Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Microsoft Doesn’t Think People In India Should Be Allowed to Search for the Term “Sex”

Microsoft Doesn't Think People In India Should Be Allowed to Search for the Term "Sex"

Thanks to sandelion for pointing out an interesting fact to me about Microsoft’s new search engine bing. I blogged about bing earlier this week and have been using it as my default search engine instead of Google all week. Apparently Microsoft has decided that part of their job with the new search engine is to become the world’s new censor.

At first I couldn’t believe this. Why would Microsoft think limiting the information provided in a search engine to be a good thing? But then I tried it myself. You can try it too. Just change your location preference in bing from the U.S. to India and try searching for the term “sex.” Yes, Microsoft has decided in their infinite wisdom that Indians should not be allowed to search for information about sex. In Microsoft’s words, “The search sex may return sexually explicit content. To get results, change your search terms.” That’s right, there’s no, “okay, I’m a big boy, go ahead and show me my results” button next to this Microsoft error message, there is simply a message telling you to change your search term. It’s like an instant trip back to the Victorian age.

Now in fairness, it seems that people in India could always just change their country preference from India to the U.S. to get these search results, but it’s still super lame that Microsoft would deem it necessary for people to have to change their country preferences to look up something as universal as “sex.” And many people of course won’t think to do this.

Google, by the way, has no problem with people searching for the term “sex” in India. I guess that’s all part of that whole “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful” thing that they seem to be after. Since bing supposedly stands for “bing is not google,” maybe Microsoft should adopt their own mission statement for bing. It could be “censoring the world’s information and making it inaccessible and useless.”

This sort of censorship is a really stupid decision on Microsoft’s part. It’s the biggest reason yet I’ve heard for why I won’t use bing anymore. Censorship sucks Microsoft, don’t you know that yet?

More here.

On Slashdot here.

Why I Don’t Think Microsoft’s New Bing Search Engine is For Me

Microsoft's New Bing

Ned: Phil? Hey, Phil? Phil! Phil Connors? Phil Connors, I thought that was you!
Phil: Hi, how you doing? Thanks for watching.
[Starts to walk away]
Ned: Hey, hey! Now, don’t you tell me you don’t remember me because I sure as heckfire remember you.
Phil: Not a chance.
Ned: Ned… Ryerson. “Needlenose Ned”? “Ned the Head”? C’mon, buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson: I did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson: got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn’t graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson: I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple times until you told me not to anymore? Well?
Phil: Ned Ryerson?
Ned: Bing!
Phil: Bing.

For the past two days I’ve been using Microsoft’s new Bing search engine exclusively. I’ve stopped using Google and instead used only Bing. The main reason why I did this was because I’d like to see viable competition to Google in the search engine space — plus I just like to try new things. After using Bing for two days exclusively though, I think I’ll probably be going back to Google. I’m still going to give Bing a couple more days but so far the Cons of using Bing outweigh the Pros.

As it see it, following are the positives and negatives of Bing.

Positives

1. The fact that Bing starts playing video thumbnails when you mouse over them in search results is super slick. This really helps in finding the video content that you are most interested in.

2. I really like image search on Bing. More specifically, I think the results are generally good and I *love* that I don’t have to page — that Bing incorporated live.com’s endless scrolling of search results.

Negatives

1. The biggest negative to me so far is the fact that Bing burries news search off the main page. I do many news queries every single day. Frequently I’ll be searching for something via Google and click on Google news. The fact that Bing makes you click on “more” to get to news search frankly flabbergasts me. This seems so basic that I honestly can’t believe someone at MSFT could not figure this one out. Instead of getting “news” search on the main page you get Shopping, MSN and Windows Live. How is it that MSFT has room for those search items but not “news?”

2. I’m not entirely happy with the search results. A case in point. Earlier today I was trying to find Microsoft’s Bing Blog so that I could leave some of these comments there. So I did a search on Bing for “Bing Blog” Microsoft. What comes up? Lots of less than relevant stuff, but anything but the actual Microsoft Bing Blog. What I was looking for. By contrast, I do a search for “Bing Blog” Microsoft on Google, I actually can find the Bing Blog in the first page search results.

It also feels to me like Google consistently has wikipedia entries higher up the search results list than Bing. I might be wrong on that, it’s just the impression that I got after doing several searches. Frequently wikipedia contains the most relevant info on a search subject and I like seeing them displayed more prominently.

