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Steve Ballmer is pained by his company's struggles, but his attempts to turn around his company's struggling units have seen little success thus far.   (Source: Reuters)

Microsoft Zune is one of the company's struggling products. Others include its search efforts, its mobile phone efforts, and its tablet efforts.  (Source: LIFE)
CNN Money says that the end may be near for Microsoft's attempts to appeal to the masses

Amid record profits Microsoft has serious cause for concern.  It is coming off the high of the fastest-selling operating system in its history -- Windows 7.  That OS sent its profits soaring and convinced some that Microsoft was no longer on the retreat.

But part of Windows 7's success was due to how poorly received Vista was.  With Windows 8 landing reportedly in 2012, the company may have significant difficulties in convincing the average consumer to upgrade to its latest and great OS.

Other than the Windows brand, Xbox and Microsoft Office are the company's other two major successes in the consumer sector.  But the Xbox trails Nintendo's “family friendly” Wii and the Office team is getting seriously nervous about growing consumer interest in OpenOffice.

On the other hand, Bing has failed to gain even 10 percent of the search market in most metrics, despite a massive ad push and a deal with Yahoo. Zune remains a tiny player in the MP3 market, having failed to become a true competitor in terms of sales to Apple's iPod line.  And Microsoft's smartphone empire, once a major player, is in rebuilding mode after the disastrous Kin and ill-received Windows Mobile 6.5.  It is placing its hopes on Windows Phone 7, but that phone enters a packed market.

Internet Explorer, Microsoft's browser, has long led the market, but has seen a steady decline in recent years, which may allow Firefox and Chrome to eventually reach its formerly insurmountable market share peak.  Microsoft's key hope here is a new product, Internet Explorer 9.  

So while it seems that 
CNN Money's recent headline, "Microsoft is a dying consumer brand", is a bit sensational, it is a claim that is grounded in some reality.  

One of the key points in the article is that aside from the struggles of many of Microsoft's consumer "expansion" business units, it is also bleeding executive talent, like many other struggling firms (HP, Yahoo, etc.).  States the report, "Microsoft's executive suite is in turmoil. CFO Chris Liddel, entertainment unit head Robbie Bach, device design leader J Allard and business division chief Stephen Elop have left within the past year. Ray Ozzie joined the exit parade last week."

The report praises Microsoft's recent efforts, but concludes in cautionary fashion, "Microsoft just has to hope [they're] not too late."

Much like the Romans or Greeks, Microsoft has built a mighty empire, a key part of which are expansions into new arenas -- in Microsoft's case phones, video game consoles, and internet services.  

But much like the Roman empire fell, Microsoft appears dangerously close to losing its expansions to hungrier parties.  But much like Rome, it will likely hold on to its central holdings (Windows, Internet Explorer, Xbox, and Microsoft Office) for some time, even if its other efforts fall into commercial purgatory.

The talent gap is absolutely a concern for Microsoft.  And equally concerning is the fact that the company is being led by Steve Ballmer.  Mr. Ballmer, while a brilliant tactician in some regards and a man with obviously enormous love for the company, has failed to execute a strategy to turn around the company's struggling units -- or one that works at least.  

To succeed, Microsoft may need to move on without Mr. Ballmer.  But who to pick to lead the world's largest software company, perhaps the most powerful technology company in the world?  The leading candidates have already left the company.  That means that, essentially, there's no easy answer to Microsoft's leadership issues and that the ongoing risk to the company is tremendous.

Is Microsoft's consumer brand "dying"?  Not yet, in our minds.  But it lacks the hunger that it once did.  And it most certainly sorely misses the leadership of its founder and chief visionary -- Bill Gates.

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Here we go again...
By XSpeedracerX on 10/27/2010 2:56:47 PM , Rating: 0
Here we go with ye olde 'microsoft is dying' story. This one goes hand in hand with ye-even-older 'PC gaming is dying' story, trotted out every so often when it's time to gimp some page views from folks who want to see this happen. (go on and google microsoft is dying and see for yourself, you'll get about 2 million hits) If record breaking perfomance is one of the grim reapers calling cards, then I suppose usain bolt should run himself to a doctor real soon, since it's clear that he's suffering from some sort of terminal illness.

Look. No one likes windows. Oh yes plenty of people say windows 7 is great, but this is always in reference to both the general shittyness of windows vista, and the fact that shitty or not, windows is your only portal to access the 99% windows only PC software market. It's so bad that macs can be booted to run windows and thats supposed to be their main competition!

But, and this is something people often struggle with, not liking something and that something going away real soon are not the same thing. They've captured 90% of the market, and they aren't letting it go. This means they aren't going anywhere. They are free to manipulate the market any bloody way they see fit, thus guaranteeing the success of windows 2012, 2014, 2016 so on and so on, even if they're ALL big slimey dinosaur turds. And please, don't start mentioning that mythical 'consumer uprising' bullshit because if they'll accept having to send away 5 poorly built xboxs while using an operating system that breaks compatability with all their previous software while eating up all the hardware resources like your fat cousin at the buffet table at a wedding reception, then they'll accept anything. And MS knows it.

RE: Here we go again...
By Wellsoul2 on 10/27/2010 3:34:51 PM , Rating: 1
Look. No one likes windows. Oh yes plenty of people say windows 7 is great, but this is always in reference to both the general shittyness of windows vista, and the fact that shitty or not, windows is your only portal to access the 99% windows only PC software market. It's so bad that macs can be booted to run windows and thats supposed to be their main competition!

I do like Windows 7 and I hated Vista totally.
Still Win7 is a great product on it's own and a big improvement on XP. They did finally get it right.
So what if Microsoft loses money on some consumer product,
It's unchallenged in the OS market.
Like Google they can afford to dabble in anything.
Microsoft also makes alot of game software and I see no report on that losing money.

RE: Here we go again...
By p05esto on 10/27/10, Rating: 0
RE: Here we go again...
By Makaveli on 10/28/2010 10:08:40 AM , Rating: 2
Vista faster than windows 7

oo really.....

I'm not a vista hater and used it with Service pack 2 and it was great. However after using windows 7 for almost a year it is better. Less of a memory hog, asjusting to the start menu took like 1 day and my SSD performs as it should with proper trim support. Boots and shuts down faster also also better thread management than vista aswell for those of us on i7's with HT.

I would love to see the benchmarks you claim that shows vista is faster.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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