In 2014, Microsoft has a lot to be happy about
- It still has around 90% - a billion users – of the PC market, which is slowly declining in favour of mobile devices, especially tablets.
- Its Windows 8.x tablets, hybrids and Ultrabooks may be cannibalising its desktop sales but users are generally staying with Windows – especially business users.
- Its smartphone market is growing at rapid rate and it seems to be content to play for the long haul.
- It is one of only two horses in the games console race - its Xbox against Sony’s PlayStation.
- It is now the only company to offer developers the opportunity to write their apps to run across the whole ecosystem. Yes, it now has an ecosystem!
Not to speak ill of its past CEO Steve Ballmer – because many of these changes were initiated under his rule, but the new Microsoft - the new caring, sharing, gentler, Microsoft – could not have happened without a significant shake up at the top.
While these names may not mean a lot to ITWire readers, they are amongst some of the best thinkers and doers in the IT world and at Microsoft. Result - the new Microsoft is a leaner, more holistic company better able to regain the crown.
In a few short weeks new Chief Executive Office Satya Nadella has completely changed the company. The company has released Office for iPad, Windows is now free to smartphone tablet makers for devices with 9” screens or less, and there is a new version of Windows Phone that can compete with Android on price and features. And now he has announced new department heads.
Nadella is considerably different to Ballmer. He is considered, realistic, incredibly business savvy, and seems to have little of the Ballmer/Gates/Microsoft baggage despite his past with the company. Nadella says Microsoft is no longer the dominant force - it needs to act like a hungry start up again – and it is.
The appointment of Scott Guthrie as head of the cloud and enterprise group is a smart move. It’s a US$20 billion division that Nadella directed before he got the top job. Guthrie has been with Microsoft since 1997 and is somewhat of a nerd – in a good way. He knows that the tech needs to support the promises.
Stephen Elop joins Microsoft as head of its Devices Group. Elop is returning to Microsoft as part of the company's acquisition of Nokia's mobile business. Not all admire Elop for his ‘burning platform’ decision to adopt Windows Phone (over Android) for its premium Lumia handsets. In hindsight the gamble paid off – both in increasing its market share against strong odds, and in returning Nokia shareholders a profit on the Microsoft merger. Elop knows the smartphone game better than most and with Microsoft’s resources may just produce the innovation needed to regain second spot.
Phil Spencer was put in charge of combining the Xbox and Xbox Live development teams with the Microsoft Studios team. Officially he heads Microsoft Studios and oversees creative teams around the world developing games, entertainment and premium content experiences for Microsoft’s family of devices including Xbox One, Xbox 360, Kinect, Surface, Windows PC and mobile phones.
He is a 25-year Microsoft veteran, who has served as the chief of Microsoft Studios. Spencer is not afraid to admit Microsoft’s past mistakes, “The Company made some poor choices over the past 12 months.”
Xbox will renew its ‘gaming first ‘approach and he admitted that furore surrounding its ‘always on’ connectivity requirements, which were removed before release, the focus on live TV and controlling the living room, and Kinect-enabled commands, simply didn’t resonate as the company had hoped. Spencer’s background and his passion for gaming will ensure a new Xbox direction.
Nadella's memo follows.