Rupert Murdoch has issued another in his occasional series of tweets about technology companies.
This time the target is Microsoft.
Here's the tweet:
Microsoft moves and options for future fascinate. Need for big clean out of bureaucracy and focus on next big tech wave. Metadata?— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) April 10, 2014
Let's try to parse the the tweet starting with the opening sentence: “Microsoft moves and options for future fascinate.”
Nothing to get excited about there. Last week's announcements at Build did indeed signal interesting new directions and it is undoubtedly fascinating to see the company try to find new ways to make its core Windows business relevant into the future. Harder to interpret is whether fascination is a good thing or a bad thing in Murdoch's world.
The comment that the company has a “ Need for big clean out of bureaucracy and focus on next big tech wave” is a little more interesting. Microsoft has already started to change its culture by doing away with the controversial stack ranking process that some felt created pointless stratifications inside the company. That the company's head count has soared is, however, indisputable. And while Redmond hauls plenty of cash through the door it has not created a major new technology market for decades. So a call for less bureaucracy may not be a mere thought bubble.
So what is the “next big tech wave” that Murdoch refers to? Microsoft's a player in cloud, mobile, tablets, big data, streaming content, gaming, has lots of potential to do something interesting in the home with Kinect and its colossal touch screens and like everyone in the industry is starting to articulate an internet of things play. Microsoft is also a fast follower: it is not in the company's nature to make new markets. Perhaps Murdoch has an opinion on what the next big thing is, or knows what Microsoft is working on.
The final, one-word question, is tantalising.
Microsoft did rather well in metadata over a decade ago. The company was early to understand and realise the potential of XML, launching a spree of activity to promote XML web services and creating that rarest of Redmond artefacts: a version 1.0 product that pretty much nailed it in the form of BizTalk.
It's hard to imagine that's the kind of metadata Murdoch is referring to in this tweet.
Murdoch is seldom shy of distributing unsolicited advice and his world view aligns with whatever will advance News Corporation's cause.
A weaker Microsoft might be in his interests: Murdoch can have little interest in XBOX becoming an alternative to his pay television interests or Bing becoming a content aggregator and advertising destination to rival Google.
But a Microsoft in partnership with News, providing a nicely-curated content distribution system that lines both companies' pockets, perhaps using metadata about users' online behaviour to target content and advertising, sounds interesting.
And from a Microsoft point of view, maybe such a partnership makes sense. Redmond has won very substantial audiences with its various consumer plays but it is the servers business that has been the balance sheet star. Murdoch's global muscle might just be the help Microsoft needs to crack consumer-land. ®