Friday, December 01, 2006

"Consumer is a name originated by a marketing genius to describe a statistical abstraction. Customer is a living human being." Stanley Marcus

Stanley Marcus was America's Merchant Prince and one of the very few totally original gentlemen that I ever met and came to know (thanks to my days with CBS in Dallas). His book Minding The Store is a gem of priceless wisdom. "There is never a good sale for Neiman-Marcus unless it's a good buy for the customer."

Which reminds me of the Tea Steak House in Tea, South Dakota. There is not a better burned meat experience on the planet. This exceptional little establishment is located in the middle of nowhere (about ten miles outside of Sioux Falls) but I found it thanks to my pal Joe H. Floyd. The Tea Steak House breaks all the rules and puts down a plate that one never forgets, this is the "good buy" Stanley Marcus talks about come to life. But don't take my word for it, check out what road food guru Michael Stern has to say about it here

Dave Winer and Robert Scoble get all Microsoft on us. Is Microsoft Driving Innovation or Playing Catch-up with Rivals? via WSJ here. Bravo to Dave, Robert and WSJ good job! Here's a taste of Dave's proffer...

"The problem is that the computer industry was never meant to be dominated by one company, but it's tantalizing, they came so close, only to be dethroned by the next layer of technology, which never comes from the market leader, it usually comes from the users, who, having been locked-in, finally figure out how to get unlocked. For too many reasons, when they (Microsoft, and IBM before them) try to cement their win, they end up the ones in cement and the market continues to grow around them, driven by the inexorable Moore's Law.

Today the dominant vendor in software is Google. How do I know? This morning their calendar service went down, and all of a sudden I could see how dependent on them I had become. That's why Microsoft stock is in the dumps, and why Google is riding high, but of course, they're repeating the same mistakes Microsoft and IBM made, and will eventually be unseated when the users take control again, as they are certain to do.

Innovation is the province of users."

While I understand and certainly respect Dave's take my sense remains Microsoft is in an excellent position to introduce game-changing innovation by dent of sheer weight of available resources. While I agree with Gary Hamel that incumbency is way over-rated and in today's environment almost meaningless in predicting sustainable success, let me suggest that Microsoft might just be one or two leaders away from becoming the disruptive organization required to produce products and services of dramatic difference (since Dave invoked the name of IBM let me offer Louis Gerstner as exhibit A - elephants can be made to dance, it's a leadership issue and Samuel Palmisano as exhibit B). My experience as an IBM Business Partner (WAF staged on the AS400 for Citibank) happened during the last days of the "old" IBM and was not a fun time nor the E-Ticket ride advertised. Today IBM does work that matters because they had the courage to walk away from business as usual, they had the guts to change. It continues to be vogue to bash Microsoft, to discount their work as nothing but "chasing tail lights." Could things be better than they are? Of course. Low hanging fruit abounds (e.g., it continues to puzzle me why MS Office Live is not able to support Microsoft shopping carts to enable our online commerce, I'm forced to look elsewhere and I don't want to - btw - if the MSOL team wants a backwater beta for commerce I'm raising my hand, let's do it!). Nonetheless, I'll continue to cast my lot with J Allard, Ray Ozzie, Steven Sinofsky, Joanne Bradford, Satya Nadella, Bob Muglia, Kevin Johnson and Jeff Raikes. Smart people with access to resources needed can do amazing things and they can do them almost overnight; my pov is Microsoft is far from down for the count as many now suggest, in fact, my feeling is the best work of Microsoft will be found on the horizon, further down the road ahead.

In the advertising and advertising sales businesses Microsoft, Yahoo and Google continue to innovate. Our little retail store here in Madison is turning out to be a great real world lab to watch the progress. We are using a Microsoft Office Live website, Yahoo Local, Google AdWords, Google Coupons (via Google Maps), local broadcast, local print, database and direct mail. This mashup of dead tree, wireless and interactive works beyond our expectations and it keeps getting better and better. It is sometimes easy to forget - we are living in the dawn of interactive innovation - the best is yet to come. My pov as written here before is Microsoft, Yahoo and Google will each crack the code on advertising and ad sales at about the same time. For our little shop it's a wonderful ride, a good experience.

Meanwhile, in the forums section of WSJ where folks are discussing the Dave & Robert writing they are also featuring a poll - "Which company is the biggest driver of technological innovation today?" with 2,139 votes in so far the results are...
  1. Apple 33%
  2. Google 29%
  3. Another company 16%
  4. Microsoft 10%
  5. IBM 9%
  6. HP 2%
  7. Yahoo 1%

Snow here this morning, 2 to 5 inches expected, off to deal with it. Have a wonderful weekend!