For your edification, the term “pink slip,” which has largely fallen out of favor due to our paperless offices, originates with the Ford Motor Corporation. While there is only word-of-mouth evidence out there, the term is said to have come from slips that were placed in worker cubbyholes at the end of each day. White slip was good, pink slip meant “don’t come in tomorrow.”
Thus, these early assembly line workers were forced to function with the sword of Damocles over their head. At the end of any day, they could be on the chopping block. And so it likely is with the poor folks at Microsoft who didn’t receive notice already.
Microsoft has broken most of the rules of war over the past 15 years. Every new product it releases is their take on someone else’s wildly successful product. In the enterprise, this tactic is somewhat more effective due to the trust businesses place in Microsoft’s brand to not get them fired. But in the consumer space, Microsoft’s name is absolute mud. After years of scorn thrown at Windows, the everyday computer user has awakened to the ease of use of the iPhone and the iPad, and they’ve been gateway drugs for the Mac OS.
(Related: Nadella announces 18,000 impending layoffs)
Oprah, for example, called the iPad her most favoritest “Favorite Thing” ever, and teared up when she was able to give them to her audience members. Why is that? Because Oprah is not a computer person. Oprah has likely spent years shouting things like, “Oh no! My list is gone!” or “Make this print!” or even “My computer isn’t working!” at her assistants. My own father, for example, badgers my mother on an almost daily basis to help him with his Mac laptop, which he finds mystifying and confusing.
Point being, desktop computers still have terribly complex interfaces and enforce arcane requirements on the user.
And the iPad does not. It’s the first “computer” Oprah can use without breaking. It’s the first digital toy I’ve given my dad that he didn’t need to take to my mother and ask for help getting his e-mail.
Even though Apple’s own OS X is still too complex for these non-nerd types, Apple made the iPad and iPhone, and is perceived as the saint in this relationship.
On the other side of the coin, Microsoft has been seen as the complete embodiment of everything people hate about everything that isn’t an iPad. Microsoft Windows 8 has become the Ford Edsel of computer interfaces. It’s built around what the market research department says people want, mixed with stolen ideas from other platforms. What it’s not is a useful upgrade for its existing users. In trying to be like the iPad, Microsoft has alienated the only people who were going to buy this upgrade.
That’s why Windows 7 is still available in the channel. That’s why Windows XP remained in the channel.
Can Microsoft really keep pushing out Windows upgrades that are only worth buying every other release?
The answer to these problems isn’t changing how Windows looks and feels. Instead, the answer is reworking the Microsoft Windows ecosystem, and this work has already begun. The Microsoft Apps for Windows Store is out there. The key here is that the applications in this store are validated as safe, functioning, non-evil applications. Somewhere between the Debian world and the Microsoft Apps for Windows Store is a happy medium that could help to bring Windows back into people’s hearts.
But the unified future Satya Nadella is pushing for Microsoft may just give up on that desktop stuff, eventually. Certainly not anytime soon, but you have to expect that the Windows Phone and Surface interfaces are what Microsoft wants you to use. They did, after all, place that style as the default for Windows 8.
No matter what the company does, Microsoft is going to have to do more with less. Keep an eye on the various Xbox groups as they struggle to gain a footing in a completely hostile environment. They could be the next people on the chopping block. In fact, the video-producing Xbox Entertainment Studios was canned already, but that was coming long before the 18,000 layoffs were announced.
Good luck to you Microsofties who are about to die, and to those at Nokia, keep warm: Winter is coming, and you’re about to get some pink paper.