Another conversation.

Robert Scoble is starting to sound a little desperate:

33,000 of you watched the RSS video on Channel 9 over the past few days. But, we’ve only heard from about 100 of you. That means there’s a HUGE number of people who just are staying quiet and not becoming part of the conversation. Why? You think you have nothing to say? I tell you, if 1,000 of you wrote “I listen to podcasts” over on Channel 9 product planners around the world would pay attention. It takes a very small number of people to move companies. But they MUST show up, otherwise those of us who think we are hearing a new customer base get ignored.

He’s begging people to join the conversation. But they are joining the conversation, just not Microsoft’s conversation. The problem is that Microsoft generally doesn’t listen, so when they suddenly claim they are most people can’t be bothered.

I’m not sure why Robert brings up iTunes:

Let’s say you’re an iTunes user. Will Steve Jobs make sure that he keeps iTunes ahead of Microsoft’s stuff? So far he has. He added podcasting support yesterday. Why? Cause he wants to make sure customers are given best-of-breed capabilities. He knows that the minute a better player or podcasting service comes along that the word-of-mouth network will bring that new service or player huge numbers of new customers.

So, let’s go at it another way. What do you want in future versions of iTunes? Do you want to be able to take your feeds out of iTunes and put them into iPodder, for instance? Or Doppler? Or vice versa?

Apple seems to be handling users’ wants and needs pretty well. Is Robert suggesting that Microsoft would do a better job? If so they should do something instead of just talking about it. So far they seem purely intent on eliminating interoperability by introducing a competing system – PlaysForSure.

Robert wants an internet content sharing suite, recalling how the Office Suite improved life for users:

Think back to 1989. Back then you needed to buy a word processing program from one vendor. A spreadsheet from another. A presentation program from another. And a database from yet another. Then Microsoft came out with the Office Suite that did it all. Why was that important? Cause the four apps in the suite worked together (yeah, I know it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it used to be). They all came for one price. One support system. In one box.

His recollection of the Office Suite is a little fuzzy but I remember it quite well, as I was buying the products for corporate use at the time.

At the time people bought applications from different vendors because they bought best of breed. And few people used presentation tools, Harvard Graphics being the most common. When the Office Suite came out it included Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It was marginally cheaper than the separate applications, but PowerPoint was bonus that you were forced to pay for even if you didn’t want it. The database – Access – didn’t come along until around 1992. And those applications didn’ t work together at all. They just shared a single installation program.

To Microsoft’s credit, that suite of tools has improved drastically. But those improvements came at a cost to me, I’ve been forced to purchase at least six (6) different versions of the Office Suite for a total of about $3000, sometimes just because it was needed to support a new operating system which I was also forced to buy. And the key result of the Office Suite was to kill off all competition, not to work with it.

It comes as no surprise then that people have no interest in contributing to the demise of competition. After all, Internet Explorer as a free component of the operating system contributed to the demise of Netscape.

iTunes happened without Microsoft, and so far they haven’t offered anything better. Lots of great tools happen every day, and if there’s a market for an internet content/sharing creation tool, one will happen. Microsoft is certainly welcome to compete in that market.

Robert is doing a great job getting Microsoft to open up. But personally I look around and see lots of first generation tools – free tools – that I know will get better and I think that if getting better tools from Microsoft means the death of competition, it just isn’t worth it.

There’s more on this over at Channel 9.

Update: Somebody whose opinion I respect called this post a “Scoble smack”. It really wasn’t intended that way. In my opinion Robert has done more to raise my opinion of Microsoft than anyone else. This post was just my thoughts on why people are not rushing to join a conversation with Microsoft.

3 thoughts on “Another conversation.

  1. I agree with you with regards to history. I do think that the RSS thing shows a different side of Microsoft, a side that begins to embrace the community.

    Now, I am a huge fan of Apple, but they generally just try to predict what users will want. Sometimes they succeed (with iTunes and the iPod) and sometimes they fail miserably (Newton comes to mind). Between Dave Hyatt’s KHTML inroads and iTunes’ support for podcasts, Apple is also beginning to look to the user community and address it.

    Both companies have a long history of being an ivory tower; I suspect that both are realizing that being ivory towers doesn’t make users passionate…

  2. Bill…I wouldn’t necessarily call the Newton a “miserable” failure. It was just ahead of it’s time. Apple just guessed too far in advance :-)

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