Friday, October 9, 2009

The Autistic Genius of Microsoft

You’ll never lose an audience tearing down Microsoft, building them up, or equating their product strategy with most high functioning forms of autism. But this post is more personal. It's about Microsoft and me.

No, not "my" Microsoft or even mycrosoft. It was never about that. And we still don't share many interests. But we do share the same initials. We have spent our entire professional lives together. That's something. We don't travel in the same circles. But oh, that shared history! Not even the birth of the World Wide Web could cause us to break-up -- at least not yet.

Is it because in these cold days of flying bottomless on stimulus anxiety at least I can still toggle effortlessly between Excel and Word? Is it because I can wander into the slide shows of colleagues who respirate, fantasize, and fold their pizza box dreams into PowerPoints? Is it because my biggest trading credential is that I suit up on my virtual home turf as power SharePoint user? That's Microsoft and me. Pushing that MS office comfort zone out from the desktop to the enterprise. But not beyond. It was never about that.

Microsoft is the perpetuity of here and now. Before Microsoft perpetual motion was just a theory. But then Bill Gates changed the rules. He didn't design great products or even figure out what customers needed. He invented a new feature called "price" and he slapped one on every boxable shipment. He succeeded at this not because his products were better, faster, cheaper. They were bland, slow, and well ... pricey. They didn't even talk to one another without the next upgrade. But they were personal, like the machines that ran them. Gates franchised out the microprocessor. That's what the wealthiest person in the world does at the turn of this new century. But it's more than that.

When I first started attending programs hosted by the New England Asperger's Association (AANE) at the onset of the oh-ohs (2000s) one of the favorite guessing games was "celebrity Auspies." That's where someone would flag the New York Times article where comedians, actors, and captains of industry admitted to the diagnosis. The implicit conclusion in these confessions? That high-functioning autism was as much the driver in their success as an impediment to their playing nice with the rest of the species. Gates was always the biggest prize:

"Do you think he has Asperger's?" AANE's founder Dania Jeckel would speculate. We'd wonder about his languid speech and his stilted eye contact. We still do.

I'm still on the fence. But I'm not waiting for the lab results to come back on the culture he cultivates. I am certain that Microsoft is Asperger's certified. And I know that because as much as the web grows exponentially from one wireless village to the next there are even greater piles of documentation that will never see the light of 24/7 Internet Day. And those documents are written in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, etc. Each one is a personal information silo designed to keep my ownership of each work free and clear of the unruly crowdsourcing that passes for wisdom on the web. It strengthens porous borders against the same hackers that live to disrupt Microsoft code. It guards personal knowledge territories against the globalist elites. It's always been about control. It's never been about communication.

Get inside the heads of users? Actually figure out what they're thinking? That would mean hitting the help key and not having to retell your story to the help index. That would mean that "search" would have never been supplanted by a word that didn't exist before Gates landed at the top of the Forbes list. That word is Google. That would mean expanding the customer base beyond the fringe of IT managers who look down on their internal customers as much as Microsoft does. Communicating like there's some kind of mutual dependency between users and vendors? That would be an original idea. Therefore it will never come from Microsoft.

Gates and me? We're like this. That's Microsoft on the top and me on the bottom.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.