its weaknesses (user experience being a notable case), but creating a plethora of unnecessary brands isn’t one of them. This, Microsoft is guilty of.

It’s almost as if Microsoft is trying out its thinking of what might work in the web space on us the general public. The trouble is that in doing so, it’s blemishing its brand and confusing its users.

For the time being, I’ll be sticking with Google for search, which in many respects has reduced my need for a portal, as so much information is only a search away. (I’ve not had a portal in my bookmarks for a number of years now.)

Day by day, Microsoft is losing ground. Let’s see whether Berkowitz can turn the ocean liner around.

Interestingly, live.com is now the biggest search engine hitting my site in December, taking the mantle from Google.

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