Pulling a High-Tech Deion Sanders Move

Toss out the bums, says eWEEK.com Wireless Center Editor Jim Louderback, and let me fix Microsoft's mobile and wireless problems.

If Deion Sanders can do it, I can, too!

If you dont follow football, you might not know what Prime-Time Deion—former star football player and now TV commentator on CBS The NFL Today—did last week: He publicly called out Dan Reeves, the coach of the hapless Atlanta Falcons football team.

"I could do a better job," claimed Sanders, and he offered his services to Falcons owner Arthur Blank as head coach. Hes serious, even though he has zero coaching experience.

So Deion thinks he can take over the worst team in the NFL and turn it into a winner. Hey, if he can do it, so can I. Lets see: I dont know a lick about football, but I sure do know technology—after all, Ive been configuring, installing and writing about it for the past 20 years.

Gosh darn it, Im ready to take over a patsy and turn it into a winner. Hmmm. Who could use a swift kick in the pants out in the mobile and wireless market? Oh, yeah ... Microsoft! Thats who.

Did you see the recent story about turmoil in the mobile group? Juha Christensen, VP in charge of mobile marketing just pulled a Deion-style move. He up and quit, to start-up a mobile Web-services company in the valley.

Its gotten so bad over there that Microsoft plans on pushing Christensens duties onto Peiter Knook—the head of the group—while it "looks" for a replacement.

Microsofts mobile initiatives remind me of Atlantas season so far. Its lost almost every game its been in:

1. Windows Powered SmartPhone: There are some very cool PDA/phone combos out there, including Samsungs i500, and the Treo 600. But while those companies sweep up with brawny offerings, the best Microsoft can do is trot out puny Sierra Wireless. A blow-out defeat.

2. Mira wireless displays: This was supposed to be the big story from last Comdex. A wireless display that you could disassociate from your PC and carry around. But you could only have one at a time, and the price was more than some notebooks. Defeat.

3. SPOT: This wireless technology was supposed to enable watches and other devices to receive mobile data through the air. But unless you prefer to wear a Dilbert-style uniform, these outsized geeky devices just wont cut it. Plus, the DirectBand game Plan Microsoft is using has been the ruin of many other promising teams in the past 20 years. Defeat.

4. Wi-Fi retail products: Although Microsoft rushed to an early lead late last year, its decision not to play early in the free-agent market—and deploy faster 802.11g products—caused it to slip to number five. Narrow defeat, but a rematch is coming up.

5. VZW with MSN service: In May 2002, Microsoft and Verizon Wireless launched a service that "ushers in the next generation of wireless data services and devices for consumers and enterprise customers." Or so Steve Ballmer alleged. Although the two companies claimed 300,000 customers shortly after launch, both Verizon Wireless and Microsoft have been silent about the service since—except for some forced migration of existing Re-Route customers to the VZW with MSN service Halloween 2002. The original press release claimed a "multi-million dollar joint marketing and branding campaign." Im a Verizon Wireless customer, yet Ive never heard of it. Another crushing defeat.

Hmmm. Id say thats an 0-and-5 record, with only the Xbox 802.11g bridge—which is a pretty decent product—that has even a chance of winning. Even worse, Ive heard rumors that the whole division—the smallest of Microsofts seven—is about to be disbanded. Microsofts other divisions will simply sweep in and absorb the detritus.

But before you do that, Steve and Bill, consider another option: me. I could fix this house of cards in just six months. I guarantee you Id have more victories than Knook and the other bumpkins youve got running your wireless projects over there. In fact, Ill even guarantee a winning season next year. I cant promise well win the Super Bowl, but Cisco, Nokia, Linksys and the others will be running scared.

Now I admit that, like Deion, I dont have any experience running large technology operations, although Ive been an industry player and pundit for years. But thats OK. Part of my charm—like Deions—is that Im an outsider with an insiders grasp of what needs to be done.

Also like Deion, Ive got a dream team of assistant coaches, ready to swoop in and help me right the ship. Im not naming names, but Ive already contacted some very smart wireless thinkers—all with significant experience in the area—who are ready to come in and help me fix what ails you.

So what do you say, Steve? Bill? Before you dismantle the franchise, give me a shot.

Oh, just one thing. Im not cheap, and I dont work for that scrap paper you call options. Like Deion, I want a guaranteed contract with cold, hard cash. Its the least you can do—uprooting me from this cushy job in the booth. I can fix this mess for you, but first you gotta show me the money.

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eWEEK.com Wireless Center Columnist Jim Louderback is editor in chief of Ziff Davis Internet.