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Microsoft is facing an important next phase in its long and (sometimes) illustrious history. The past decade has seen the Redmond-based company struggle to maintain its once vice-like grip on computers. Apple has gained in both power and influence, and the move away from home computers to mobile devices has tempered Microsoft’s influence on the industry.
Now, Microsoft is attempting to change from the inside out, with a new company structure and strategy as outlined in a memo from Steve Ballmer to the employees in July. Not that Ballmer will be there to see the transformation occur, as he has decided (with a little encouragement) to retire as CEO of the company.
With all of this going on we decided to seek out your views on Microsoft and your suggestions regarding the future direction of the company.
We asked you, Where Should Microsoft Go From Here? We had a good number of responses, and most were lengthy comments from people who clearly know what they are talking about and have passion for the subject matter. Microsoft and passion aren’t words that usually appear in the same sentence together, but the combination works well on this occasion.
We had some good suggestions for what Microsoft should do to get back on track. These include integrating the Windows experience across all of the various platforms, create amazing hardware on which to sell the software, listen to consumers rather than try to insist they know better, and create two versions of Windows 9 (one for desktops, one for mobile devices).
Specifically on the issue of Ballmer retiring and being replaced by an as-yet-unnamed new CEO, one commenter suggested Microsoft hire someone who actively hates the company and its way of working. This may seem a snarky and rather odd suggestion, but it actually has some merit.
Hiring someone from within could result in another Ballmer being put in charge, and nothing changing as a result. But bring someone in who hasn’t previously been exposed to the company culture and things could change for the better. It would certainly be a gamble, but gambles often pay off in business.
Comment Of The Week
We had great input from the likes of TomHatesMS, dragonmouth, and our own Tim Brookes, to name just a few. Comment Of The Week goes to likefunbutnot, who, as well as the respect of myself and hopefully everybody reading this, receives a T-shirt for this comment:
Microsoft is going to wind up as a services company. Everyone is going to write large checks to MS and software will continue to be delivered, but I suspect that it’s going to move in the same direction IBM did in the 1990s, toward doing more paid consulting, implementation and management work. Big customers already see that, but I’m guessing they’ll figure out a way to scale down or automate to the point that their service offerings work down to small business operations: “Let us be your single point of contact for mobile device management, software as a service and cloud computing operations.” is a sales pitch I see working very well in the coming years.
I’d be willing to bet that some of the consumer tech stuff it’s doing now will wind up divested from what is currently Microsoft. There’s money to be made in the living room, especially for a company that has closer ties to media outlets than Google, but I think that managing aspect of the business that diverts more resources from the Corporate Computing that is Microsoft’s bread and butter. There’s a profitable business there, but since we’re in the process of evolving special purpose content consumption hardware, there’s going to be less reason to overlap than might have been the cast five years ago. I’m not sure where Microsoft-the-advertising-company fits in but I suspect that it’s closer to the consumer tech side of things. I think a lot of things that Microsoft does as far as data-gathering are or will ultimately be justified in the name of obtaining datamine-able personal information that can be used for marketing services.
Microsoft is also going to continue to buy other companies. I think it’s going to wind up owning Nokia and probably also the important parts of Blackberry before too long. Microsoft-as-holding-company is another possible future, albeit probably the least interesting path going forward.
This was a well thought-out comment that made valid predictions as to how Microsoft will evolve in the not-too-distant future. The same commenter also took part in the discussion as a whole, replying to other people’s comments. This made them the MVP for this particular We Ask You debate.
We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to the MakeUseOf readership. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.
Image Credit: ToddABishop