JCL Blog

Microsoft = Platform

My first job out of college was as a Computer System Analysis for Boeing Aerospace in 1987. Our group of about 16 people had two responsibilities: get office users in the company to start using all of the computers the company had bought, and establish standards for desktop computing. For those of you who are interested, back then we did email on the HP 3000, used Netware for PC networking, did word processing with Word Star, databases on Rbase, and Lotus123 for spreadsheets. And all of the PCs ran on MS Dos.

I remember getting a call one day from a friend at Microsoft who was working on the MS Word team (Dos only back then) asking about how we made decisions and the dynamics of the relationships inside the company and how influence impacted purchasing decisions.

Microsoft already knew that its success depended on its partners (Novell, WordStar, Rbase, Lotus...) who made apps that ran on their MS DOS platform. Microsoft was just starting to think about another layer to their partner program; internal or external consultants that had an influence on setting standards and purchasing decisions. Back then everyone bought software from Egghead Software -- in today's lexicon, Egghead Software was the Microsoft App Store. It sold all of the applications available to run on the Microsoft Platform. Microsoft has evolved considerably since the late 80s and now has as many partners in the consulting side as it has in the application development side.

Steve Jobs made a big deal last week about the iPhone/iTouch/iPad Platform, the 140,000 applications, and the 3 billion downloads. In technology we love new things and really don't like old things much. So the whole platform idea has been recast as new by Apple. Microsoft has so many applications built on its many platforms that no one can even count them all.

Apple may have a large and growing number of people writing applications for its platform, but in an effort to completely control its environment has actively discouraged hardware partners - even bringing out its own chip this time - and has no interest in building a consulting partner base.

All of this reminds me a little of a company everyone thought was on the way out 20 years ago -- but now generates $100B in revenue with 400,000 employees (IBM).

It would be crazy to count Microsoft out of the platform game.