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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

Bill’s Hideaway, Part II

“It’s clear that if we fail to do so [adapt to changes in online business models], our business as we know it is at risk.” Thus writes Ray Ozzie, the genius who developed Lotus Notes and is now Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer, in an email “sent to top Microsoft executives and engineers.”

I made a modest suggestion earlier this year that Microsoft founder Bill Gates spend less time holed up in a cabin for weeks on end thinking great thoughts about technology (I am not making that up, he really does do that) and more time hanging around college campuses to see what kids do with computers (see Bill’s Hideaway at

I take it my suggestion has not been heeded.

I base this conclusion mainly on the continued self-delusion by the folks in Redmond as discerned in Mr. Ozzie’s memo—which is dramatically recounted in today’s WSJ, as if writing an email actually changes the focus of a large corporation whose entire existence is based on sales of computer software.

The biggest delusional whopper in today’s article has to be this:

Microsoft, he [Mr. Ozzie] wrote, has long “understood mobile messaging,” but “only now are we surpassing the Blackberry.” Surpassing the Blackberry!

Where, on earth, is Microsoft surpassing the Blackberry? Possibly, in a building on Microsoft’s Redmond campus, there is somebody who prefers Microsoft’s solutions to the Blackberry. But I doubt it.

More likely the “surpassing” of which Mr. Ozzie speaks involves some sort of great technical prowess measured by lines of code and terabytes of gigaflops by which Microsoft has crammed sixteen thousand superfluous functions into its mobile messaging software, none of which are easy to use—as compared to the handful of things Blackberry does spectacularly well.

The simplicity and focus of the Blackberry is, not coincidentally, what saved Intuit, and Adobe from the onslaught of Microsoft. And it is what might save Google.

In his memo, in fact, Mr. Ozzie hits on that very attribute which has, thus far, made Google the perceived threat to Microsoft’s model:

“Through Google’s focus they’ve gained a tremendously strong position.” But it is not Ray Ozzie that needs to be convinced of Google’s strength. It is Bill Gates, who, according to the always-breathless WSJ article, “to be sure, retains that role as Microsoft’s chief software architect, and isn’t expected to give up the title anytime soon.”

What I suggest Mr. Gates give up is those twice-a-year trips to the woods.

Instead, I suggest he get on a bike, ride to the local Peet’s, and watch what people are doing with the internet, and the iPod, and the Blackberry.

And then Microsoft might surpass somebody.

Jeff Matthews I Am Not Making This Up

© 2005 Jeff Matthews

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations.

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