The New York Times recently hired former Slate (and former Wall Street Journal) technology columnist Farhad Manjoo.
In his first column for the New York Times, Manjoo told readers to buy Apple’s hardware products (iPhones/iPads/Macs), use Google’s services (search/Gmail/Maps), and to buy media from Amazon (movies, books, music). He also mentioned Dropbox as the best storage service.
Missing from that list? Microsoft.
Microsoft’s head of communications wanted to leave a comment, but the Times’ commenting system wouldn’t work, so he sent us his letter to Manjoo.
When you wrote for Slate, you often championed new emerging technologies that offered the tantalising prospect of disrupting static markets by putting more power and choices into the hands of the people who use them. So naturally, I was a little confused when I opened the paper of record this morning to find that along with switching your employee badge, you seem to have switched sides, and are now a firm supporter of the status quo.
I’m referring, of course, to your advice column for consumers wishing to avoid “tech extinction” by betting on the wrong horse. Surprisingly though, your predictions seem like you are using a rear-view mirror, not a windshield, to look at the road ahead. You recommend sticking with today’s biggest players in the mobile phone, web services and content marketplaces, diversifying purchases between Apple, Google and Amazon accordingly. The core argument for doing this seems to be that none of these companies are likely to go away, and that spreading your bets reduces the risk of “lock in.”
Ironically, these recommendations do lock you in. To expensive hardware with fewer choices and to aggressive content screening and intrusive advertising.
More importantly though you are discounting the possibility that the best antidote to extinction is actually betting on players who are innovating today, not simply monetizing the products they invented 5 or 10 years ago. Your own advice would have had a 2007 smartphone buyer picking a BlackBerry over an iPhone, a 2001 gamer buying a Dreamcast instead of an Xbox, and a 2008 social media user putting all their contacts into MySpace, not Facebook. This would have look like sound advice at those moments in time, but of course it wasn’t. Not because those products were bad, but because they had already peaked, and were no longer focused on solving customer problems in fresh new ways. The best way to avoid extinction is betting on a commitment to evolution through innovation.
So while your readers could take your advice and blend in with the current crowd, we’d encourage you (and them) to take a look at some alternatives that offer even better ways to get things done. And with a cross-platform connected ecosystem that spans the workplace to the living room featuring best in class products like Office, Skype and Xbox, we’re a pretty safe bet too.
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