Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's new memoir, "Idea Man," is more than an account of the company's early days, or even a colorful portrayal of the executives--including Bill Gates and current CEO Steve Ballmer--who turned a tiny software startup into a tech-world behemoth: It's also full of advice for Microsoft as it battles Google and Apple in smartphones and tablets.
The early parts of "Idea Man" paint a portrait of a very young and extraordinarily driven Gates, balanced somewhat by Allen--who works hard throughout the narrative to downplay both his ambitions and strengths in areas like mathematics. After founding Microsoft in 1975, the two decided to develop a programming language, Altair BASIC, which would run on the MITS Altair 8800. From there, they worked relentlessly to make Microsoft a force in the then-nascent software industry.
That sort of startup mentality, Allen argues, is precisely what's missing from Microsoft today. "Complacency has taken its toll, most tellingly in the newest competitive areas of smartphones and tablets, like the iPad," he wrote. "History shows that you ignore emerging platforms at your peril, because one of them might make you irrelevant."
Indeed, the stakes involved are huge. "The new evolutionary species looming in the PC's rear-view mirror are mobile devices, epitomized by the smartphone, a computing platform in your pocket," he added. "Microsoft cannot afford to be an also-ran in the mobile platforms, which are rapidly becoming the principal delivery point for low- to medium-intensity computing and Web content consumption."
Meanwhile, Microsoft's rivals have managed to carve successful niches for themselves. "Apple and Google have beaten Microsoft to the mobile punch because they've been more alert in developing new and innovative platforms," he wrote, adding that the iPhone's seamless interoperability with other devices "can trump consumers' natural resistance to walled gardens and their predilection for choice."
That's in addition to Google, which has apparently "mastered Microsoft's old strategy of fast following for the mobile, Web-based era." Android's rapid upgrade cycle "plays to people's love of the new."
For more, read the eWEEK article: Microsoft Co-founder Allen: Windows Phone Needs to Win.
This article was originally published on 04-20-2011
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