Voice-controlled software; content synced across devices; location-aware applications; tablets — Microsoft was touting all these things in 2000. So what happened?

Microsoft Debuts Upgrade To Windows 8 Operating System
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There were two good posts this week examining Microsoft’s last (lost?) decade and refuting the notion that the Microsoft of the early 2000s was bereft of ideas and vision. As Bloomberg’s Dina Bass, reported using video and her recollections from Microsoft’s Forum 2000 event, the company had vision to burn.

The concept videos from that event showed some real feeling for where the market was headed (or could be led). Seriously, take a look at the video embedded in the Bloomberg post. You may be surprised.

Bass wrote:

“There’s personalized content for each family member synchronized across PCs, televisions, tablets, mobile phones and cars; location-aware devices that tell you when friends are nearby; photo-sharing; voice controls — all years before Facebook, Foursquare, or Apple’s iCloud and Siri.”

That’s all pretty impressive foresight, but for a variety of reasons — the exit of talented executives and engineers, the infamous backstabbing among product groups, and the antitrust case against the company — execution failed.

On Thursday, Charles Fitzgerald, a former Microsoft exec, provided his own take as to what life at Microsoft was like at the time and what the heck happened to all that vision.

The company was transitioning from Bill Gates to Steve Ballmer as CEO and was under big-time pressure to show what it could do other than Windows and Office.  And it had been buffeted by a marathon antitrust case. Microsoft, ended up being ruled a monopoly, and had its head handed to it by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. What saved it from a government-mandated breakup was an appeals court overturn of that decision. (Judge Jackson had talked to reporters before he issued the ruling– a no no.)

According to Fitzgerald:

“I don’t think people appreciate how close Microsoft came to completely imploding in 2000. Employees woke up every day to relentlessly negative headlines from the DoJ case. It was not yet evident that the surreal world of the dot com bubble had ended, and even if you weren’t being wooed daily to join revenue-less startups with ridiculous valuations, you felt obligated to explore options.”

Take a look at that video and you tell me if Microsoft didn’t have a clue back then. Unfortunately for Microsoft, video isn’t enough.

  1. But Microsoft did successfully solve one problem during the decade: piracy.


  2. Microsoft after buying Nokia, they have already shown interest in the mobile space. They are doing a lot of things!

  3. Nguyen Van Minh Friday, September 13, 2013

    Microsoft already did all of these, the consumers just didn’t want it from them, only from 3rd rate producers like Apple.

  4. But so what?

  5. Nicholas Paredes Friday, September 13, 2013

    Most of Microsoft’s product lines were organized around the simple idea of maintaining their monopoly. Windows Phone, while successful, was not competitive with iOS and the company knew it.

    Still, Office is not available on mobile as applications. Sure, cloud services! Not enough. Microsoft will not compete until it can have the gumption to through Office and Windows under the bus. Prove they have what it takes to become a new company based on new products and services.

    Apple took that risk and succeeded. Microsoft plays it safe…


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