There was a time not long ago when Microsoft was the most feared company in the tech industry. The rare individual that has not had at least a second hand (if not a first hand) experience with Microsoft's predatory practices, would certainly have read about them in the press. From legends about the original DOS code deal, the OEM pricing policy, to Netscape, to tech startups that found their product ideas incorporated into MS products after pitching MS to acquire them, there is seemingly no end to this story.
Until now. Could we be entering an era of a less predatory Microsoft? Here are three things that contribute to such a thought:
- Other predators on center stage: Facebook, Apple, and Google are really getting into the act of either ripping off the ideas of others, to just swallowing start ups in one gulp.
- Microsoft's Partners are a significant asset: Microsoft has been building its partner program for 25 years and it is the biggest, most sophisticated, and most mature business ecosystem the industry. There was a time that people partnered with Microsoft because they had to, now they partner with Microsoft on its merits.
- Microsoft's margins are on the decline: 95% margins for packaged software were great -- but exist no longer. Margins in the cloud are much lower -- maybe half that. Declining margins mean less budget for R&D and Sales and Marketing. This is going to be added encouragement for Microsoft to get along with its neighbors.
Microsoft may or may not be engaged in a thoughtful strategy of playing more nicely with others. Premeditated or not, Microsoft does seem to be losing its killer reputation. I think this is a good thing for Microsoft, and its partners.