Microsoft Internal StrategiesIntroductionMicrosoft has been highly adept at co-opting the competition to preserve their PC operating system monopoly.
Adding innovations pioneered by others (such as an Internet browser) to their Windows product strengthens their operating system monopoly by shrinking the market opportunity for their most innovative competitors. “One lapse, however, in which the larger, less innovative firm overlooks some novel development that appeals to its customers, may give the innovator the time it needs to evolve a bundle of features, performance and price that challenges the larger firm in its key market segments.” Microsoft has found that learning and innovation in the marketplace leads to the development of a theory of customer behavior—why the customer makes his or her choices.
Microsoft’s revelation of requiring more than a clear-eyed focus regarding results to generating wealth and growth is well kept in-house process. A need of a theory that promotes prediction as to how customers will behave as a basis for planning is their foundation. This theory, together with some creativity, will suggest breakthroughs—changes that are meaningful to markets and customers and that meet unmet or underserved customer and market needs.Leaders promise big opportunities and exciting possibilities—a computer on every desk (Apple), or controlling all of those desktops (Microsoft), or a company run for “People, Service, Profits” (FedEx)—to energize an organization. Business vision can’t be pure blue sky; it must depict a believable, potentially achievable future for your entire enterprise. Industry stimulates cooperation that keeps the organization focused on the right direction as environmental upsets and internal imbalances among the cycles disrupt progress. Then leadership within the organization pulls parts of the organization together, stimulates cooperation, corrects imbalances, overcomes upsets and closes the next golden cycle. For example, in its early years, Microsoft was a small software shop with capabilities it needed to sell BASIC and other languages to hobbyists.
However, as soon as Bill Gates and company spotted the opportunity to deliver operating systems for the IBM PC, closing this capability gap became the key to a golden opportunity. The acquisition of a piece of software (by purchasing a reverse-engineered version of CP/M—the leading control program for microprocessors) successfully corrected an imbalance between the IBM opportunity and Microsoft’s software capability. Only steady leadership (fierce resolve) can create high performance in your business by focusing people on improving the system for satisfying customers and developing markets profitably. Your system of organizational values organizes all of the methods, approaches and actions within your firm into a management system. Over the years, experience has shown that the highest performing firms in the world share eleven high performance organizational values that lead to extraordinary performance. The Microsoft leadership adopts and embodies those values are the trendsetting of organizations in which they can take pride.Strengths”Dreaming is zero-value. I mean anyone can dream.
. . . Vision is free.
And it’s therefore not a competitive advantage any way, shape or form. . . .
The big thing I do is I write down in a fairly crisp fashion what I believe the company should do. . . . I let people know the basic framework we’re in and then I review projects.” –Bill Gates,From an investment perspective the problem with human capital and the knowledge it embodies is that neither can be owned.
When an enterprise hires an employee in effect it is licensing that person’s knowledge, experience and skills. Invest in a plant and the result turns up on your balance sheet as an asset.Invest in staff and the result turns up on the wrong side of the balance sheet as a cost. Laurie Bassi and Daniel McMurrer, respectively Chair of the Board and Chief Research Officer at Knowledge Asset Management, Inc., explain how that leads to under-investment in learning: “… because training and education are treated on a firm’s books as costs, not as investments, those firms that make such investments must do so in spite of the pressures of the market (to reduce costs) rather than because of them (as might be the case if the market had the information necessary to recognize such expenditures as worthy investments). “This leads to a collective tendency to under-invest in human capital—more inefficiency that affects society as a whole.
It’s bad for stockholders and firms, and it’s bad for the people who work in them, since research has found that workplace training is an important determinant of workers’ future earnings capacity.” It provides a stunning critique of global trends that have impacted and are impacting on our lives. Ironically, Bill Gates and his Microsoft Corporation (despite being demonized as evil American capitalists) have probably been the major force in providing a more accessible and inclusive educational resource than has been previously possible.
Shouldn’t we hear what revolutionaries like Bill Gates are thinking? While education should be a broadening and not a narrowing process, so it is the same for educational leadership. “Leaders are not only concerned with skill transfer for their pupils but should be interested in the sort of world that they will be living in and the type of skills and abilities which they will need to enhance their life-chances. So broader futures thinking is vital if we are to develop more effective leadership in schools.”Gates soon realized the potential of the Internet as a new form of computer network technology which could potentially supersede Microsoft’s proprietarily PC based software applications. He therefore set about developing Microsoft’s own Internet software, which has become an integral part of the Windows PC software suite. In the space of two years Microsoft began to set the standards in the development of Internet software and in doing so Gates has perhaps become the first major entrepreneur in the computer industry, so far, not to fall by the wayside through failing to adapt to new developments.The planning literature often talks of hedging “strategies.
