Recently, I attended a BayCHI talk on the new direction in UI done by the Office 12 team (more on that in another post).
We had a debate as to why Microsoft would take such risks with Office here and now. I was on the side of, “this is a big risk, they didn’t have to take it… this was smart.” MarkJ and others were on the side of, “Ah, they are a monopoly, and people already bought it… they can do whatever they want”
I think I’m right, of course :-), but the reason is simple. History. Historically, when people have a monopoly or solid position, the incumbent managers do not take risks with their cash cow. In fact there have been many Harvard B school studies and books that document this. The one that comes to mind is “The Innovators Dilemma”.
I think Microsoft changed because they saw the writing on the wall and wanted to put a lot more distance between themselves and everybody else. They could have made incremental changes, again, and still pulled off a release of Office 12. There would have been very little damage to their revenue. They decided to take a huge risk, and I think they will reap many rewards for this.
What do you think?