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Why does Microsoft disdain its own customers?

I’ve had the good fortune to spend a lot of time around many different types of companies, in a bunch of different industries.  And I’ve learned something about corporate values.

Some companies like to make money by creating products and services that really excite their customers. They genuinely put the customers’ needs first, and try to meet or exceed customer expectations. Their leaders know that if they make products that delight customers, they will end up making plenty of money. Apple talks about wanting to delight customers, and it really shows in their products.

Other companies like to make money. They are less concerned with how they earn that money. Their primary focus is making money, and they really aren’t as concerned about whether their products and services delight their customers. If they see an opportunity to make a little more money by doing something that their customers won’t like–well, they don’t see a problem with that; they go for the money. Their primary focus is making money; their customers’ needs are secondary. In fact, their customers’ needs are really only considered when meeting those needs coincides with making money.

Microsoft is the second type of company.

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99Designs—Design Done Better

Whenever I start a new business, one of the first things I need to do is get a corporate logo; most people don’t think a business is real until it has a logo. It’s a pain in the neck, and pretty expensive–both in time and money.

First, I have to find a graphic artist.  I had a great one about 15 years ago, but she stopped doing this sort of work. Since then it’s been hit-or-miss. So just finding a qualified artist who is available for a one-off project can take weeks.

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The Beauty of Flipboard

I’ve been using Flipboard on my iPad since it was first released. It’s a fantastic application, and has won a ton of awards as a result. Apple named it the 2010 App of the Year, Oprah raved about it with MC Hammer, and Time Magazine called it one of the Top 50 innovations of 2010.

So what is so great about it?

Flipboard allows you to view articles from all sorts of sources. It’s a great way to view blogs, but it can also take your Twitter stream, or Facebook, or LinkedIn, and present those streams in a beautiful and efficient presentation. And it automatically resolves links; when your friends post a link to an interesting article, Flipboard goes out and downloads the article. In fact, this is pretty much the only way I look at Facebook now. It’s a great way to see my friends’ updates without all the visual clutter I don’t care about. And Flipboard curates a few channels on subjects such as tech, sports, and movies, where they aggregate interesting stories from around the web. Flipboard refers to all of this as a social magazine, in that your social networks actually find and recommend articles for you to read.

Above All: Style

But the truth is, I think Time Magazine got it wrong.

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Three Essentials for Healthy Entrepreneurship

A few weeks ago I was meeting with a woman at Stanford.  She is a Visiting Scholar, from Kyushu University where she studies innovation in the Japanese automotive and semiconductor industries.

Over coffee at Bytes, she shared with me her model of innovation.  In it, large companies hire teams of researchers to develop new technologies and businesses–in other words, to innovate.  As with any innovation, sometimes they are successful, sometimes not.  But in her world, the best innovators are in large companies, and everyone else wishes they were in large companies too.

This is not my world.

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