” A proper hedging strategy is more than just a collection of hedging actions, as Microsoft’s Comdex booth in 1998 demonstrated. Described as being much more like a Middle Eastern bazaar than a trade show, the space displayed not only Microsoft’s second version of Windows, but DOS version 4.0, OS/2 (which it was developing with IBM); new versions of Word, Excel, and other applications for the Macintosh; and a Unix system developed by another company.
“To further hedge its bets, Microsoft invested heavily in building skills in graphical user interface design and object-oriented programming that would be important no matter what operating system won. This represents more than just a set of hedging actions.”The amount of $650 million is a measure of the value that Microsoft added, the difference between the market value of its output and the cost of its inputs.
It is also a measure of the loss that would result, to the national income and to the international economy, if Microsoft were to be broken up and the resources it uses deployed in other firms. Adding value, in this sense, is the central purpose of business activity. A commercial organization that adds no value–whose output is worth no more than the value of its inputs in alternative uses–has no long-term rationale for its existence.This assessment of added value accounts comprehensively for the inputs that Microsoft used. It includes not only the depreciation of its capital assets but also a reasonable return on the capital invested in them. Therefore, added value is less than the firm’s operating profit-the difference between the value of the output and the value of the material and labor inputs (but not the capital inputs). It is also less than the firm’s net output–the difference between the value of its sales and the cost of its inputs of materials (but not its inputs of labor or capital).
“The strength of Microsoft’s competitive advantage can be measured by looking at the ratio of added value to the firm’s gross or net output. Each dollar of Microsoft’s sales costs only 76 cents to produce. Microsoft’s net output is the $1.1 billion difference between the cost of the materials it bought and the value of the output it sold. It achieved this with only $450 million of labor and capital, representing a cost of 41 cents per $1 of net output.
”“Microsoft’s distinctive capability is entirely out of the ordinary in being at once so valuable and so transitory. It is a safe prediction that PC operating systems will have changed within a decade in ways we can yet only dimly imagine, and because Microsoft is only one of many firms with software development capabilities, the probability that the company will hold then the dominance it enjoys now cannot be rated very highly.”Microsoft’s distinctive capability is entirely out of the ordinary in being at once so valuable and so transitory.
It is a safe prediction that PC operating systems will have changed within a decade in ways we can yet only dimly imagine, and Microsoft is the only central firms with software development capabilities, the probability that the company will hold then the dominance it enjoys now can be rated very high for the foreseeable future.“Distinctive capabilities will continue to add value only if both the capability and the distinctiveness can be sustained. In this chapter, I use case studies and statistical evidence to show that many companies are indeed successful in building sustainable competitive advantages from their distinctive capabilities. Of the principal distinctive capabilities, reputation is generally the easiest to sustain, and innovation is the most difficult, but each poses its own problems. Strategic assets can often be defended over very lengthy periods but may be suddenly at risk when regulations or market conditions change. For a firm with strategic assets, skills in handling public policy may be as important as those of business management.”Rampant downsizing decisions also appear to be contributing to a growing movement among labor activists, especially in industries where there has been little unionization initiative. In Seattle, for example, the ongoing cutbacks in e-commerce and the telecommunications industry have prompted the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers to focus more of its attention on organizing employees at Amazon.
com and Microsoft. Both companies enjoyed stellar reputations during the economically prosperous 1990s, but recent cutbacks have begun to raise questions about the true values of the companies, giving union activists the opening for which they have been looking.If competing companies are hired to develop analysis and intelligence simply from Internet data, according to Microsoft, the intelligence is likely to be misguided and faulty. Such outsourcing will ultimately put clients in an unfavorable position, because they are not including data from other primary sources, including employees within the company Additionally, if a company chooses to open its door and records to an outside consultant, it risks leaking proprietary information to an outside source—a source that is likely to be also working with direct competitors…competitive intelligenceThis is evidenced by the fact that companies are generally considered to have derived exceptional benefits from Microsoft (which has an internal intelligence division). However this maybe a weakness due to internalizing a consultant based process.
“The fact that the demand for these consultancy services is growing may reflect a lack of understanding of the value within upper management. Companies that do not have an established program and are relying solely on external sources for intelligence are at a distinct competitive disadvantage.”WeaknessesThe absence of a dominant e-learning vendor disadvantages the e-learning industry and means that even the largest enterprises have to work with a network of small vendors to build the solution they need.
