Information Management, RX for Microsoft: Hire Pivotal Boss Paul Maritz + Buy Box & Evernote
(Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund might be responsible for formulating the prescription) 

Don’t tell SharePoint enthusiasts, but Microsoft has big changes coming its way.

Without them, the behemoth that ruled the Client/Server era of computing will be laid to rest there.

Bill Gates knows this, so does Steve Ballmer.

The question is whether they, as Microsoft board members and the largest individual owners of Microsoft stock, will be able to let go of their own voices and visions, open their minds and step aside when a leader who understands the future walks in.

Unless they do, Mr. Softie will die and Gates and Ballmer will be responsible for digging its grave.

Why Microsoft Is On The Road Of Demise

Go to any Enterprise tech conference, or better yet, go to ten in a row, and during the opening presentation you’ll hear the same common theme: We’re entering the third era of computing. The mainframe era was first, the client server era came second and the third will be called (something like) the end user device of choice era.

Computing’s third era, you’ll hear next, is defined by four disruptive forces: Cloud, Big Data, Mobility and Social. The presenter will inevitably go on to explain how his/her company’s products leverage these forces to help you win business. They’ll then, inevitably, invite some satisfied customers or beta-testers up onto the stage to testify on their behalf.

This is where Microsoft runs into a problem.

They need to have a story to tell about how they’ve embraced these disruptive technologies and how they’ve innovated products and services that leverage them to the hilt.

And they don’t have one.

After reading this, Microsoft enthusiasts will, no doubt, try to point out that Office 365 is a cloud solution, that the Windows phone and Microsoft Surface Pro are Mobile (and that Microsoft just bought Nokia), that Microsoft has a strong partnership with Hortonworks for Big Data (so does everyone else), and that Microsoft has, a great social network.

How many people do you personally know that have ever used these products and services? How many Enterprises are seriously considering adopting them? Are these leading technologies in their categories?

Who Has the Ability and Guts to Try to Turn Microsoft Around?

Disrupting a highly profitable US$ 73.7 billion company is no easy task, and Ballmer’s replacement will not only need to have the right vision and execution strategy but also the ability to turn a slowly sinking ship and to motivate its crew. A Microsoft insider might find this difficult, if not impossible, to do.

That may be why Ford boss Alan Mulally is being seen as a top Ballmer replacement pick; after all, he has proven that he can turn a sinking ship around. That being said, there are a few things about Mulally’s suitability for the position to consider. First, he and Ballmer seem to be buddies of sorts -- Ballmer personally penned Mulally’s entry on Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world” list in 2009. This being the case, Ballmer would likely have more influence over Mulally than a stranger, and that’s not what you want when you’re looking for disruption.

Second, the power and implications of disruptive technologies like Big Data, Cloud, Social and Mobile aren’t easy to understand, let alone innovate around. This is challenging for the IT industry’s most visionary leaders. It’s also worth noting that those who are ushering-in computing’s third era are geeks.

And though one could argue that an industry outsider could bring in new ideas, the argument would be a leap, even if the outsider hired a geek-god as his second lieutenant.

Why Pivotal’s Paul Maritz Would Make a Smart Choice for Microsoft’s Next CEO

First, let’s be clear, recruiting Paul Maritz for Microsoft isn’t an original idea. Rumor has it that Ballmer offered him a job last year, but it probably wasn’t the CEO’s position.

It’s also been reported that Rick Sherlund, an analyst from Nomura Securities who has followed Microsoft for years, thinks that Maritz should be wooed for a top job at the company.

It’s not a bad idea.

Consider that Maritz is both an accomplished CEO (he led VMWare during its heights) and a geek (his undergrad and grad degrees are in computer science, he began his career as a developer at Burroughs, and rose to the number 3 spot at Microsoft before he left.)

Not only that, but Maritz is also extremely ambitious and clearly wants to leave his mark on the world. He has been noted as saying, many times over, that he wants to create “the operating system for the cloud.” And right now, as you’re reading this, he’s trying to do that at Pivotal. Pivotal One, the OS for the next era, is supposed to be delivered by year’s end.

Why On Earth Would Maritz Go Back To Microsoft?

If Maritz is doing exactly what he wants to do at Pivotal and if his vision is being backed (with $$$) by companies like EMC (parent) and General Electric, why would he possibly be willing to leave? After all, he has Big Data visionary Scott Yara on his team, as well as Pivotal Labs co-founder Robert Mee, and Adrian Colyer, who has been recognized by MIT as one of the leading 100 innovators in the world. Who at Microsoft could match that talent?

It’s also likely that Maritz has a non-compete which would prevent him from taking his dream and realizing it elsewhere.

Some folks say there’s an easy remedy to Maritz’s non-compete problem -- Microsoft could buy Pivotal (and all of its talent).

It’s a bit far-fetched to even speculate whether EMC and GE would consider selling; after all, and for different reasons, they may need Pivotal more than Microsoft does.

What? Microsoft Should Buy Box?

Rumor has it that at least one industry analyst thinks that Microsoft should buy Box. It’s an interesting idea, the company certainly needs Box’s energy and its disdain for the status quo. Add to that, that Box is a leader in the important Enterprise Sync and Share market, years ahead of where Microsoft is today.

And then, of course, there’s Box boss Aaron Levie; he has disruption in his blood. He’d likely run around the Microsoft campus knocking down walls, canceling projects that don’t challenge the exiting state of affairs, and going after the future like it’s his for the taking, provided he puts in the time and hard work.

There’s only one problem with this idea; Box is probably not for sale, especially not to Microsoft. This, again, is pure speculation, but it’s hard to imagine that Levie and team would want to end the story of their eight year sprint with the words “and then we sold it to Microsoft.”

And Evernote Too?

One of Microsoft’s big problems is that it isn’t hip, it’s not perceived to be pretty (the Windows phone UI may be, but most of the population has not experienced it) and worse of all, it turns us into data entry and e-file clerks (or people who lose track of information all of the time).

Evernote does just the opposite. We don’t have to interrupt our lives to document and file things, Evernote just does that for us.

It was created for the way we work and live in the era where we can use the device of our choosing. 

Microsoft needs Evernote (or something like it) to remain relevant in the new era.

Listen Up Microsoft Board Of Directors, Here Are Your Orders

OK, so they’re not really orders, but the “Recruit Maritz, Buy Box and Evernote” strategy that’s been making its way around the web is a darn good idea. If you’ve got a better one, we’re dying to hear it.

Title image courtesy of Burlingham (Shutterstock)