This is a follow up note to some folks I know over in Redmond (but it’s OK for the rest of you to read it as well.)
Hi guys. There’s no doubt that you must be frustrated. Really frustrated. After all, you were in digital music long before Apple, had cool phones that played music long before Apple and in general had a pretty compelling story for the digital consumer that no one really listened to. There were WMA players on the market long before iPod. In fact, Microsoft might have been dominant in digital music if it weren’t for that pesky little iPod thing (along with iTunes). Worse, Apple introduced a flash player years after anyone else, actually removed features and had customers waiting 2-4 weeks to get one. Gladly waiting I might add and ignoring all those other devices your partners brought to market. I won’t even get started with what’s happened in the phone space. First you ignored Apple, then you denied the iPhone was a problem. Today, I hear more and more folks wondering what the future is for Windows Mobile, Zune and Windows Media Player.
Let’s face it, while you have all the tools to respond but at the moment, you seem to lack the leadership to tie it all together. A few years ago, I suggested you needed a Music Czar. Today, I think it’s time you thought about Mobile and Media Czars. You need master strategists that can deliver what Brad Silverberg and Brad Chase did for Windows and Yusuf Mehdi did for IE back in the last century, for products like Zune and Windows Mobile today.
Folks, It’s time for you to create that type of leadership role. You have a differentiated set of products and services along with business models that can work. You have subscription services and hardly any consumers understand how they work. You have a viable DRM, not to protect old business models but to enable new ones. You have partners to deliver services and devices with diverse offerings.
What you don’t have is a coordinated strategy to make all this stuff work together. To make sure that internal technology is aligned with handset vendors and initiatives like Zune and Xbox. There’s no single, coordinated marketing message that can be presented to consumers, press and analysts articulating what your vision is for the 21st century digital consumer.
It’s not too late. The market is still nascent and there’s still time to act. There’s time to pull together what you need from your partners along with internal products and services and really get out there and compete. The clock is ticking though and it’s time to get to work. Feel free to call anytime and we can discuss further.