It’s a fact of life that large enterprises like to do business with other large enterprises—with good reason. Someone with responsibility for e-learning in a Fortune 500 company recently told me he was uneasy with records representing millions of hours of compliance learning being committed to a system developed by a vendor with a total head count of 35. The absence of a dominant vendor also means that no one has had the market clout to enforce de facto e-learning standards for the industry to rally round.These kinds of issues are not unique to e-learning and most enterprises have the project management skills to integrate the products and services of a number of software vendors.
The absence of an end-to-end solution might inhibit the adoption of e-learning but it shouldn’t prevent it.The strategy is software focused on the organizing, analysis, and report functions of the computer intelligence (CI) process. The entry of data into the database is a manually intensive operation.
Although information from other sources can be hyperlinked, the data is stored externally. Sources are tracked and there are many reports available for printing.Knowledge Works allows for the formalization of the key processes required for successful CI. It allows key intelligence topics to be identified and then broken down into the key intelligence questions that must be answered to properly analyze a particular topic or issue. Resources can be allocated and schedules and due dates can be maintained.Via Evaluation of Knowledge Works, Knowledge Works is an extremely powerful tool for the CI professional.
Since it is such a powerful tool, however, it must be customized to the needs of each user in order to maximize its effectiveness for the particular needs of the user. Cipher Systems prides itself on being more than just a software provider. To thisTechnology rarely stands on its own these days. It typically fits into an ecosystem of other hardware, software, operating systems, and technologies that it either has to work or compete with. The initial objective of competitive intelligence, then, is to determine where and how your technology and company fit into that ecosystem.OpportunitiesINTEGRATIONNew technologies often act as plug-ins to existing technologies.
In the enterprise software market, many ERP (enterprise resource planning) companies such as JD Edwards and SAP have a multitude of partners providing additional technology to their base package. This allows these ERP companies to offer greater value. Whether big or small, your technology will likely need integrating with other software. Key CI questions (such as those found below) should attempt to discover which technologies would be the best and most profitable to integrate into your company’s activities.
PARTNERSOne step beyond integration is partnering. Whom you partner with often determines how successful you will become. Many companies have prospered by partnering with IBM or Microsoft.
Others have done the same with JD Edwards or SAP. Regardless of where your company is positioned, CI should determine who your best potential partners are.COMPETITORSIn the early stages of the game your competitors may not be so obvious. With an undefined market for a new technology, your competitors consist primarily of other technologies, whether incumbent or new. CI should focus on determining what technologies are replacements for yours. At later stages there are likely to be direct competitors in a defined market. Your CI activities should then focus on how your technology compares to theirs, relative to what the customer wants and needs. “Key CI questions for the high-tech ecosystem are:;The binding force in Microsoft is the pursuit of technical excellence and a shared desire to set new standards and to be the best.
Whether they agree with his business practices or not, few people would disagree that Bill Gates is one of the leading entrepreneurs of modern times.”Microsoft’s domination of the software market was enhanced by the novel step of developing suites of software where data could be transferred between applications rather than individual, self-contained packages. “Furthermore, these software suites were integrated with the Windows operating system rather than developed as add-on applications, which reduced development costs and in turn led to substantial reductions in the price of software. Microsoft’s domination of the software industry extended further into the development of Internet software.”Because the Internet, electronic commerce and a more rapid regional adoption of information technologies are increasingly significant components of all of any competitors recovery strategies, less integrated, more networked forms of production such as the kind we describe will be ever easier to embrace.This is not a minor issue, given the large and growing role that mobile wireless networks are playing globally. There already are more than one billion cellular subscribers, and that’s expected to hit 1.4 billion by the end of 2003; at least 35 percent of global telephony traffic is expected to be mobile wireless by 2003 according to Deutsche Banc Alex Brown.
Delivering data services over today’s bandwidth-constrained 2G circuit-switched networks severely restricts the potential applications or content. This situation is expected to change soon: 3G networks are based on IP packet-switched transport and deliver up to 2 Mbps; even 2.5G networks (such as the upgraded CDMA networks of Verizon and Sprint) support up to 144 Kbps. By 2005, it is expected that more subscribers will be receiving service over mobile wireless networks that have a packet core than will remain on circuit-switched infrastructures.Built-in cameras will permit users to exchange photos during a voice conversation; photos or short videos may be included in multimedia messaging services.
