Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blue-Oceans? Reactions from a Red-Ocean Guy

I received an email this morning from Fast Company magazine, which was entitled “Blue Ocean,” and which addressed the recent Microsoft acquisition of Tellme Networks. It was the “Blue Ocean” leader that got my attention: I don’t understand “Blue Oceans.” What I do understand, after reading the book of the same name, is that deep-down, at heart, I’m a “Red Ocean” type of guy.

Despite the rather amazing success of the “Blue Ocean” book, most of us spend our lives swimming in the redder version, and rightly so. The acquisition of Tellme and its automated speech-recognition software is apparently seen by some as a plunge into new [blue?] waters by Microsoft, but isn’t it really all about establishing “a beachhead in mobile search” for “mak[ing] a great new interface for consumer devices”? To me, this is not so much about starting an entirely new business, as it is opening a new front in an ongoing war; a strategic foray into [red?] market waters that Microsoft is already swimming in? Frankly, I understand this best by relying on good-old "red ocean" Porter's five forces, and seeing this as an appropriate strategic response to the pressures of the existing competitive terrain.

As for Blue Oceans: I hear the words; I read the book; but I am not convinced. In most cases that I see, really “blue oceans” are very rare, and often irrelevant. New efforts in familiar “red oceans” tend to occupy most of our careers. I would include Tellme in such biographies.

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