Motorola, Microsoft In Suicide Pact

Things are so much worse at Motorola that it <a href="">can't even afford to spin off its mobile division</a> as planned.

Michael Hickins, Contributor

February 3, 2009

4 Min Read

Things are so much worse at Motorola that it can't even afford to spin off its mobile division as planned.Instead, it's cutting back even further. After announcing last year that it would support just two operating systems, Windows Mobile and Android, it is laying off Windows Mobile engineers, indicating that Motorola is going to focus exclusively on Android.

This is not only another sign that Microsoft's decline is accelerating; Microsoft is behaving like an animal in its death throes, showing little interest in pursuing new prey.

In the beginning, Microsoft was a company with a singular focus on the desktop. Then it thought, why not help connect all those desktops to each other? Later, it thought, hey, while we're at it, let's connect them across the Internet. Its ambitions didn't stop there, of course.

Like Google today, there was so much money coming in from its core product that it could afford to launch projects hither and yon, which it did to mixed success (again, kind of like Google...).

But now its product page is a sadly accurate reflection of its focus -- or lack thereof. (Please compare with Apple.)

A short list of recent events that show the company is slipping badly include the failure of Vista in the enterprise space, the company's retreat in BI, and the erosion of its once-dominant share of the browser market.

Its productivity suite is under threat from both Google and open source alternatives, while Zimbra and, yes, Google again, nip at its heels in e-mail.

One of the few bright spots in Microsoft's recent financial storm front isn't even software -- it's the Xbox 360.

Now hold on! There's another bit of hardware that Microsoft makes.

Where is that thing? Did I lend it to someone? Did I leave it under my iPod? No, wait -- I never owned one. I don't even know anyone who does.

It's called a Zune, of course, and it's kind of like an iPod. You can even share the music on your Zune with friends -- if you know anyone who owns a Zune to share it with.

I'm making fun of it for the same reason that you make fun of ugly step-children: even their parents don't care about them.

But if you think about it, Zune could breathe new life into Microsoft. Zune is a music player, same as the iPod, that you could turn into ... a phone! Yes, a mobile phone that plays music and even, I don't know, allows you to surf the Web.

Better yet, Microsoft already has an operating system for that kind of mobile, Webby stuff. And if Microsoft did this quickly enough, people might still be using Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Exchange, and the Windows Mobile OS could actually serve a business purpose!

Can you imagine? A device that serves both business and personal needs?

When Apple first introduced the iPhone, it focused on the personal experience because, well, it wanted to sell the device to actual human beings. The idea that those human beings might want to use the iPhone for business purposes was probably the fond dream of some Cupertino developer who convinced his boss to let him write code for a connector to Exchange, hey, just in case.

But that can't happen at Microsoft. Why not? Because the Zune is under the aegis of the Entertainment and Devices division, under the auspices of Mr. Robbie Bach. It's an entertainment device, damn it, and it has no place in the office!

Seriously, it's not as if the whole mobile device utility thing has been entirely worked out. If someone could figure out how to make a cool phone that played music and allowed users to check their corporate e-mail and open and edit Microsoft documents without creating multiple versions, why, that just might catch on.

Not only would this provide a steady platform for the Windows OS, but would slow -- and maybe even reverse -- the slide toward non-Microsoft productivity suites and clients.

I suggested this to someone who works closely with the Home and Entertainment division, and she said that Microsoft has essentially given up on Zune. The only hope for Zune, she added, is "if they spin it off as its own company."

(Little did Bill Gates realize it at the time, but Judge Penfield Jackson would have been doing Microsoft a favor by splitting it up into different companies. The new entities might have made better partners than they do as dueling divisions.)

So Motorola, too sick to rescue its own mobile division, is throwing over Windows Mobile OS for Google's Android (yes, those guys again!) in a last-ditch attempt at relevancy, while Microsoft watches its own inevitable slide into oblivion. They will be sorely missed.

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