3. The Bing stuff feels sluggish to me. Several times when I tried to load the Bing Blog (and most frustrating after I typed a lengthy comment) the page wouldn’t load. It seems to be hanging on “transferring data from analytics.r.msn.com” and so the community experience has not been good.

4. Microsoft only lets you set your settings preferences to allow 50 results per page during searches (Google by contrast allows you 100 items per search on a page). Paging sucks and the less that I have to do of it the better.

5. Microsoft Maps need a ton of work. I use Google Maps a lot. Mostly to set up maps of things that I want to photograph in various cities. MSFT seems to have a similar way to build your own maps using Bing Maps. They call them collections. I started making a “collection” of neon signs in San Francisco that I still need to shoot, but was really put off that my “collections” list is a huge box that blocks about 40% of my map view (you can’t drag this menu any place but directly over your map). With Google your saved locations sit in a column on the left side of the page and doesn’t block your map view.

Given that I use Map Search so much and that Map Search feels so clunky with MSFT, this is probably one more reason why I’d want to go back to Google.

I’m going to keep trying Bing for the next few days to see if things improve. But most likely I’ll be going back to Google as I doubt that they can improve any of the above negatives very quickly.

Update: It looks like “News” is now on the Bing home page. This definitely was not what I was seeing yesterday on the site. This is good news.

Netflix Watch Now on Your Microsoft Media Center PC, But No Extender Support

Cupcake LoveWell Microsoft probably just incorporated my number one Media Center feature request into Media Center, unfortunately though they have decided *not* to include this support for the Media Center extender. Beginning immediately Windows Vista Media Center users can watch Netflix “Watch Now” programming on their Media Center PCs.

I am a *huge* fan of Microsoft Media Center’s Technology. At present it allows me to consume free OTA HDTV (along with a killer DVR), access my entire music library and playlists, access all of my photos in my library, and access some of my home video files (unfortunately the Media Center doesn’t support video files from the new Canon 5D M2 and I haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to convert these files yet — Apple does support these files in Qucktime by the way). All of this great technology is done on my Media Center PC in my attic. Then, best of all, I can stream all of this content seamlessly to XBox 360s extender units in my living room, bedroom and kitchen (you know, sort of the places where you consume this kind of media as opposed to up in my attic).

Now, a bunch of sites are abuzz this morning about Netflix Watch Now coming to the Media Center PC. But what’s so great about this? Personally, if Microsoft won’t let me consume this content on an extender unit, what good is that? If I want to watch Netflix Watch Now on an actual PC, I can just go directly to the Netflix page and watch it. While it’s probably a tiny bit better to watch it in Media Center (saves me a step or going directly to a website) it’s really not that big of an advancement.

Now Microsoft will probably say, yeah but… you can already stream Netflix watch now on an XBox 360. But there are several problems with this technology as it stands now.

1. Not everyone is using an XBox 360 as an extender unit. Other extender units are left out in the cold.

2. Streaming Watch Now to an XBox 360 requires a lame Microsoft Live Gold membership. I don’t want a Microsoft Live Gold Membership. I don’t do any gaming. I hate the fact that I have to pay for this membership that I don’t want in order to see my Netflix Watch Now service that I’m already paying Netflix for.

3. It’s a pain in the ass to have to log into my Live Gold membership every single time I turn my XBox 360 on before I can get to my Netflix Watch Now Service.

4. It sucks that it is *extremely* difficult to watch Netflix Watch Now on multiple XBox 360s. The only way to do this is to go through a cumbersome processing of reclaiming your existing gamer tag on a new box. Since there is no keyboard with my XBox 360s, this involves me going through about a five minute process of entering in passwords, email addresses, and lots of other information with a little XBox 360 game controller just in order to say watch a movie in my living room instead of in my bedroom. It frustrates my wife even more than me.

Now if today’s announcement also included a promise that Microsoft is still working on extender support and hopes to have it in the near future I’d be very happy. But there is no promise that we will ever see Watch Now support on Media Center extender units and so today’s news in my opinion is worse than no news or feature at all.

My own personal belief is that Hollywood and the studios do NOT want you to have Netflix Watch now in an easy way to consume on your television set at all, ever. They make much more money off of you by showing you TV with commercials or making you watch the content on DVD than they do when they revenue share streaming money with Netflix. By giving you Netflix in Media Center (but only on the PC where you could just as easily just watch it on Netflix’s site) they’ve given you really nothing at all. Without a promise of future extender support today’s news is pretty disappointing to me actually.

You can read the official Microsoft page on this news here. The more interesting conversation though is happening over at The Green Button here — where the hardcore Media Center geeks hang out.

