In an ongoing series of posts on the differences between large tech companies, I look at the different models they take (refine,tinker, push, attach) and who their spiritual children may be. In this entry, it’s all about the attacher.
The attacher: Microsoft
The primary view of the attacher is that it has a solid product and now tries to attach every new effort to that product, making it increasingly unwieldy as the product now has to support legacy and new approaches to servicing customers.
For example, for a long time, Microsoft’s insistance that everything be tied to Windows looked like it might be a winning strategy. But, over time, the strategy started falling apart. Sure, Microsoft’s tying of the browser into its operating system made it relevant for the internet era, but eventually new players (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) emerged and, because it was so deeply embedded into the operating system, Internet Explorer had a longer update cycle, leaving it increasingly vulnerable and forcing it to loose marketshares.
In the same way, Microsoft’s insistance that its mobile offering be more like Windows left it with an incompatible user interface for mobile device. By the time the company decided that it would toss away the concept of toolbar and icons, it was already too late and Microsoft has ceded developers’ mindshare to Apple (with iOS) and Google (with Android).
Rare in startups
A precondition for a company to become an attacher is that they have something to attach to. In other words, they already have an existing product that has been successful and on top of which they are trying to bolt something incompatible. In a way, I would argue that this is also what Apple does with iTunes, a product that may have a new logo but does so much more than music that its moniker seems incorrect.
However, I would say that the attacher is, in the long run, a losing strategy. It shows that the company is unwilling to let go of past successes, which may now work as an anchor around their feet, leaving them with less room to grow and adapt.