Sorry Steve, it’s time for a new face
When big companies struggle it’s tempting to think a restructure will fix things. If nothing else it makes it look as if managers are in control.
Microsoft’s pending restructure is unlike to change much. The company is unfixable until CEO Steve Ballmer leaves.
The problem isn’t whether Ballmer can repair things. He may or may not. That’s irrelevant. So is the good – or bad – work he has done in the past. None of that matters.
Perception is everything. People outside of Microsoft see Ballmer as the problem not the answer.
Last year the company went through huge changes. A new Windows, new Office, a fabulous smartphone operating system and entry into the device business. Despite all the positives, Microsoft still looks like a has been.
The best way to change that would be to put a new face at the top of the company and let some fresh air sweep through the corridors.
Microsoft Restructuring Nears, As Execs Fret Over Their Fate – Kara Swisher – News – AllThingsD.
Office Web Apps – pretty darn good on an iPad
Last week Microsoft quietly released it Office 365 iPhone app in the wild.
The app lets users edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from Apple phones. It has limited functionality and users need a full Office 365 subscription – that’s NZ$165.
In effect this means users need to run Office on a PC as well as on their phone to get any value from the iPhone app.
Microsoft’s app is strictly iPhone only. You can’t run it on an iPad - (update: apparently you can run it on an iPad 3 or later, either at iPhone size or scaled up) . Microsoft says this is because the software company’s free web versions of Office apps is the way to go.
Some commentators dismiss this idea. Matt Burns at TechCrunch goes further. He says: If Office hits the iPad, even fewer people would buy a Surface.
Burns has a point about a full-fledged iPad Office app hurting Surface sales.
Microsoft’s nice, but expensive, tablet hasn’t been a widespread hit but it is popular with people who want or need desktop-class Office on a tablet.
I’ve been using Microsoft’s Word and Excel Web Apps on my iPad for the last nine months along with SkyDrive. Word Web App is not my first choice of iPad word processor – I prefer the $1.99 iA Writer – but it has everything I need.
Likewise I use the Excel Web App on my iPad. It’s perfect for my needs.
Admittedly my Office software requirements are minimal – I mainly use the tools to write news stories when I’m away from home. But I’d say Microsoft’s statement about the iPhone Office app is correct: if you want Office on an iPad the web apps are the way to go. And they have another advantage over a iTunes-store Office app, they are free.
It’s hard to see Intel’s battery-sipping Haswell processors as anything other than the final nail in Windows RT’s coffin.
Microsoft’s cut-down version of Windows for tablets with weedy processors was always a difficult value proposition. In hindsight it looks like no more than a holding strategy to keep Windows in the tablet game while hardware makers prepared their next generation devices.
RT’s one saving grace was that it allowed Windows tablets to work all day on a single charge. Intel’s new chips can do that and deliver enough power for a real tablet operating system.
Few hardware brands have stuck with RT. The devices haven’t been a sales hit despite competitive prices and preloaded Office applications.
Microsoft’s marketing of RT was missing in action, I don’t remember seeing any promotional material except while at product demonstrations arranged for journalists.
Windows RT may limp on, making it into smaller – that’s below 10 inch – tablets.
Typically an RT device is two-thirds the price of a tablet running the full version of Windows 8. Microsoft may sharpen its pencil to lower the price of RT on smaller tablets.
Even that may not be enough to save the tablet operating system. It’s now just a matter of time.
Owen Williams asks Why can’t Microsoft get products right on the first try? He is talking specifically about the problems with recent products which mean a big launch needs to be followed by a series of corrective fixes.
It’s a good question. I’ve followed Microsoft for the past 30 years and have some insight into this:
This is how Microsoft has always done things. That didn’t matter in the past when the company had an effective monopoly. Customers, business partners and the whole damn world had no choice but to stumble along behind Microsoft.
Believe it or not, Microsoft is now so much better at all of this. Remember how it took until version 3.1 for Windows to be usable? That took from 1985 until 1992.
That was fine when Microsoft’s competitors were dolts. Today it is up against sharp opposition who leave no leeway. Stumbling along towards getting products right no longer works.
Despite turning over US$75 billion a year and the thousands of employees, Microsoft is unable to focus. It’s a company that can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.
I put that down to poor top leadership which in turn means an out of touch old-fashioned structure where the various parts of the company compete with each other for resources and top management attention. This automatically ensures the various parts don’t join up.
Microsoft won’t go away – at least not in the short term – but it is sleepwalking toward irrelevance. The market won’t forgive many more stumbles.
The Economist charts 2013′s most powerful global brands and the biggest risers.
Technology firms dominate with Apple taking top slot. No surprise there.
Google is second. Likewise no surprise.
IBM is in third place just a tad behind Google – that’s curious.
AT&T is just an American thing, while China Mobile mainly matters in just one big country.
Which brings us to Microsoft. In seventh place it is still one of the world’s most valuable brands, but clearly behind Apple and Google. This roughly squares with the three companies’ performance in delivering technology to consumers and their relative positions in the mobile device market.
IBM is an outlier. It remains a powerful business-to-business brand, yet the company barely features in technology news reports and hardly touches everyday consumers. Moreover, IBM is a non-combatant in the mobile device game. Does this mean journalists like me and readers like you should take more notice of IBM?
Samsung features in the biggest risers table growing more than 50% in the past year. Even if it can keep up that pace – which is unlikely – it will be a years before it features as one of the most valuable brands. However, the company is moving onto the radar as a major technology player. Again, this reflects the company’s performance.
Windows RT sales are not in the pink
Windows 8 isn’t selling as fast as earlier Microsoft operating systems. Many customers who have the software dislike it so much they use add-ons to mask features. Windows Phone 8 is the fastest-growing smartphone OS, but has a tiny market share.
Both problems are solvable.
On the other hand Windows RT looks beyond saving.
IDC estimates Windows RT sold around a million units by the end of March. That’s after six months on the market. In comparison, Apple sells well over a million iPads every week.
RT suffers from being almost-a-desktop-OS in a non-desktop device. And there’s that clumsy business of needing to switch to desktop mode to handle certain tasks.
Windows 8, that’s the full version not RT, works great on more powerful tablets and touch screen PCs. If you must have Windows on a portable device, that’s the best way to go – even if it is expensive. HP’s Elitepad shows how this can work.
Although it has detractors, Windows Phone 8 is a fine smartphone OS.
Microsoft could have used Windows Phone 8 as its tablet OS. That’s what Apple did. The software running an iPad comes from the iPhone, not from the Macintosh.
It looks like the market has spoken and its response to RT is ‘no thanks’. This may change If reports of a 7-inch Windows tablet are correct and Microsoft delivers something compelling. Otherwise, RT is doomed.