Among the ridiculously large number of different mailing lists I receive, I'm on an interesting one from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), executive communiques from Bill Gates himself. Well, most likely, memos from someone who works for Bill and composes these ridiculously long missives. Nonetheless, just like having a ghost-blogger, I think it's fair to assume that these messages represent the thoughts and opinions of one of the richest and most successful software entrepreneurs in the world.
From a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) perspective, I find these interesting because they suggest how Microsoft corporation is thinking about the Internet and the rise of search engines: remember that Google has also been pushing aggressively towards creating a Web-based competitor to Microsoft Office, which, along with Windows itself (and the stalled-out Vista), is the core revenue stream for the corporation.
Anyway, here's what Bill had to say...
If you've been in the work force for 20 years or more, you can remember a time when the pace of business-and life in general-was quite a bit slower than it is today. Back then we read newspapers and magazines and watched the network news to stay informed. Faxes were just becoming a common way to share written business information. A phone call might elicit a busy signal or no one would answer at all. In those days, no one expected to send documents to coworkers on the other side of the globe instantly, collaborate in real-time with colleagues in distant cities, or share photographs the very day they were taken.
These and similar advances have delivered remarkable results. The ability to access and share information instantly and communicate in ways that transcend the boundaries of time and distance has given rise to an era of unprecedented productivity and innovation that has created new economic opportunities for hundreds of millions of people around the world and paved the way for global economic growth that is unparalleled in human history.
But few people would argue that there is no room for improvement. Although we have once-unimaginable access to people and information, we struggle today to keep track of emails and phone calls across multiple inboxes, devices, and phone numbers; to remember a growing number of passwords; and to synchronize contacts, appointments, and data between desktop PCs and mobile devices. The fact is that the proliferation of communications options has become a burden that often makes it more difficult to reach people than it used to be, rather than easier.
In 2006, I wrote about how unified communications innovations were already beginning to transform the way we communicate at work. Because you are a subscriber to executive emails from Microsoft, I want to provide you with an update on the progress we're making toward achieving our vision for unified communications. I also want to share my thoughts on how rapid advances in hardware, networks, and the software that powers them are laying the foundation for groundbreaking innovations in communications technology. These innovations will revolutionize the way we share information and experiences with the people who are important to us at work and at home, and help make it possible to put the power of digital technology in the hands of billions of people around the globe who have yet to reap the benefits of the knowledge economy.
There's quite a bit more to this memo, but that gives you a flavor of the latest bit of strategic corporation positioning from Redmond.
The reason for all this chatter from Microsoft is evident as you dig further into the communique:
"Today in San Francisco, Microsoft is launching the next wave of enterprise VoIP and unified communications products for business. Among the products we'll launch are Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, which bring together a broad range of communications options including voice, instant messaging, and video into a single, consistent experience."
In essence, while Google is pushing into the computer side of the office and Apple is pushing into the mobile side of things with its extraordinarily successful iPhone product, Microsoft is trying to grab the switchboard and office phone with these new tools.
What do you think? Is Microsoft barking up the wrong tree here, trying to elbow into the rather old-fashioned world of office telephony, or do they have the proverbial ace up their sleeve?
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