This is a follow up note to some folks who work in Redmond (it’s OK for the rest of you to read it if you want to).
Hi guys. How are you doing these days? There’s no doubt that you must be frustrated. Really frustrated. After all, you were in digital music long before Apple, had cool phones that played music long before Apple and in general had a pretty compelling story for the digital consumer that was very complete, but no one paid a whole lot of attention. There were WMA players on the market long before iPod. In fact, Microsoft might have been dominant in digital music if it weren’t for that pesky iPod and iTunes combo. You’ve taken some hard hits, I remember when Apple introduced a flash memory music player, removed features and had customers waiting 2-4 weeks to get one. Gladly waiting I might add and ignoring all those other devices your partners brought to market. Yep, it’s been a tough few years.
You’ve been in the TV space with some really nice offerings. Media Center could run rings around TiVo, didn’t have a monthly service charge and you could even sync your recorded TV content to a portable media player or even your phone (few people outside of enthusiasts communities even knew that feature existed).
I won’t even get started with what’s happened in the phone space. First you ignored Apple, then you denied the iPhone was a problem. Today, I hear more and more folks wondering what the future is for Windows Phones, Zune HD and Windows Media Player software.
The irony is you have all the tools and technologies to respond. Windows Mobile 6.1 works really well. Windows Media center in Windows 7 is a best of breed DVR. Folks who are critical of Zune HD are likely folks who haven’t spent five minutes with it. You have the technology but, somehow, you seem to lack the ability to message it as well as tie it all together. A few years ago I suggested you needed a Music Czar. Today, I think it’s time you thought about Mobile and Media Czars. You need master strategists that can deliver what Brad Silverberg and Brad Chase did for Windows and Yusuf Mehdi did for IE back in the last century, for products like Zune HD and Windows Mobile today.
Folks, it’s time for you to create a different type of leadership role. You have some pretty darn good differentiated products and services, in my humble opinion, along with business models that can make money. You have subscription services, yet hardly any consumers understand why they would want to use them. You have a viable DRM, not to protect old business models but to enable new ones. You have partners to deliver services and devices with diverse offerings.
What you don’t have is a coordinated strategy to make all this stuff work together, or a marketing strategy to let consumers know this stuff exists and can work together. Yes, you’re getting better with the Zune HD and Xbox 360 story. You’ve started talking about your commitment to three screens and a cloud but you can do better. There’s still no single, coordinated marketing message that can be presented to consumers, press or analysts articulating what your vision is for the 21st century digital consumer. To me, that’s a big problem. Without it, the best products might as well not exist.
It’s not too late. The market is still nascent and there’s still time to act. There’s time to pull together what you need from your partners along with internal products and services and really get out there and compete. Suit up! Get in the game. Find some war time consigliore like the Chase/Silverberg team who actually use your products, who like your products and can evangelize them. The clock is ticking though and it’s time to get to work. Feel free to call anytime and we can discuss further.