The New Microsoft

Business Week writes in a cover story:

Maybe the point is that Microsoft needs to find its un-Vista. Several of them, in fact. The software giant is entering perhaps the greatest upheaval in its 30-year history. New business models are emerging–from low-cost “open-source” software to advertising-supported Web services–that threaten Microsoft’s core business like never before. For investors to care about the company, it needs to find new growth markets. Its $44.3 billion in annual sales are puttering along at an 11% growth pace. Its shares, which soared 9,560% throughout the 1990s, sunk 63% in 2000 when the Internet bubble burst, and they have yet to fully recover.

Reigniting growth will require a cultural shift at a company that has long shaped its strategy around maintaining its Windows operating system and Office word-processing and spreadsheet monopolies. That calls for a new breed of leaders who can push the company in directions it hasn’t gone before. “Things are different from the desktop world that most of the Microsoft guys grew up in,” says Michael A. Cusumano, a management professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has written extensively about the company.

Mobile as Tracker

The New York Times writes:

Now, as more of the handsets are equipped to use the Global Positioning System, the satellite-based navigation network, we are on the verge of enjoying services made possible only when information is matched automatically to location. Maps on our phones will always know where we are. Our children cant go missing. Movie listings will always be for the closest theaters; restaurant suggestions, organized by proximity. We will even have the option of choosing free cellphone service if we agree to accept ads focused on nearby businesses.

None of this entails anything exotic. The technology has been ready for a while, but not the customers. Prospective benefits have seemed paltry when placed against privacy concerns. Who will have access to our location information present and past? Can carriers assure us that their systems are impervious to threats from stalkers and other malicious intruders or neglectful employees or from government snoops without search warrants? Contemplating worst-case scenarios, our hands holding these very mobile devices have been frozen, hesitant to turn the location beacon on. Are we finally ready to flip the switch?

Widgets for Marketing

WSJ writes:

Ms. Powell and many other marketers see sponsoring widgets as a promising route to consumers because they integrate advertising onto the Web page. It is a more-relevant approach than banner advertising, she says, and less annoying than video ads that take over the screen. Widgets are also one of the only ways marketers can get inside MySpace pages because the popular News Corp. social-networking site doesn’t sell advertising on individual members’ pages.

Most types of widgets also offer the marketers the chance to monitor eyeballs, because a user’s click on one of these live features can be counted as easily as a click on a banner ad.

“I don’t believe in banner advertising,” Ms. Powell says. “It’s important to create content that speaks to different audience segments where they are.”