, , ,

Mr. Nadella, congratulations for finishing your first year as Microsoft CEO so successfully! In just one year, you have made a lot of great moves. Just to name a few

  • Windows 10 is free for devices with screens under nine inches. It is also free to upgrade from Windows 7 and 8 in the first year.
  • Microsoft Office is now available on Android and iOS.
  • Microsoft and Samsung is working together to put OneNote, OneDrive, Office Mobile, and Skype on Galaxy S6.
  • Microsoft .Net is now an open source project.
  • Microsoft will give each startup from YCombinator $500,000 credit in Azure cloud computing.

People highly praise what you have done. For example, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says “Can anyone recall a company as large and well established as Microsoft making so many quality changes in such a short period of time?”

People are waiting for you to make the next great strategic moves. Because Microsoft has lost search to Google, mobile to Apple and Google, social network to Facebook, and cloud to Amazon in last decade, some people may expect that you will attack all of them with smart decisions. In fact, it is what Microsoft has been doing so far. Microsoft built Bing for search, developed Windows Phone and acquired Nokia Devices and Services business for mobile, acquired Yammer for enterprise social networking, and created Azure for cloud computing.

Will you win this war against Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook? Before answering this question, let’s look back in history first. In the World War I, the German army had fought against French, British, Belgian, and (later) American forces on the Western Front while simultaneously fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front. Finally Germany lost the war. While there were other contributing factors, the two-front war was an important factor in deciding when the German military would be forced to surrender. Unfortunately, Germany didn’t learn the lesson and chose the two-front war again in World War II, and of course lost one more time.

So, can you win a four-front war? Especially all of your enemies are 800 pound gorillas. IMPOSSIBLE! Instead of fighting four masters at the same time, why not choose just one of them and put all your force into one fist to knock him down? Considering these four guys are so dominating in their areas, the fight with only one of them is already tough enough. You don’t need more opponents!

One may argue that United States actually won a two-front war in World War II. United States had to split their forces between the European theatre against Nazi Germany and the Pacific War against Japan. It is all true. But don’t forget that United States had several heavy weight allies: Russia, British, and China. I hope that you will also take this lesson. Besides choosing only one opponent, Microsoft also needs to make friends with the other guys. Mr. Nadella, you already have good collaborations with Samsung. It is very smart and you probably want more friends.

I guess that Bill Gates gives you many good advices, maybe including this little story about himself. When Bill first met Mr. Buffett, their host at dinner asked everyone around the table to identify what they believed was the single most important factor in their success through life. Gates and Buffett gave the same one-word answer: Focus.