During a conversation with Kara Swisher at the Code Conference yesterday, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer discussed about the antitrust battles Microsoft faced in the early 2000s. He mentioned that there are lots of similarities between what Facebook is facing today and what Microsoft faced back then. However Facebook quickly responded well to government regulation requests learning from the past mistakes which Microsoft did. Microsoft was slow to reach an agreement with the US government causing issues. Due to the legal battles, Microsoft got distracted along the way, missing key trends like search and mobile.
“My own personal view, having been in the middle of it for so long, was the single greatest cost was the distraction,” Smith said. “Having a Bill Gates, a Steve Ballmer, great engineering leaders at our company, spending so much time figuring out how to prepare for a deposition, how to defend themselves on the witness stand, how to implement this, that, or the other thing. You look at the early 2000s. We missed search.”
“And it wasn’t the only thing we missed, obviously,” Smith continued.
“Mobile phones,” Swisher interjected helpfully, to laughter from the audience.
Brad Smith also mentioned that no company is going to win in every trend that emerges. Companies will miss the future trend while they ride well on the current trend.
“I do think one has to have the recognition that nobody’s going to catch everything,” Smith said. “There’s no company here or anywhere else that is going to see every trend before it emerges. But would we have seen these things if we had been spending more of our time looking for them than looking at these specific issues? It’s a great imponderable. It’s a hypothetical. We’ll never know for sure, but I will say the odds of seeing these things would have been higher.”
He’s probably correct. Google was dominant on the web, but they completely missed the social trend. Facebook became huge in front of their eyes. Amazon tried their hand in mobile and tablet industry, they are yet to make a significant mark in the market. There are many such examples.
Do you think without antitrust battles Microsoft would have been a very different company from what we are seeing today? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.