The great promise of Media Center extender technology was that it would bring anything you could do on a PC to quieter, easier devices connected to your television set in the networked and connected home. By crippling this important technology and restricting it from Media Center extender devices this is a step backwards. Heck, I’d even pay Microsoft the same $50 a year to have this on my extender than I pay for the lame XBox Live Gold Membership that I’ve got now.

Microsoft’s DeepZoomPix Viewer is Pretty Cool

PhotoMetadataUrl=http://deepzoompix.com/API/PhotoMetadata.ashx?alias=thomashawk&album=2,Get Microsoft Silverlight

The slide show above is from a new photo viewer by Microsoft called DeepZoomPix. The technology feels a lot like CoolIris to me and I think that you are going to see more and more dynamic ways of viewing photos online like this in the future. The view above is pretty simplistic as an embedable slide player, but you get a far more interesting view if you actually click through to one of my albums. You can check out the more interactive version of the above slide show here.

Use your mouse or scroll pad to increase or decrease the magnification of the photos and to move around and explore a bit.

The player allows you to either upload your own photos to it or to link the player up with either your Flickrstream or your Facebook photos and import photos from there.

I found that it took me several hours to import a little over 400 slides for the slideshow above. For some reason it did not import all 2,000+ of my neon photos, but the average person probably doesn’t hae a 2000 photo high res slide show to put together either.

I think that this player will make for an interesting way to share sets of images from events, vacations, parties, really anywhere where you’d like to put together a relatively quick and easy slideshow.

The service has a fairly strict Code of Conduct which prohibits your using it to display any “nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.pornography, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, hatred, bigotry, racism, or gratuitous violence.”

The offering also is only available through the end of 2009. I’m not sure what happens to your slide shows after that but I suspect that if Microsoft chooses to discontinue the service that the shows could be deleted. Microsoft makes a point of noting that you should not consider this site as a primary place to host your photos and that there are no privacy controls, so anything you publish here will be viewable to the entire world.

According to Microsoft, the primary purpose of this technology is three-fold:

1. Provide an end-user friendly demo around a scenario that everyone can understand.
2. Show designers the capabilities of Silverlight for creating rich user experiences (UX).
3. Show developers how they can use various Microsoft client and platform technologies to easily create compelling and scalable systems.

You can learn more about this new viewer at the FAQ for it here.

Thanks for the heads up Steve!

Microsoft Future Pro Photograher Contest

Microsoft Future Pro Photographer Contest

The Microsoft Future Pro Photographer contest is a great contest put on for student photographers. If you are presently a student at a two or four year advanced degree institution and are over 18 years of age you are eligible to submit photos. If you are a college student this is an excellent contest to participate in and possibly win up to $20,000.

Submissions are being accepted from March 1, 2009 to April 30, 2009 and the winner will be announced at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit this July. The Grand Prize winner will receive $20,000 in addition to three of First Place winners in categories of Nature and Landscape; People and Portraits; and Sports and Photojournalism who also receive a cash prize of $3,000; all winners will receive a digital workflow prize package as well.

All entrants can submit up to three original images in the following categories: nature & landscape; people and portraits; or sports & photojournalism. The image must be a JPEG that is no larger than 1024 pixels and 2MB. Each image will be treated as one entry. These images must not be published, released or distributed for commercial use and must be created and owned exclusively by the entrant submitting the image. Each image will be judged on its originality, technical execution (focus, exposure), visual impact (composition, impact, lighting) and relevance to it’s category (nature, portrait, sport). All rights remain with the photographer. Microsoft will only use winning images, with photographer credit, for the sole purpose of promoting the contest.

You can learn more about the competition here. A video of last year’s winners is here.

Come Hang Out and Photowalk on Monday Night at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, 6:30 pm with Miss Aniela

Natalie Dybisz, Miss Aneila I had the opportunity to hang out a bit with Natalie Dybisz (pictured left) last summer at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit in Seattle. Natalie also goes by Miss Aniela on Flickr and has some really interesting self portrait work among other things. Natalie’s coming to town next week and hosting four photowalks sponsored by Microsoft, Samy’s Camera and Eye-Fi. I think it’s pretty cool to see some of these companies getting involved with sponsoring photowalks.

