Dear Satya Nadella,
So I heard you landed the Microsoft CEO gig. Congrats! You’ve got your work cut out for you, in part because companies like Google and Apple are eating your lunch, and in part because consumers really seem to hate Microsoft’s guts.
I admit it: I’m one of those consumers. Maybe you saw my letter from last October, the one in which I decried Windows 8.1 for hosing my laptop. Everything’s fine now, you’ll be glad to know, because I’m back to Windows 7, but that experienced added considerably to the already-sour taste in my mouth.
At first blush, you sound like a pretty boring guy. No offense, but an executive VP of the Cloud and Enterprise group is not my idea of an exciting party guest. I realize Microsoft needs to succeed in the business world above all else, but I’m hoping you recognize that you can change public perception only by improving things with people like me. End users. Consumers.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a simple list of ways you can fix what’s wrong with Microsoft. Because, really, who better to advise you than some guy who’s never run a major corporation?
1. Do something surprising
Your first order of business should be to generate massive goodwill. That doesn’t mean releasing a white Xbox or changing the company logo.
No, I mean dropping the price of Windows to $20. And dropping Office Home & Student to $30. Because consumers are sick of being gouged for a computer operating system that invariably aggravates them and a productivity suite that’s overkill for 90% of users.
Consider: Google’s Chrome OS is free. Apple’s Mac OS X 10.6 is $19.99. Windows 8.1 costs $119.99. What on earth could possibly justify that price? It’s ridiculous. Drop it to $20 and see how quickly users will snap it up and forgive the learning curve. Then maybe some developers will start writing apps, which will in turn drive more users to Windows-powered tablets. Win-win.
And Office? Come on. Have you see Kingsoft Office Free 2013? It does word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, and looks really good doing them. Price: $0. (It’s right there in the name.) Why would anyone spend $139.99 for one Microsoft Office license? Or, worse, $100 annually for an Office subscription? Come on.
Make these two simple changes and the world will fawn over you like you’re the next Steve Jobs.
2. Get better at naming stuff
Why is Windows RT called Windows RT? What are the differences between the Surface, the Surface Pro, and the Surface Pro 2? And for the love of god, what the heck is Windows Phone? A phone?
Enough with all the wonky and confusing naming conventions. Seems to me you guys make three basic versions of Windows: one for computers, one for tablets, and one for phones. Quit making it more complicated than that.
3. Get better at competing
Microsoft doesn’t have to be all things to all people; it just has to be really, really good at a few things. Like console gaming; everybody loves the Xbox, and for good reason: It’s a sweet product.
But Bing? Google and Yahoo own search; let them. Bing is a dumb name (see #2) and a pointless Google copycat that no one uses. It’s pretty sad when you have to bribe people to use your product, which is Bing Rewards in a nutshell.
And what’s with Internet Explorer? Unlike Windows itself, it’s a closed system, which is why there are no extensions for it like for Chrome and Firefox. That’s fine; businesses need that kind of security, but there’s no reason you can’t create an open version of IE for consumers. Either let IE die or do something to improve it.
While you’re at it, stop pussyfooting around with SkyDrive (sorry, OneDrive). Now that you’ve been forced to rebrand it, go the extra mile and make it a real Dropbox-killer, not just a Windows companion.
So that’s it, Nadella — the Broida plan for Microsoft success. Easy-peasy, right? I really want Microsoft to do better. To be better. Here’s hoping you’re the guy who can make it happen.