Monday, 31 January 2011
I bring this up because my eWeek colleague, Don Reisinger, just published an article titled, "Steve Ballmer's CES Performance Proves He Needs to Go." Among the reasons: Microsoft's failure to craft a sizable tablet response to the Apple iPad, Ballmer's supposedly misplaced faith in Windows Phone 7's market prospects and little progress in reversing Google's search-engine dominance.
The thing is, Don's mostly right about Ballmer's missteps. Despite earning massive revenues from its flagship software, including Windows and Office, Microsoft managed to miss the proverbial boat on tablets, search and smartphones. And given how those three categories are basically defining the tech industry in 2011, that's very nearly an unconscionable mistake.
Insult to injury, Microsoft's stock hasn't moved very much in recent years, even as its rivals' market value skyrocketed. That's partially the consequence of being a mature company (once you're a multibillion-dollar conglomerate, finding new avenues for explosive growth becomes that much more difficult), but it's also a reflection of the aforementioned failure to capitalize on new tech trends.
But does that mean it's time to give Ballmer the boot?
Ordinarily, I'd say "yes." Ordinarily, a stagnant stock price and failure to maintain market share in key product segments is more than enough justification to send a CEO to retirement on some tropical island. However, Ballmer seems to realize mistakes were made. More to the point, he seems intent on rectifying those errors.
Earlier this week, Ballmer announced that Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, would depart the company this summer. "While Windows and Office are household words, our Server and Tools Business has quietly and steadily grown to be the unquestioned leader in server computing," he wrote in a Jan. 10 e-mail to company employees. "We are now ready to build on our success and move forward into the era of cloud computing."
Ballmer had apparently talked with Muglia "about the overall business and what is needed to accelerate our growth" and came to the decision that "now is the time to put new leadership in place for STB."
As I mentioned in an earlier Microsoft Watch posting, I thought Ballmer's word choice and tactics in dismissing Muglia were unnecessarily brutal, considering his two decades of saddle time with Microsoft.
That being said, it seems like Ballmer has some sort of larger plan here, one that involves bringing STB more in-line with Microsoft's broader cloud strategy. His e-mail suggests that, at least in his estimation, Muglia wasn't suited for guiding that integration, and he eliminated him. That's what CEOs do. It's not a particularly warm-and-fuzzy job.
Mulgia was just the latest in Ballmer's top-to-bottom house cleaning. In October 2010, the company named three new presidents to key divisions within the company, replacing those departed in a series of executive shakeups throughout the year. Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie and Business Division President Stephen Elop both headed for the door--the latter to take over the CEO reins at Nokia, the former for reasons still officially unexplained. With regard to the executive suite, Microsoft looks very different than a year ago.
Microsoft is also spending hundreds of millions to get back into the smartphone game. Its Kinect hands-free controller continues to sell well, as does Windows 7 and Office. And while its cloud initiatives have yet to generate substantial revenue, Microsoft is clearly trying to position itself at the forefront of that segment, instead of taking its usual "fast follower" role. These are the seeds of potential innovation and profit.
I feel that Ballmer needs to stay in place, at least for the short term, to give those seeds a chance to grow. Switching CEOs is a disruptive event; suddenly, the boardrooms fill with executives pressing their own agendas and sharpening their knives with an eye on each other's backs. Ballmer's departure could wipe out whatever nascent momentum the company has managed to accumulate in areas like smartphones and cloud. For that reason alone (and maybe that reason alone), he should probably remain Microsoft's CEO.
But just as long as he develops something resembling a decent tablet PC strategy.
ZMP's City Simulator Experiment takes the driver out of the car, keeps the helmet just in case (video)
Both iOS and Android have Web browsers capable of HTML5. The BlackBerry browser supports some HTML5, and Nokia/Symbian should really have an HTML5-capable browser sometime in 2011. The advantages of developing an HTML5-powered mobile site are clear: not only is there at least 125 million users just waiting to enjoy interactive HTML5 content on their phones, but it would also mean that Facebook could spend its time creating a standards-compliant and cross-platform mobile website, rather than developing individual apps for each of the smartphone platforms.
Don't forget the developers, either: imagine writing an HTML5 app or game that works across every smartphone. It would bring a whole new level of immersion to FarmVille and CityVille players -- you could play it on the train, in the bathroom, or in bed!
LoveFilm, with extensive distribution rights in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, is usually referred to as the 'Netflix of Europe,' and this purchase is obviously intended to give Amazon a strong entry into the European DVD rental and online streaming market. Amazon is hoping that LoveFilm's entrenchment will be enough to beat out Netflix, which after conquering America must surely have its sights set on Europe.
This one just keeps getting better and better. First, photos were posted of Android 3.0 Honeycomb booting on the Nook Color, then the developer posted a video of Honeycomb booting, and now a new video has surfaced that shows Honeycomb in much more action on his, erm, "e-reader."
Since the first video, dev deeper-blue now has graphics acceleration "more or less working." While still an early build with laggy touchscreen response, he obviously has gotten a lot working in the mere four days since the SDK preview was released! [xda-developers]
Sponsored by Android Cases and Accessories
When Sony introduced the PlayStation Portable, it entered a portable console market with fierce, entrenched competition from the incumbent Nintendo, and the powerful widescreen handheld was outsold by the Nintendo DS and its later derivatives. Sony couldn't attain the market share it needed to steamroll existing competition.
With Sony's announcements this week, however, the PlayStation purveyors seem to have found a way to take their one-two punch on the road with a strategy that takes the PSP and segments its evolution.Permalink | | Email this | Comments
Sunday, 30 January 2011
The invitation has been handed out, with WP7 lead Brandon Watson offering to ship Hotz a device so that he can give it a go. Microsoft, of course, has said that it fully supports "official homebrew" development for WP7 and met recently with the Chevron WP7 team to discuss community and development-related issues.
The exploit used by Chevron WP7 is due to be patched in the January update for Windows Phone 7, so GeoHot will need to look elsewhere. Still, he's done it twice before, so we wouldn't be at all surprised if he can do it again.
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