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February 11, 2015

Should Microsoft Buy Radio Shack's Remaining Assets?

Note: While Sprint has taken ownership of half of Radio Shack’s stores, I think there is another larger play at work here.

The news hit me right between the eyes. The only company that claimed to be “…five miles away from just about everyone” went bankrupt. That means that everyone found a reason to stop going there.

What went wrong? How can a company that convenient not find its niche?

I think the reason is the niche moved, and the old contracts for cellular, which fed the need for location, were gone.

So what’s next?

Well, like the rest of cellular industry that has recognized the Internet of Things is the place to be right now, why can’t Radio Shack get there as well?

Its roots are with the hobbyists, and the maker’s movement is alive and well.

It has education in its history, and IoT has a lot of opportunity for a groundswell of educating people.

For those of us old enough to remember, we watched the personal computer change the world.  At its heart was Microsoft, both the OS and Basic. Microsoft brought the mainframe to the desktop (with the endorsement of IBM, of course) but it also brought the consumer and the hobbyists into the real world of development and delivery. 

To date, I can still buy a wider array of tools for my business that works on Windows than I can for a Mac. In fact, I have now taken to using Parallels on my Macs.

In the Apple world, on the other hand, I have a great array of “apps” and the ecosystem of that displays some great elegance and innovation. However, by and large they are closed systems that solve a problem for me.

The appropriate adage seems to be “Microsoft taught me to fish, Apple charged me for a charter.”

So now is the time for Microsoft to regain its roll. It took a serious misstep with Windows 8 trying to join the charter crowd.

To be fair, I enjoy Apple’s retail locations, and it’s pretty clever to call its repair area a “Genius Bar.”

However, the IoT is a cooperative experience, and a bar of geniuses would have to bring a community with it. Perhaps hosting Meet-ups and cooperating with Meet-ups and the Maker Movement would be a great turn-around strategy.

Now, after restructuring, Radio Shack can do this by themselves, and maybe 20 miles away is still pretty close.

As wireless has become the major part of our life, I think Radio Shack can be a beacon of alternative wireless strategies as well for each application.

Microsoft, however, is in need of better local support.  Go to your nearest electronics store and the odds are likely you will see a surface display, but candidly it might as well be a grocery aisle display.

Microsoft has diversified but not unified its solutions; it needs to gather the balkanized experience.

So I vote for Microsoft reaching out and breathing life back into Radio Shack.

I can think of other companies that should join this team, but I will save that for another day.


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