Interview with Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie

Interview with Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie

Knowledge@Wharton today published an interview I conducted with Microsoft chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie.

Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, including the future of operating systems, why Microsoft is struggling to catch Google in Web search, and how technological disruptions may work to Microsoft’s advantage.

Mundie also describes the benefits of Microsoft’s “cloud plus client” model, which the company refers to as “software plus services”:

When you approach a platform inflection point, everybody thinks they know enough about the underlying platform to just abstract it into something that commoditizes it. […]

Our view is: We have to keep evolving the platform. If we can’t add value with a correspondent set of applications that take advantage of it — if it, in fact, is just homogeneous — then yeah, you’ll get AIR and [Google’s] Gears and any other thing that you want.

When Mark Andreessen was at Netscape [he made] his infamous quote that “Windows is just a poorly debugged set of device drivers. What people really want is just this browser thing.” That hasn’t really worked. […]

Java was another one of these “write once, run everywhere” things. It just doesn’t work, because people don’t actually want the desktop on their phone. One is a fixed or portable experience and the other is a mobile experience. Your fingers don’t get small and pointy, you know? You can’t shrink the icons down to be tiny enough to make them work.

He also reacts to the criticism that Microsoft is not innovative. Although my previous Knowledge@Wharton interview with Adobe Systems co-founder and co-chairman Chuck Geschke had not been published when I interviewed Mundie, he responds to claims that, as Geschke put it, “[Microsoft has] never invented anything that I am aware of. They clone someone else’s idea and use their market position to try and force their way into the business.”

Mundie states:

It’s frustrating for the people at the company to be perceived as, “Well, you guys don’t ever innovate.” The amount of invention that comes out of the company is staggering. It’s just that our job is to make [sure it’s] packaged, integrated and delivered on a continuous basis. Therefore, we tend to lose the excitement that people want to accord to the guy in the garage. […]

When you try to run the company, make the products, and deal with releasing simultaneously in 38 languages with means to support an unlimited number of languages — these things most people have no appreciation for. Many of the things that we get chided for — “Why don’t you do these things?” or “Why did somebody else beat you?” — well, they launch in one country, in one language, and they don’t have to deal with the scaling issues.

To read the entire interview with Craig Mundie, see:


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