In an effort to grow ever closer to its customers, Microsoft has hired
numerous social scientists, including anthropologists, to help it understand
the natives, who in this case are the small-business owners who use its
The research is part of Microsoft's effort to produce its Office Small
Business Accounting software, although this approach to understanding
customers would seem applicable not only for other Microsoft products, but
also for just about every other company that sells a product.
Microsoft's idea behind going into the field to study customers is simple,
as Richard McGill Murphy writes in the article "Getting to Know You": the
better you understand how your customers work, the easier it becomes to
design products and services to meet their needs.
And the more you understand where the market is heading, the easier it is to
get there first.
Once upon a time, all Microsoft would have needed to do to understand the
small-business market would be to look inside its own offices in Redmond,
Wash. No more. Microsoft is now a company with $37 billion in annual sales
and 57,000 employees, and so the need to hire anthropologists.
Maybe Harrison Ford can play Mr. Gates in the movie.