I’m planning on showing up and shooting at the Ferry Building Photowalk on Monday night at 6:30pm. If you live or are visiting San Francisco on Monday, come on out and shoot for a while. It should be an interesting group of photographers and a great way to catch up in person. I’m not sure where the walk from the Ferry Building will be headed, but the Ferry Building itself is very photogenic and there’s lots of interesting things to shoot around the downtown area there. Here’s a link to my set of images from the Ferry Building. Hopefully there will be beer involved at some point later in the evening ;)

I set up an upcoming event page for Monday night’s walk if you can make it and want to RSVP here.

The other four walks that Natalie is hosting in the Bay Area will be in Berkeley on Monday afternoon, at the USS San Francisco Memorial on Tuesday morning and another walk up in the Haight on Tuesday aftternoon.

In addition to the four Bay Area photowalks Natalie is doing, she’s also hosting two additional photowalks down in Los Angeles on Wednesday as well. I’ve shot at both Union Station and the Santa Monica Pier in L.A. and think both are fantastic places to shoot. Time and details for all the photowalks below:

Berkeley – Eastbay/Berkeley Photowalk
Date: Monday, February 2
Time: 12:00 pm to 1:30pm
Place: UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley

Ferry Building – San Francisco Photowalk
Date: Monday, February 2
Time: 6:30pm to 9:30pm
Place: Ferry Building entrance, San Francisco

USS San Francisco Memorial – San Francisco Photowalk
Date: Tuesday, February 3
Time: 7:30am to 9:00am
Place: USS San Francisco Memorial, San Francisco

The Panhandle to Haight Ashbury – San Francisco Photowalk
Date: Tuesday, February 3
Time: 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Place: Meet at Oak and Cole, San Francisco

Union Station – Los Angeles Photowalk
Date: Wednesday, February 4
Time: 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Place: N. Los Angeles St., Union Station, Los Angeles

Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica Photowalk
Date: Wednesday, February 4
Time: 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Place: out on the end of the Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica

Microsoft Launches New “Windows Live” Social Network

Microsoft&squot;s New "Windows Live" Social Network

I got my first invitation today to join a “network” on Microsoft’s new “Windows Live” social network. Here are some of my rough initial thoughts.

1. I was pleased to see that the network offered some integration with Flickr. Windows Live allows you the ability to link up your Flickrstream in the network and will stream your most recent uploads to your contacts on Windows Live, in a similar way to how Flickr does. Windows Live shows your contacts your most recent four photos uploaded. I think it would be better if they showed all of your most recent uploads in a batch (or at least had a button to expand all of your uploads like FriendFeed does).

It doesn’t seem like the “photos” section of the site and your Flickrstream integrate very well though. I’d think it would be better if you could use your Flickrstream to build photo albums on Windows Live rather than having to upload photos directly.

2. Windows Live allows you to send a message inviting all of your Facebook contacts to your network on Windows Live. I’m a bit surprised that Facebook would give Microsoft this kind of access to their network when Windows Live seems to be a pretty direct competitor to Facebook, but then again Microsoft did invest a ton of dough into Facebook at an absurd $15 billion valuation, so maybe this has something to do with that.

Windows Live also allows you to invite your Linked In contacts.

3. Hopefully over time Windows Live will allow you to include more internet services into your Windows Live “web activities” stream. So far I’ve added Twitter, Flickr, Pandora, Yelp, StumbleUpon and my blog. They also include Daum, Photobucket, Flixster, iLike, TripIt and WordPress.

4. There doesn’t seem to be a place to enter a more detailed full text profile. At least not that I’ve found yet. There also does not seem to be a way to build a custom profile url. I’m especially surprised that you can’t customize your url. It would seem alot easier to share your presence on the network if you didn’t have something as abstract as http://cid-cc5c6d9b36ce0565.profile.live.com/?mkt=en-us as your profile (that one’s mine and you can add me as a contact at the above link if you’d like).

5. There are still a few places where the web design needs work (text overlaps a bit and some areas of the network feel a little clunky), but overall the site has a fluid ajaxy sort of feel that I like. I’m not aware of any contact limit (like Facebook’s 5,000 contact limit) on the site at this point.

Microsoft&squot;s New "Windows Live" Social Network

6. The site has interesting “category” rankings. Similar to FriendFeed’s “list” functionality, you can group your contacts into various categories. You could, for instance, create various “categories” of photographers: “Graffiti Photographers,” “Neon Photographers,” “Night Photographers,” “San Francisco Photographers”, etc. The site also allows you to “hide” updates by either user or content type. This seems a very close copy from FriendFeed’s “hide” functionality.

7. The advertisements on the site seem a little annoying and are more noticeable than Facebook. The ads seem large and bulky and include animation. Obviously Microsoft is looking to make ad revenue with this product, but they might have been better off making the ads a little less intrusive to start with.

