Bob Muglia moved on from Microsoft this week, and I for one was not a little surprised. You see, Bob is one of the few Microsoftees that sits (sat) across the two worlds of Microsoft. One is the old world, of Windows and Office and the predominant position in the technology community. The other is where the company sits today. Bob was comfortable in both places, in a way that no-one has been since, well, Bill Gates roamed the halls.
That’s not to say that Bob is a direct peer of Bill, but rather that Bill was able to sit across old and new through sheer force of saying it was so and therefore making the distinction irrelevant. Bob had a more parochial role, but his understanding of the underlying dynamics, what the strategy was and would be, was comprehensive in its ecumenical flavor. When he and Ray Ozzie played doubles with the media, they fit together in surprising ways.
Such was Bob’s skill that he would turn a softball aimed at Ozzie into a screamer hit back at the unsuspecting questioner. Ask Ray whether Silverlight was going to replace Windows Presentation Foundation and effectively subsume Windows into an Internet OS, and he would say no by saying yes. Then Bob would say yes by saying no. Put the two together and you got one answer. Tuesday that answer changed.
When Ray Ozzie quit, there was a reasonable interpretation that things would continue as planned. When Bob Muglia quit, you could no longer make that assumption. Ray had Bill’s blessing, Bob had a business unit with growing revenues. In effect, he was a consigliore to Ozzie, the guy that could manage the often challenging relationship between what makes money at Microsoft and what that would have to become in the Cloud era. Put another way, he could walk into a poker game with Sinofsky and put some chips down to call a bluff.
The bluff is that Windows revenue trumps everything, that Windows Phone will get its share, that a Microsoft tablet will stop both Apple and Android from eating the heart out of Office. As we found out on today’s Gillmor Gang, Google is being called on another such bluff. Namely, that yanking H.264 from Chrome is all about the open Web. That WebM will stop Apple from eating the heart out of Android and Chrome and maybe YouTube. Already Google is re-explaining the move.
But not soon enough to stop Danny Sullivan, Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, John Taschek and me from having some fun on the Gang this week. Danny Sullivan’s filibuster about who is the better friend of the user is worth the price of admission alone. Robert Scoble is getting smarter by the week, and Kevin Marks, well, it was fun to see the ex-Googler voice outrage at Google’s moronic move. Even noted Android fanboy John Taschek recognized that the more pressure Apple puts on the carriers, the happier users get regardless of which phone they buy.
In the good old days of tech media, Microsoft led the charge in impossibly convoluted contortions around self-interested maneuvers. Today Google has taken over that role. And the new Microsoft stands as a pale shadow of itself, fighting tooth and nail to rescue defeat from the jaws of victory. With Steve Ballmer as Donald Trump: Nice job, Bob. You’re fired. Thanks for the material, guys.