Microsoft, or at least the software giant we’ve come to know and… well… the big software company, is going to die. Here’s why:
Kodak was in love with film. They thought there was no way that film was ever going to go away. Even as digital photography took hold and people were gradually won over by the convenience and capabilities of digital photography, Kodak stuck to its guns. “Film is superior to digital photos. Besides, it’s what we’ve always done. We’re far better at it than everyone else,” they said. Well, the cost and inconvenience and inflexibility of wet photography has all but gone the way of the dodo and Kodak is left clinging to the outdated technology and is a Johnny-come-lately to the digital imaging world.
Microsoft loves documents. The entire backbone of the enterprise is tightly intertwined with the documents of business. Their flagship offering is their Office Suite (including Sharepoint). Their OS supports the Office Suite by giving users a way to organize their documents. Sharepoint gives users a way to collaborate on documents. Their entire ecosystem is closed in a way that prohibits outsiders from getting their hands on the documents in the system. They do documents better than anyone and their betting the farm on them.
The problem is, that collaboration is moving beyond the document. We are rapidly becoming a world that traffics in knowledge. Documents are becoming an unwieldly vehicle for knowledge these days. Documents communicate slowly and evolve even more slowly. Especially when compared with the ever-increasing rates of collaboration. While they’re still not perfect vehicles, media like blogs and wikis more rapidly capture the knowledge of a group. The knowledge stored in a wiki evolves at the point of interaction. The knowledge in a document involves checking it out, editing locally, and checking it back in. If a version isn’t checked back in, that evolutionary step is lost. One needs only try to collaborate via the Sharepoint/Office workflow to understand how much overhead goes into the simplest updates. It is perhaps drawn into stark relief when the updates themselves are at their simplest. Users default to using Sharepoint as a repository for documents that result from collaboration outside the system.
If Microsoft insists on sticking to its document-loving guns, they will find themselves in the same boat as Kodak playing catch-up in a field they once dominated.