I had a few random thoughts today regarding what constitutes and IT company. This is actually quite related to one of my previous entries surrounding what makes a company cool.

Let’s start with a big one, is Google an IT company? Sounds like a stupid question. Well where does their revenue come from? Well most of it comes
from advertising
 (no surprises there). They only bought YouTube to get a big foot into the video advertising door. Their innovation is only driven by their need to open up more avenues of advertising. Therefore are they an IT company or are they an advertising company that leverages IT effectively?

What about Apple? Historically of course it was an IT company and it is credited with a large number of technical developments. Its move to Intel processors said something big however, it said “we are great because we make tech a great fit for people, not because we make great tech”. Drop the relentless push towards new tech, let Intel do that for you. 

Apple is now filled with industrial designers, marketers and advertisers. Sure they still have plenty of tech people and come up with great ideas, but that is just expected with any Apple product. They don’t need to push features,
they push ease of use and beauty (something a mass market always appreciates). Look at the page for their Macbook Pro,
there is only a column of tech specs. Plenty of pictures, copy and quality page
design. They are a design and an ideas company, they are not an IT company.

All these companies have something in common that Microsoft could learn from by following a few conclusions:

  •  IT companies have a ‘nerd’ stigma that makes breaking into new mass markets difficult
  • All the above companies use technology in a way that the user takes for granted. The user is barely even told of the technology or features, they are discovered in a natural way. The Google understands what you want, it doesn’t ask a multitude of questions.
  • It is all about integration within itself and within the world around us. Mac computers are beautiful objects against any natural surface, Google ads compliment the information provided on webpages, maps etc.

But surely the task for Microsoft must be harder? To an extent yes it is, they are far more embedded in the tech sector.

I think Vista is a step forward, design and clarity are two things Windows needed. It is a beautiful operating system to use, but I would argue it still isn’t clean enough. Rather than have annoying shields everywhere why not allow quick switch to an admin user? This would clear up the UI for the 80% of users who have no idea what is in the control panel. It could be cleaner, it could be smarter. Not smart as in fancy file systems and network stacks, fancy as in intuitive and fun to use. I definitely think MS is on the right track, just don’t lose focus…