Foley on Microsoft

Give Me a Blank Check, Microsoft!

Foley's list of the top 10 things she would do if she was in charge of Microsoft's check book.

Microsoft Technology Evangelist Robert "Scobelizer" Scoble is constantly begging his bosses for a blank check to buy a company or two on Redmond's behalf. Here's what I'd do if Gates and Ballmer gave me that check:

  1. Buy a major application vendor to add to the Microsoft Business Solutions stable. Microsoft never got the chance to buy SAP, which would have been either the coup of the decade or fodder for another U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigation. Still, Microsoft could benefit from some complementary apps. How about Siebel (snatched from Oracle’s clutches in the eleventh hour)? Sybase? Or even Intuit (perhaps the second time’s a charm)?

  2. Scoop up a company with experience in software as a service. It probably wouldn’t make sense for Microsoft to bid on software-as-a-service (SaaS) poster child, because the Redmondites just started shipping version 3.0 of its hostable CRM product. There are lots of other SaaS fish in the sea, though. (Just ask Yahoo!, which wisely snapped up Flickr late last year.)

  3. Forget Opera. If you want a browser vendor, buy IE add-on maker Maxthon. [In the original print version, the company listed as the IE add-on maker is Marathon, which was a typo.—Ed.] Rumors flew late last year that Microsoft was sniffing around Opera Software, whose biggest strength is support for multiple operating systems. Microsoft has all its eggs in the Windows basket, though, so why not buy one of the many IE add-ons? Marathon is one that’s received numerous kudos in the past year.

  4. Stop messing around and just buy AOL once and for all. A combined MSN-AOL would be a powerhouse, and one with which cable vendors and other third-party entities would be hot to partner.

  5. Pony up some cash and commit to a real Yahoo! partnership. If buying out AOL is just too expensive, too repulsive or both, why not counter the growing Google-AOL momentum with a little Microsoft-Yahoo! mojo? And don’t just do a namby-pamby search or ad partnership. Make it all-encompassing and use Yahoo!’s newfound popularity to simultaneously boost your own image.

  6. Hire Peter Quinn. Whether you think former Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn was on the right or wrong side of the OpenDoc vs. Office file-format battle (we think Quinn let a little open-source fervor get in the way of sound policy), hiring him would be a huge PR coup for Microsoft. Give the guy some kind of internal CIO-style responsibilities, or send him out on the "Office Switcher" circuit.

  7. Hire a new ad agency. I’ve never seen a Microsoft ad I really liked. The "Start Something" campaign, upon which the Redmondites are dropping oodles of dollars, is more of the same. Ditto with the Office dinosaur campaign. A new agency would have its work cut out for it with the launch of Windows Vista, Office 12 and the fledgling "Microsoft Live" services all slated for the coming year. Now is the time for a fresh start.

  8. Steal some Apple designers for your Xbox and Smartphone teams. Regardless of how technically savvy Microsoft gets on the consumer front, it just can’t command the same level of cool as Apple. Do a Google search and go on a poaching run. Siphon off some of those iPod and iMac designers and turn them loose.

  9. Offer cash rebates on Software Assurance (SA). It has been almost four years since Microsoft launched its ill-fated Software Assurance licensing program. Even though the company has tried to sweeten the SA pot with a variety of incentives, SA still has a bad reputation and has left an unpleasant taste in customers’ mouths. A cash rebate or money-back guarantee would help smooth things over.

  10. Increase your dividend by more than a penny. Microsoft raised its quarterly dividend 12.5 percent at the end of December. That amounts to one cent more than the current dividend. Whatever happened to the Christmas spirit?

If Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer handed you a blank check, how would you spend it? Send your wildest, craziest and most maniacal investment ideas to me at or post them below!

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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Reader Comments:

Sun, Jan 19, 2014

The Japanese car makers have been http://l DOT cars for quite some time now in the U.S. My 1993 Nissan 4 4 was built in Smyrna Tennessee and my 1993 Subaru Legacy was built in Lafayette Indiana. I recently bought a new Subaru Impreza since I decided to spend my money on a new Impreza rather than spend it on repairing my 200K+ mile Legacy.

