I was flying last week and struck up a conversation with a gentleman in the seat next to me. He runs a series of Martial-Arts schools in Virginia, and as we talked he asked me “What’s Microsoft got coming out that’s cool?” He was referring to all of the announcements and products from companies like Apple and the new Droid phone. I told him that we did release the Win7 phone to manufacturing and a new Halo game was coming, but then I asked him a question –
“When a new student comes in the door, what do you do?” he replied “I walk over and introduce myself, find out his or her name and ask them what level they are at.” I asked where he recorded all that and how, and he described a process involving a clipboard, paperwork, health waivers, and eventual entry into an older computer there in the location. At some point that turned into a QuickBooks entry to bill the student.
So then I said this: “Imagine that as your new student and her mom enter the door you walk over with an iPad or NetBook. You ask names, addresses, birthdate and health info. You invite the student to observe or take part in their first class. The moment you finish entering her information, the following happens:
· The student gets a welcome packet e-mailed to them with lots of information in it, along with references to your website.
· The student gets an offer to buy equipment from you, at a discount.
· The student’s parents get a schedule of classes and events.
· They both get an “invite your friend and get a discount” message.
· A birthday card reminder is set up for you.
· The student and parent both get a reminder to re-enroll early on a schedule.
· The billing information is set up automatically.”
His eyes got wide, he thought for a moment, and then he said, “that IS cool. You guys have that software?” I said “No – but we make a new thing called Windows Azure that lets someone who knows your business write that exact thing quickly, backed by our servers. That puts someone with talent to work, and it can work on any platform, from Mac to PC to smartphone. That’s the cloud.”
And that’s what Microsoft has that’s cool.