“Mobile wireless providers have identified many applications for which they believe customers will pay, including games, streaming audio/video content, transactions and information services. Mobile wireless data applications represent an immense revenue opportunity, if done right.”Companies still mulling over technological issues – like how to establish a web site – and wondering when or if to include electronic commerce in their plans, may be missing opportunities or threats that are now emerging. Just about any industry is a fertile field for benefits to be captured or for new intermediaries to take hold. More than opportunity cost is involved: for established players in such industries as financial services, electronics (including software), publishing, industrial goods, entertainment, healthcare, and retailing, electronic commerce holds the potential to place revenue streams at risk.If desktop and handheld devices become truly multimedia, will anyone still need–or want–a phone? Softphones let you hold telephone conversations via your desktop PC or, more likely, your laptop computer.
More extensive text displays let you get email on your cell phone or instant messages on your desktop IP telephone. And then you’ve got your voice-enabled PDAs and Blackberrys. To tie it all together, you may soon have a “personal portal” that lets you tell your corporate network exactly where and how to reach you–the fulfillment of the vision of “presence.” Does anybody want or need this level of connectivity? And assuming a significant number of “knowledge workers” require enhanced communications “presence,” do we really want all this functionality crammed into all these devices? Valovic believes that this particular product blurs the lines in the battle for supremacy on the desktop, because Microsoft and Siemens would seem to be natural enemies: Microsoft has SIPenabled its XP platform, and appears to favor a totally decentralized enterprise voice communications environment like the one described in the Mitel white paper cited above. A Microsoft -driven decentralization would leave systems vendors like Siemens with little to offer the enterprise.
But Valovic contends that the Siemens partnership shows that Microsoft isn’t ready or willing to go all-out after this market, at least not yet.;ThreatsIn the process Gates has incurred the wrath of his competitors, some of whom have pursued law suits against Microsoft for allegedly using anti-competitive practices in building up its dominant market share, and of the US Department of Justice, who have pursued allegations of a monopolistic abuse of market power by Microsoft principally relating to their ‘take it or leave it’ licensing practices. “Critics of Gates and his commercial tactics perceive Microsoft as having previously unconcealed of possibilities for monopolistic domination in a vast range of markets using computer applications. In the 1990s Microsoft has engaged in a vigorous programmed of company buyouts and equity partnerships in a diverse range of businesses from car sales to satellite communications.”Not surprisingly, given the links between entrepreneurship, innovations and opportunities offered by new technologies, many government policies seek to improve access to and support for developing new technology.
These policies can be particularly crucial given the importance of new technology for competitiveness and the rapid growth of some new technology firms, such as Microsoft or Sun Microsystems, from being a start-up to being huge employers within a decade or so. Various policies have been used to improve the access of new and small firms to technology. One set of policies has been to encourage the commercializing and disseminating of research carried out in universities, government and defense research establishments. Grants or other support to firms to develop new products or production processes have also often been provided by agencies. Some policies have sought to improve technologies transfer and access to information and advice on new technology, such as through the network of business innovation centers part funded by the European Commission.”value chain analysisAs competition had driven down the price of personal computers, the expansion of the Internet would drive down the prices of Internet services and content, leaving software “the only element in the value chain.” In other words, “since Windows would soon be the only profitable product related to the Internet market–so long as Microsoft catered to the demand for Internet-ready computers by integrating its browser into Windows and giving it away, as well as by making all other Microsoft software products Internet-functional.
The fact of the matter was that the development of the browser had been unbelievably cheap, given how little Microsoft and twenty other firms had paid to Spyglass for licenses and how little time Microsoft and Netscape took to develop their browsers Contributors.”Strong opposition from the industry giants IBM and Microsoft and from Apple’s technologies led to many adjustments to his own company goals and a continuous search for more venture capital in order to bring his idea to market. Eventually the company failed, perhaps illustrating Schumpeter’s ‘creative destruction’ of capitalism at work.The massive literature on Asia’s economic integration, most of it focusing on trade patterns and the investment and trade behavior of multinational corporations, has by and large missed this deeper level of industrial integration.
“Arm’s-length trade, foreign direct investment, and even intra-firm trade do not fully capture the organizational structure of the region’s major growth industries and markets. In electronics, textiles and apparel, autos, and other sectors, firms in the region are increasingly linked across borders in complex and ongoing relationships that extend beyond the boundary of the firm and span the entire value chain in the given activity.”Internal StrategyToday, however, a wide range of electronics products have become “high-tech commodities:” they combine the characteristics of mass production with extremely short product life cycles and highly volatile market demand.
