James Governor's Monkchips

Why Doesn’t Microsoft just buy Newsgator?

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So the “let partners provide functionality” meme comes out to play again. I keep hearing this new stock answer from Microsoft people when i ask them what are they going to do in order to get more services shipping at a faster pace, when every function is seemingly hobbled by a (monolithic) platform release schedule? I couldn’t help but notice that Scoble has caught the meme and calls it out in Sticking it to the man Firefox style.

One the one hand its good to see Scoble is still open to a great non-Microsoft product, namely Firefox. But on the other i have to ask whether he is joining enough dots. Here are points 4, 5 and 6 on his list

4) Shipping continues to be a feature. The team that ships more features faster will get customers to move. Maybe not everyone at once, but they will get adoption and momentum.

5) Having customers who are wildly enthusiastic makes having any discussion about features difficult. I haven’t seen anyone in the past two months discuss anything about browsers calmly.

6) A team that can’t ship the features themselves can call on third-party developers to do what they can’t.

So what do i agree with or not?

4) No arguments here.

5) While I agree wholeheartedly with the first half of the statement, the second raises some issues (senior MS employees are briefing against Firefox without having used or even looked at it, no wonder the discussion isn’t calm). If you want a conversation based on facts then deal with some. One MS Europe exec asked me the week before last – “why do you need an alternative?” – Its called competition mate, keeps you on your toes!

6) Is that the best answer MS can come up with to the problem of glacial product delivery? Scoble points to MS’ partner list to show where you can get new functionality from.

How do we parse the third party meme? Microsoft’s message seems to be that we should just license a base platform from Microsoft, with additional functionality provided by a third party vendor, say fooRSS, until Microsoft is ready to ship its own equivalents. But what happens next? That is what concerns me. Does MS go after fooRSS in future and kill it by offering the same functionality as part of the base platform? What about customers that have already signed licensing agreements with the fooRSS, only to see MS undercut the list price in 18 months? What about APIs–don’t write to fooRSS unless MS certifies its published APIs somehow? What if we choose barRSS instead of fooRSS? What if fooRSS uses RSS and Microsoft chooses to run with ATOM instead when it brings its own product to market? What if Microsoft decides that fooRSS is getting too big for its breaches? What if fooRSS is used in a corporate context and a systems management infrastructure has been been put in place to support the platform? Swap out can be very expensive. Its fine to live in a world of after the fact swapout if you work in Redmond and get all the latest and greatest MS gear for free. But not everyone does do they…

The meme also does nothing to answer the question embedded by Scoble in point 6) why can’t the team ship new features? especially if we agree with 4 and 5?

If Microsoft’s answer to customers looking for RSS aggregator functionality, for example, is buy Newsgator then why doesn’t Microsoft do just that and buy Newgator? if Scoble is right and the real war is really between RSS and HTML then get on with it… if MS wants us to live in Outlook it needs to give us a reason to…

And finally with respect to third party delivery and real architecture of participation, Firefox has an ever-growing collection of extensions – which means my browser gets more functional by the week. (see Scoble’s point 5 again)

MS has a problem here. Does the market want continuous innovation or integrated innovation? Its a shame at Microsoft Corp these two approaches tend to look mutually exclusive.

Maybe MS employees should have a mandatory RSS feed of their tech preferences and configuration. That way customers could aggregate and poll the data to get a better sense of Microsoft’s likely approach to a given technology so that they knew where in the hype or likely adoption curve MS was at. Now that would be transparency writ large. And no need to call an analyst to ask what MS strategy is…. [doh! there goes our business model…]

Maybe i should just do a better job understanding the difference between enterprise IT and consumer services approaches, although it seems to me they are converging… vendors that adapt to suit the the changing environments best will win. That means rapid adaptability… and maybe MS can just keep winning with second mover advantage.

The buzz now concerns Fast Second : How Smart Companies Bypass Radical Innovation to Enter and Dominate New Markets.

It will be interesting to see whether, just as with so many other management fads, just as we accept second mover advantage as the status quo, circumstances change to support a new model. If they do then Microsoft will need a different model for the next 20 years, even though second mover advantage has been effective up til now.


  1. couldn’t agree more, particularly on the notion of the partner ecosystem and its shifting borders.

    didn’t grok the MS employee RSS idea, however. can you spell that out?

  2. just thought of one additional cautionary tale in this regard – lookout. i think MS should snap up an RSS client, but not if it’s going to disappear for a while.

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