Connecting the Platform Dots

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Two Scoble related items which I think highlight an interesting challenge for Microsoft.

The first comes from an interview he linked to with Jeff Raikes, Group VP with Microsoft’s Information Worker division:

[Lesson] Keep your mind open to unexpected opportunity.

To illustrate this, Raikes told the story about his decision to leave Apple for Microsoft in 1981. Walking down the Microsoft hallways for his interview, Raikes said, he was struck by the variety of computers in the building — from Radio Shack, Wang, Digital Equipment Corp., and dozens of other hardware manufacturers.

In contrast, Apple was creating software to run on its own hardware, which remains a key difference between the companies to this day.

“I wasn’t sure who was going to win in the hardware business,” Raikes told the students, “but it sure looked like Microsoft was doing the software for all of them.” (link)

This often cited limitation of Apple’s approach is as true today as it was then, and frankly, it’s one of the major reasons I’m on Linux instead of OS X.

But platforms are about more than hardware, of course. The next comment comes from Scoble‘s (defensive, IMO) response to Adam Bosworth on Steve Gillmor‘s blog (follow all that ? ;):

One thing about the Cheesecake Factory. I’ve studied how they use that app a lot. Have you? They need it to have instant access. Even Google sometimes takes a little bit of time to come down to my local machine (and it is one of the best services out there in terms of responsiveness)…Or, look at Exchange. It has an awesome Web app. It’s called OWA (Outlook Web Application). Works in a browser. Great DHTML. Almost as good as GMail. 🙂

But, that doesn’t hold a candle to Outlook 2003. Sorry. Have you tried both? It’s not even close. If you told me I had to get rid of Outlook and only use a browser I’d refuse.

It’s easily 5x more productive for me to use Outlook instead of the browser. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon no matter how cool Firefox or Opera or IE get. (link)

What’s interesting about this? Well the OWA functionality he’s talking about – which is very good, no doubt – works only in IE. Unlike Gmail, which is seamless cross-platform near as I can tell, the Firefox version of OWA is far less functional. So much so, in fact, that I had assumed that the functionality was delivered not with DHTML but ActiveX, which Firefox doesn’t support natively. But I’ll take Scoble’s word for it. How about Outlook? Bit better there, as they support OS X and Windows.

The point here is simple: limiting oneself to a single hardware or software platform may seem like a great idea for quality control, related product sales, or dare I say it – religious purposes. And in truth, it’s hard to argue with Microsoft’s success in this regard.

But longer term, it seems clear that ignoring areas of the market for these or other reasons simply provides competitors with a ready made opportunity. Put differently, I’m not sure who’s going to win the OS business, but it sure looks like Google’s doing services for all of them.


  1. you really need to hear the “end of the story”. jeff raikes later decided that supporting to many platforms is a bad idea because it costs too much. he has a law he puts forward to explain his conversion. he did so at an Information Worker event in brussels last year.

  2. i hadn’t heard that. that’s a rather bold assertion – would love more detail.

  3. just to be clear – i meant raikes contention was bold, not your repetition of same.

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