“These market conditions create pressures to move from partial globalization, characterized by a loose patchwork of stand-alone affiliates, joint ventures, and suppliers, to systemic globalization: the effort by a firm to network its own operations and inter-firm relationships worldwide, across both functions and locations. The demand both for scale and for closer, faster, and more cost-effective interactions between different stages of the value chain have been a driving force in shifting core functions, such as production, outside the boundaries of the firm into networks.” Electronic channels offer companies the opportunity to gain incremental revenues by acquiring new customer segments or locking in current buyers.Strategic alliancesAcademics and managers consider that cooperation is no longer incompatible with competition. In other words, competition and cooperation can coexist.Wal-Mart’s recent agreement with Microsoft, for example, is aimed at developing an on-line retailing service capable both of reaching potential customers who do not buy from their stores and of getting deeper into the wallets of current consumers by providing them with a broader range of products Its recent networking initiative has more of an external focus.
Together with Microsoft – which is using this effort as a beta test for three products, the Merchant Server, the Merchant Workbench, and the Shopper User Interface – Wal-Mart will offer a broader range of products to customers who are too busy to shop in its conventional stores, to those who don’t live near a store, and to those who want up-market products. The extra convenience of on-line shopping may also encourage existing customers to spend more. Eventually, the entire inventory of current store items will be offered.In particular, the Internet blurs the boundaries between companies and industries.
Information and entertainment industries and companies in such industries illustrate the point well. For example, Yahoo! started as a Web search engine, but now it offers so many diverse functions including a broad-paced online shopping site. Similarly, under what industry can Microsoft or AOL are classified? The giant Microsoft is rapidly diversifying itself into a number of industries, ranging from telecommunications to financial, through acquisitions and alliances.Finally, Microsoft geo-centrism means a situation where the headquarters and subsidiaries across nations are viewed as a single system.
Strategic decisions are made at the parent company and its subsidiaries after considering their overall effect on the entire company. Although a geocentric firm focuses on worldwide opportunities and threats, it pays attention to the needs of the host country as well. “The incentive system encourages the subsidiary managers not only to consider the interest of their own subsidiaries but also to think about the interests of the entire company.
The geocentric orientation welcomes strategic alliances more than ethnocentric and polycentric orientations because of its worldwide view and network philosophy.” Finally, the mode of co-opetition refers to the notion of cooperating while competing. We described co-opetition earlier in this chapter. Traditionally, firms shied away from collaborating with their competitors, but today their attitudes (at least, most of them) have changed. They are more receptive to cooperation.
Basically, this situation happens in three ways: first cooperating then competing, cooperating while competing, and cooperating between themselves and competing with others. Selection of a particular mode depends upon the firm’s situation in terms of its resources and competencies and market conditions, such as the intensity of the rivalry, opportunities, threats, and pressing needs for market and product development.Reference(s)Martin F. Stankard, 2002, Management Systems and Organizational Performance: The Quest for Excellence beyond ISO9000.
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Place of Publication: New York. Page Number: 18. John Kay, 1995, Why Firms Succeed. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of Publication: New York. Page Number: 18. Eileen C.
Shapiro, 1996, Fad Surfing in the Boardroom: Managing in the Age of Instant Answers Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing Place of Publication: Reading, MA. Page Number: 11. Resizing the Organization: Managing Layoffs, Divestitures, and Closings Maximizing Gain While Minimizing Pain. Contributors: Kenneth P.
De Meuse – editor, Mitchell Lee Marks – editor. Publisher: Jossey-Bass. Place of Publication: San Francisco. Publication Year: 2003. Page Number: 322. David L.Blenkhorn, Craig S.
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Magazine Title: Business Communications Review. Volume: 32. Issue: 8. Publication Date: August. Page Number: 16+.
COPYRIGHT 2002 MediaLive International/BCR Events, Inc.; COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group Eric Krapf, 2003, Are Phones Really Necessary? Magazine Title: Business Communications Review. Volume: 33. Issue: 6.
Publication Date: June. Page Number: 24+.  (Krapf, 2003 p. 74) (Krapf, 2003 p.
187) (McKenzie, 2000 p.183) Michael Borrus, Dieter Ernst, Stephan Haggard, 2001, International Production Networks in Asia: Rivalry or Riches. Publisher: Routledge. Place of Publication: London.
Page Number: 3. (Borrus, 2001 p.9) Lorraine Harrington, Greg Reed, 1996 Electronic Commerce (Finally) Comes of Age. Contributors: author. Journal Title: The McKinsey Quarterly. Issue: 2. Page Number: 68 Refik Culpan, 2002, Global Business Alliances: Theory and Practice. Publisher: Quorum Books.
Place of Publication: Westport, CT. Page Number: 51. (Culpan, 2002 p. 68)