Former Microsoft Evangelist Blasts Company For Losing Its 'Cool' Factor

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Robert Scoble, a former Microsoft evangelist who is now with Rackspace, says Microsoft has "lost its cool" factor and hasn't come up with enough "interesting" products since he left the company in 2006.

"Microsoft [Xbox] Kinect is the only thing I can think of and for a company that has 90,000 employees, to have only one product that you can point to that's innovative, that's pretty disappointing I think," Scoble said Wednesday in an interview with Australian news site The Age.

Basically, Scoble thinks Microsoft needs to release cutting-edge products like Google Glass and Apple's rumored "iWatch," which showcase innovation even in the absence of a clear business case. This, he says, would help Microsoft regain its former image as a technology leader.

[Related: As Microsoft Marches Into Cloud, Its Already Complex Licensing Gets Even More Baffling]

Scoble also told The Age that he doesn't believe Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer "really likes the future" because he thinks innovation goes hand-in-hand with making lots of money.

"[Google Glass] might never make a dollar but it's new, it's interesting [and] it causes conversations. If you're an innovator, you push the future ahead. You don't care whether it necessarily makes a dollar," Scoble told The Age.

Scoble, who's currently a "startup liaison" at Rackspace, was a strategist at Microsoft for more than three years, and was part of the team that launched its Channel 9 website, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Microsoft declined to comment on Scoble's remarks.

Microsoft spends north of $9 billion in R&D every year, and has been churning out all kinds of innovative technologies through its Microsoft Research arm.

But many of these are enterprise technologies, which make life easier for IT admins but haven't yet reached consumers in a meaningful way -- or so it would seem from Scoble's comments.

While Scoble's point is technically true, it's not something Microsoft needs to rush to change, one Microsoft partner told CRN. "His overall point is true -- but it's also kind of inconsequential," the source said. "Microsoft has never been 'cool,' but neither has Oracle or SAP, for that matter."

However, as Microsoft transforms itself into a devices and services company, it would certainly like for consumers to view it as a company with "cool" technology like Apple and Google.

In Ballmer's re-organization memo to employees last month, this sentiment was readily apparent.

"We are going to immerse people in deep entertainment experiences that let them have serious fun in ways so intense and delightful that they will blur the line between reality and fantasy," Ballmer said in the memo.


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