Sun, Jan 19, 2014

Yeah, but Detroit can't seem to SELL ITS polished turds ntheier could Microsoft sell Vista were customers given a choice so long as Honda, Toyota, Mazda, et al, are allowed to build and sell cars in the U.S., Detroit, no matter how merged, will never be a monopoly. Now, if someone wants to give their execs the BOARD GAME and shut them in a room to play it I'd let Ballmer join

Fri, Jan 22, 2010 Elma D. Hayes 2909 boston ave. San Diego,ca. 92113-4731

Hello, i was just hopeing if you would mail me a one time donation of 3,000 dollars so that i could pay wachovia dealer services. or send the check to the creditor in my honor to this account number 8151443985.please because my truck is all i have of my pass relationship,and i need help to keep it.thanks

Thu, Aug 17, 2006 samueal Anonymous

I have made a great invention that would help microsoft corporation alot and i was through this for 3 years and now i want to make a contact with your trusted person so contact me later


Fri, Jun 2, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

two chicks at the same time, man... I think if I had a million dollars I could hook that up, cause chicks dig a dude with money.

Sat, Feb 25, 2006 jubaer bangladesh

I dont have any account,i don't have 0have a lot of money.i have passed HSC(A)level. i am so much interest to study in IT.if any person give me only3000 dolar then ican get admit in Malaysian any person here who will give me3000 dolar.I have money but ihave to spent that for my mother hospitalization.she is a patient of open herat heart surgury.plz help me,i have money3000 but ineed more money.plz .good bless all.

Sun, Feb 5, 2006 Earl Kruse Burien, Wa.

Get Serious about putting out bug-less software, if you can't make software without bugs, then the people that write your software shouldn't be working for Microsoft.
You should hire better software writers, stop the leaks from your company, when someone leaks a future product to the news people it only hurts the company, it tells the public that you don't even have security in your company, let alone security in your software.
That's why most people call your company Micro-Bugs because in you quest to get your software out the door first to beat the competition it's full of bugs, and shouldn't be released.
Making software the best it can be will make the company's image great, instead of laughable!

Sat, Feb 4, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

Clearly, MS should buy Transitive Corporation.
With Adobe saying Photoshop etc will not be Universal (work natively on Intel Macs) until about Spring 2007, Rosetta is clearly not the "temporary solution for some weeks or a few months" that many commentators are saying.
MS would then own a key Apple supplier technology.

Sat, Feb 4, 2006 Md.Tauseef Mumbai(nariman-point

micro soft developed a criticale software so no any hacker's hack the security and make a very hard securiy in a operating system and as well as make a Antivairus to no any vairous thereat and cruppet the system if micro soft make these type of program so this is very deficult to any organaisation and hackers to hack it this is a very popular to market. if Sir,Bilgets give me a chance so i am devlope these type of software if he recurit me micro soft, so i know i am able to make these type of soft ware, Thasts it

Fri, Feb 3, 2006 Anonymous chattanooga

Make a computer for stupids like me which will have basic programs like IE, words and power point on hardware, no spontaneous recording on hard drive without authorization, and still hard drive act like temp files, clean it whenever it has to much spyware etc, hard boot in a minute with a working computer next time without calling tech support.

Fri, Feb 3, 2006 Jim Losi Syracuse, NY

I found this list to be a list of monetarily satisfying desires. Honestly, with money like that , you can do wonderful things other than horde and persue slash and burn endeavours. If I had that kind of cash, I would build education centers for sciences across the world. When we all realize, finally, that education is vastly more important than cashing in on your latest stock option, we may finally start to make progress.

Additionally, I would make efforts to partially fund these schools so the cost of attending would be attainable for underprivileged people.

Instead of helping ourselves, we should be reaching out and helping others.

Thu, Feb 2, 2006 Ben Balmer LA

My advice is shut Microsoft down and sell off the assets. Give the money back to the shareholders and all the people Microsoft has robbed. End this sorry crap company and end the virus platform.
Do people a favour. Since they're too stupid to let go of this death trap, end it and free people to use something that isn't pure crap.

Wed, Feb 1, 2006 PWG SoCal

First I'd pay off Steve Ballmer himself and tell him to take a hike (retire, take up painting, just get lost!) and get in some really talented tech CEO with a clue-bone instead of some guy (Ballmer) who was just friends with Bill Gates in college at the beginning but obviously has no clue how to lead or inspire like a Steve Jobs does. Doing the company event "Monkey Boy" jig and dancing frantically around a stage jumping up and down in desperate fashion to an uninterested & bored audience (of MS employees) doesn't cut it. Ballmer is the ugly epitome of the big fat executive, painful to look at and listen to without succumbing to intense somna responses.

Ballmer & Gates both are the antithesis of cool in a software/tech company but since Gates is a figurehead you won't be getting rid of him anytime soon. Ballmer offers nothing to Microsoft but would offer a lot more by simply leaving or was kicked out preferably.

Tue, Jan 31, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

I like the MSN - AOL merger idea, to bring AOL inline with the rest of the 'Net. In fact, they could even rename it "America In Line". M-SNAIL, anyone?

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