With all of the recent news, an interesting idea came up at dinner a couple of nights ago in conversation with Gordon Young, the editor of The Drum. As Microsoft makes its moves into the world of devices and services, what other acquisitions might make sense? What, for example, if they bought Ford?
The Nokia purchase makes sense at a number of levels, but breaking into a dominant duopoly is fraught with challenges. The motor industry, however, is much more fragmented – and an industry that (relatively speaking) has been as yet little disturbed by the waves of change that have impacted the world of media, finance and so on as a result of digital technology. Look at the user interface of a car today (particularly a low budget car), and you will see something that is remarkably unchanged from the devices we were driving around in forty or fifty years ago.
Moreover, the car is one of the most important devices in most people’s lives, yet they remain stoically unconnected. Microsoft software already powers the UI of a number of Ford models – why not go the whole hog? The cash reserves that Microsoft have could buy the blue oval brand outright on current valuations.
Sure, Google are there already with their self-driving experiments, but my hunch is that safety regulation will keep those off the roads in most cases for quite some time to come. Microsoft could steal a march on the market if it were able to innovate without taking the quantum leaps that the Mountain View boys seem to obsess about.
It’s nothing but a thought experiment – but a curious idea nonetheless…