Former Microsoft VP Dick Brass has an interesting piece in the New York Times on the software giant’s woes. He says that opportunities to be innovative often fizzle because of internecine warfare in Redmond, giving two projects he was responsible for (ClearType and the Tablet PC) as examples. He also says that the company has lousy timing–Web TV was too much too soon, and the Zune was too little too late. And he says that Microsoft’s emphasis on building software for other companies’ devices–once a huge strength–has turned into a weakness in the era of the iPh0ne and the Kindle.
Microsoft took the blunt criticism from a former Microsoftie seriously enough that PR head Frank Shaw responded on the Official Microsoft Blog. If nothing else, Shaw’s post is graceful and good humored, and it makes at least one reasonable point: Brass’s dismissal of Xbox (“at best an equal contender”) seems unfair. If every new Microsoft enterprise were as slick, innovative, and successful as the Xbox 360 platform, you’d tend to Brass’s charges as those of a disgruntled ex-employee. But they’re not, and you can’t.