8. You are allowed to upload photos up to 50MB in size. This is very generous and more than most other photo sharing sites. Flickr, by comparison, only allows 20MB file size uploads (which they should think about increasing, especially in light of the higher res files that will be coming from the new Canon 5D Mark II and other similar higher megapixel cameras being released). There does not seem to be a “bulk” uploader to get photos on the site. It would be really nice if we could see some cooperation and portability between Flickr and Microsoft allowing you to use the Flickr API to transfer your photos to Windows Live.

9. Get ready for Microsoft censorship. The site has pretty strict content guidelines including disallowing any media that, “depicts nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga.” It will be interesting to see how/if Microsoft draws a line between nudity and fine art. This is a line that is frequently blurred and I’ll be interested to see how closely Microsoft monitors people who use the site and/or censors their photostreams.

10. Microsoft needs to get the licensing fixed on the network. I was surprised to read in the terms of service that by uploading any content to this social network you are essentially giving your work away. From the TOS:

“9. Your Materials. You may be able to submit materials for use in connection with the service. The service includes publicly accessible areas (“public areas of the service”) and areas to which you can control access by others (“shared and private areas of the service”). You understand that Microsoft does not control or endorse the content that you and others post or provide on the service. Except for material that we license to you, we do not claim ownership of the materials you post or provide on the service. However, with respect to content you post or provide you grant to those members of the public to whom you have granted access (for content posted on shared and private areas of the service) or to the public (for content posted on public areas of the service) free, unlimited, worldwide, nonexclusive and perpetual permission to:

* use, modify, copy, distribute and display the content in connection with the service and other Microsoft products and services;
* publish your name in connection with the content; and
* grant these rights to others.” (emphasis mine).

How I read this is that basically you are granting public domain rights to any media that you upload to the site. If I’m reading this correctly, this is pretty terrible. Microsoft should follow the lead of other sites and create a licensing matrix that would allow everything from “public domain” to “creative commons” to “all rights reserved” licensing options over your content.

If you want to add me as a contact on Windows Live you can do that here. If you add me as a contact I’ll add you back.

Update: The network also seems to have interesting “Group” functionality where you can create groups. It does seem lame though that Microsoft limits you to owning only 20 groups.

How to Turn Microsoft Around

Time, Walk, Step, TurnTime, Walk, Step, Turn Hosted on Zooomr

[Disclaimer: Arm chair quarterbacking is easy, execution is a heck of a lot harder]

John Furrier, CEO of Podtech, is out with a post saying that Microsoft needs new blood. He says that Bill Gates is off saving the world and that Steve Ballmer doesn’t seem hungry enough. He says that although he’s been a Windows user for many years that a Mac may be in his future very shortly. His post is in response to widely reported news yesterday that Microsoft’s top search executive, Christopher Payne, is leaving Microsoft.

I guess Payne leaving Microsoft doesn’t really surprise me. Microsoft continues to lose market share in search to Google. What is more surprising to me though is what seems like an almost daily slate of negative news on Microsoft. Yesterday I noted that influential analyst Michael Gartenberg was leaving Microsoft as an “enthusiastic evangelist” after less than a month (he says there is no story here but it’s still surprising to see this), also this week you had another “enthusiastic analyst” Stephanie Quilao leaving her post after 9 1/2 weeks. Stephanie was a bit more candid than Gartenberg blogging that there was no Microsoft product beyond a wireless mouse that she felt she could blog about.

Add to these recent defections Chris Pirillo’s post last week that he was going to “upgrade” back from Windows Vista to XP (not good when you are spending over $600 million to try and promote your new operating system).

More than all of this though is the informal anecdotal evidence I’ve been seeing of a shift from the Windows operating system to the Mac. I wrote about my own conversion last year. In the past few months I’ve been completely surprised at some of the names of people that have privately emailed me saying that they were switching as well. And then earlier this week over coffee with one of the top technology journalists in the world (no, not Walt Mossberg, but close up there) what did he pull out of his bag? A brand spanking new sleek black MacBook Pro less than a week old.

Now the numbers are not necessarily going to reflect this yet, but when your key influencers, bloggers, journalists, etc. begin abandoning Windows and moving to the Mac it’s like a wave and over time this wave can actually threaten Microsoft’s monopoly on the operating system. Look for Apple’s numbers to continue advancing here in the months ahead.

So the question becomes how should Microsoft turn this around?

