An exercise in futility: What to do when nobody wants your products anymore

Gadgets, IT Business, Microsoft, SMB, Web 2.0

Extremely long blog post cut short: When nobody cares about you, your products, your services or what you think you want to sell they still care a lot about their data. Never lose sight of what your client wants and what is important to your client and build your business around that – not around what you want to sell. To find out what that is and why it matters… well, reading required:

The chilling tale of what has been going on at Microsoft the past year or so is a huge warning sign to technology businesses everywhere that choose to stop innovating and become complacent with their cash cows. Those of us that have been in the IT world for a while can tell you that technology hype cycle moves very quickly and that while there is a great deal of money to be made staying behind on the legacy platforms, it’s hard to sustain a business looking backwards.

Microsoft (half through mismanagement and arrogant antagonism of it’s partner base, half through just lack of innovation and good products) has found itself behind the curve and outright slaughtering it’s two cash cows as they find themselves in a quick slide in popularity: Windows and Office. There are too many links to link, articles to quote and my point really is not about Microsoft except that they make a great example:

They killed Windows through a product that is too different from the predecessor to appeal to the current fan base and they are killing Office through a pricing scheme that few will swallow while not bringing much new stuff to the plate. It’s a change for the sake of what was popular a year ago with the hope that they can catch up a year from now.

Windows Phone has been through several disappointing iterations since the Nokia partnership launched with each new device being “better” than the iPhone and Android and still flunking by comparison despite massive advertising. Ditto for Surface, which Microsoft appears to be making it’s final stand on and somewhere between Pro supply mismanagement / managed “sold out” process fails to get a massive level of interest. Windows 8, despite a massive discount at launch, failed to find any excitement even among Microsoft biggest fans (present company included, bought a few upgrade boxes, installed just one begrudgingly and regretted it). As an ultimate change of direction, Microsoft is finally deploying it’s Hailstorm with Office 365: Releasing a product nobody can figure out why they want at a massive price hike with the huge reduction in rights that isn’t raising any regulatory issues or complaints because… well…

Because Microsoft has decided that it’s about consumers now and consumers only want it’s Xbox. Except Microsoft doesn’t seem to want you to pay attention to it’s Xbox which is the only thing it’s got going well, it wants you to buy it’s business software and act like a business not a consumer. How’s that going?

The Point Being…

Microsoft isn’t jumping the shark here. There is no hope of actually missing the shark and surviving on the other side. It’s jumping straight down towards the sharks mouth, ninja style, hoping to dropkick the shark in the nose and kill it before it has a chance to kill it. In a less visual language: Microsoft is hoping to change it’s business model before someone takes the opportunity to make them obsolete. For all the worries about Linux, it’s Android that dethroned Microsoft as the king of all devices, maturing to rapidly and too successfully without ever announcing itself as a Microsoft competitor. That’s an interesting lesson.

But what does this mean to you as a Microsoft partner, IT Solution Provider, worker in the IT field, developer…

1. The ecosystem you’ve gotten used to is changing. So you have to change faster if you want to survive.

2. The single dominant player marketplace where you can hitch your ride to one thing and ignore others is over. You will be forced to diversify.

3. You won’t be able to “sell” your preferred platform, you will work with the one your clients picked (for example, you don’t get to “Support only Apple” you will support Windows desktops, Apple iMac, Android Tablets, Windows Phone, Apple watch) – or you can try your lottery luck at telling your prospective client that they need to switch a platform to get your service after they have already spent the money.

4. You no longer get to choose what you support, because your clients will choose someone that supports what they got.

5. Selling on features is long gone, benefits will become harder to explain.

All this may sound terribly negative if you’ve got a massive successful business. Perhaps it is – but it’s an incredibly positive thing for business development going forward – because just about everyone out there is sitting on their hands working on the past while trying to figure how things play out. Even a blind man can tell you what’s coming: When the consumer knows more about technology than your average IT employee and knows what they want the IT guy and the sales guy lose all relevance. But all this new flawless stuff will still break and will still have to work for a business, creating a massive new opportunity to generate a sticky business that doesn’t live and earn on point releases, upgrades, migrations and the likelyhood that “Well, when it breaks we’ll be there to fix it but we manage it anyhow so it’s probably not going to break very hard either” – Now is the time to develop the glue between what you’ve already have and the layer which your client cannot live without. They may not care about your products or what you and your vendors want to sell: But they care about their data. That, dear friends, is key to the future.

Consumerization is no longer a word that Microsoft dictionary cannot recognize or some future, it’s the single largest driver behind technology spending today. You can ignore it, you can watch it, or you can start to establish your business around it.

No time to start like today. Happy Monday.

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