Meeting Mr Microsoft

Neil Thompson is the MD of Microsoft UK and Ireland and I recently saw him speak about his 18 years in innovation.

He ran through his career in one of the world’s most influential companies; from exaggerating his skills at his job interview to today’s cutting edge.

It was a walk down memory lane for many in the audience as he spoke of launching Windows 3, MS Dos 6 and the original Office suite. Windows 95 was a landmark for them and getting the Rolling Stones to soundtrack the advertising was a game changer, taking the conversation from the PC box to the software inside it. They also sponsored the Sunday Times for a day by taking over all the advertising which, “cost us another gazillion pounds.”

It’s easy to forget the Internet barely existed before Windows 95 and the Internet Explorer browser. We really are at the foot of the mountain as far as the Internet is concerned. At the time, Netscape had the browser to use with over 95% market share. 95% to zero inside, what, five years? There’s a lesson for any monopoly.

He also shared a pretty widely held hypothesis: the future is in the cloud and it’s viewed across multiscreens. MS categorise three groups of hardware sitting beneath the cloud, all sharing data:

1) Phones and consumer electronic devices
2) PCs
3) TVs

“Imagine watching a film at home and pausing it to leave the house. You jump on a train 10 minutes later and press play on your phone and continue right where you left off,” said the man from Microsoft.

There was plenty of fun while the audience played with a Kinect but one of the most powerful lines of the night was saying how MS go all in when they bet on strategy. Neil reminded us that if Windows 95 hadn’t paid off, the company would have imploded. When they bet, they bet big.

Stan Slap’s book, Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers (affiliate link) draws on his experience at Microsoft (among other companies). It was half way down my reading wish list but Neil’s passion for his product and his company has pushed it towards the top – I want to know more about the people and the tactics employed over the years.

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