1. The problem with the PC is the user experience. It’s not good. Especially when compared to a Mac the PC does not provide a good enough quality of experience. The main reason for this is the whole nature of how Macs vs. PCs are built and sold. The Windows operating system is an open system vs. Apple’s closed system on the Macintosh. What this means is that there is a near infinite number of hardware / software configurations for the PC.

Microsoft took a little heat earlier this year when they gave a bunch of bloggers free high end Ferrari PCs with Vista on them. Why did Microsoft give these bloggers these PCs instead of just mailing them free Vista upgrade discs? To ensure the quality of their experience. If they didn’t these same bloggers might have ended up having experiences like Chris Pirillo did and writing that Vista was crap.

They say a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and the same is true of computers. Apple has the luxury of being able to test limited and known configurations on their products. Combine this with an almost manic commitment to user experience and you get a better product.

Microsoft of course can’t just reverse course and piss off all of their OEMs and start building their own PC, but what they can do is create a Microsoft certification whereby thoroughly tested systems receive a special Microsoft seal of approval. This would be reserved only for PCs that met the most rigorous testing requirements. Microsoft should even offer to provide the actual customer service and support for these PCs (if they are built perfectly enough there won’t be many calls, eh?). These certified PCs *can* cost more money. People will pay a bit more for a better experience.

2. The problem with Live.com is that it lacks compelling content. Robert Scoble says that he told Microsoft to buy Flickr three weeks before Yahoo actually did. Flickr is compelling content. Flickr was one of the best buys of the decade. For $35 million Yahoo got something that now has over 7 million registered users, over 20 million monthly uniques, over 400 million photos (and the best organized photo library in the world), and something that is going to actually (eventually) provide Yahoo a big leg up in image search.

But there are so many other great companies out there still to buy (hint Yahoo, Google and IAC have been buying a lot of them). I don’t use live.com because I don’t give a crap about having a homepage that shows me the news and weather and stock quotes. Live.com *had* a lot of potential. Now it is pretty much dead.

Given the choice between building or buying Microsoft almost always chooses to build. And yet where is the Flickr of Microsoft? Where is the digg of Microsoft? Where is the Pandora or Last FM of Microsoft? Where is the upcoming.org or Involver of Microsoft? Where is the Podtech of Microsoft? Where is the Twitter of Microsoft? Where is the TechMeme of Microsoft? I don’t know if it is just too bureaucratic a place to build cool things that I want to use but they are not being built. These social networks have particular application in search that has not even been realized yet today.

Microsoft is sitting on $29 *billion* in cash and short-term investments. Rather than buying sleepy little companies, Microsoft needs to begin beefing up it’s arsenal with properties that people will actually use and love.

In the next year Microsoft should spend $3 billion buying everything cool that it can get it’s hands on irrespective of the busness outlooks of the individual internet properties. By combining these properties into something cool they *can* build a presence yet on the net.

3. Open an incubator in San Francisco. As part of spending $3 billion to buy a host of great internet properties the key thing is to let them run independently. What Microsoft should do is just create this kick ass campus in San Francisco. They should have a cafeteria like Google does and feed these people and encourage them to spe
nd 24 hours a day there. It could become a think tank of sorts producing some of the best stuff on the internet. Why San Francisco? Because this is where these things are being built these days.

4. Get their evangelism back on track. Scoble was a big loss for Microsoft. Gartenberg would have been an interesting choice to try and fill his shoes but now he’s gone as well. Microsoft needs to, in conjunction with the above efforts, get the right evangelists in place to then promote their new initiatives. Top bloggers, journalists, analysts, etc. should all be considered. Rather than one or two top evangelists though they should hire about 30 of these connectors and also give them direct access to the executives making the business decisions at Microsoft.

Fundamental to the four changes above is a realignment of how Microsoft views businesses. It means going from a structured corporate environment where each purchased company must have a compelling profit/loss case made to an environment where the vision of the future takes as compelling a seat as short term profitability. It also means adopting a new spirit that not only accepts but encourages and rewards self criticism. Less the company line and corporate mantra and more innovation. Roadblocks to innovation (including short term profitibilty) need to be removed. Processes need to be streamlined and Microsoft needs to redefine itself as a place where talent comes, not where talent leaves.

Honestly I’m not sure that any corporation can turn itself around the way that Microsoft needs to. Even Yahoo while acquiring the right internet properties still can’t seem to integrate them in the ways that they should. Like I said before arm chair quarterbacking is frequently a lot easier than executing.

You can digg this story here.