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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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My faith in Microsoft
By kmmatney on 10/27/2010 3:17:35 PM , Rating: -1
Well - I've made my living the past 17 years programming for the Windows platform, but I have to admit that I don't have much confidence in the Microsoft brand anymore. I skipped Vista, and then upgraded to Windows 7 ultimate. After installing Win 7, I upgraded my hard drive, after which Microsoft told me I had an illegal version of Win 7. I had to call up Microsoft to sort this out, and now have to keep calling everytime I make a small hardware change. I received my version at a Microsoft conference, so it was free, but its still a pain to go through this - it is not an OEM version.

I was pretty mad after I bought Office 2007 for home, and then realized that you couldn't change the menu style to look like 2003 (which I still use at work). It seemed real arrogant of Microsoft to shove he new style down your throat, with no way to change it. My wife still complains about it, over a year after the "upgrade".

There answer to the iPod was to just release their own hardware with similar specs and at the same price. There was no compelling reason to buy a Zune over an iPod, and guess what - no one bought the Zune. Microsoft thought that their name alone was good enough.

There are a lot of things that continue to bug me about Windows. For example - why does it blue screen when you change motherboards from Intel to AMD? Or even when you stay within the same processor, but change the chipset? Howe hard would it be to detect that the storage drivers have changed, and just use a generic one sp you can start windows? Windows has had this problem forever, and it still exists in Win 7.

And they are still insisting on using Win 7 for tablet PCs...

I'm glad that I am able to make a good living working with Microsoft products, but they still piss me off all the time.




RE: My faith in Microsoft
By Akrovah on 10/27/2010 4:33:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
For example - why does it blue screen when you change motherboards from Intel to AMD? Or even when you stay within the same processor, but change the chipset? Howe hard would it be to detect that the storage drivers have changed, and just use a generic one sp you can start windows?


Chipset drivers maybe? For Windows to detect that the hardware has changed it must first load, at least partially, and to load it needs to use a driver. My guess is that by default it uses the last driver it was using when the machine shuts down. I realy don't see anythign wrong with this. How often are you changing your MoBo WITHOUT doing a re-install? That just doesn't make sense to me. Are OSx or Linux capable of doing this?


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By wsc on 10/27/2010 6:00:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
[is] Linux capable of doing this?

Yes, it is. At least unless you had chosen to install
kernel compiled for given cpu.
With most modern linux distros you can simply get
your hd and move it between machines.

You may try how it works in linux with any so called
"LiveCD" or "LiveStick" distro. I.e. any ubuntu image.
( http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/download )
It wont touch your hdd and will let you see how linux
is capable of sensing hardware at boot time.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By Akrovah on 10/27/2010 6:40:27 PM , Rating: 2
I have used a live CD and even attempted to install, but it did not recognize my fakeRAID setup. The only way I could find to get it to do so was a kernel update, that required an installed copy of Linux with HDD space to compile. Or something. That was a few years ago though. Just don't have enough interest in Linux to keep trying.

Thats pretty sweet about the HDD moving working between systems though. Not something I would be likely to make a lot of use of, but neat anyway.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By kmmatney on 11/1/2010 7:38:10 PM , Rating: 2
yes - it is the storage drivers - but there are default Microsoft drivers that work with just about everything. Why can't windows use those drivers, instead of blue screening? That would be more useful. I usually just uninstall any custom drivers before I swap out motherboard, but this isn't always possible if the old motherboard has problems.

I usually just go into a repair-install, but it would be far easier to be able to bypass the current storage drivers - at least to get into safe mode. Should be able to do this at the startup prompt when you hit F8.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By Smilin on 10/27/2010 5:02:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There are a lot of things that continue to bug me about Windows. For example - why does it blue screen when you change motherboards from Intel to AMD? Or even when you stay within the same processor, but change the chipset? Howe hard would it be to detect that the storage drivers have changed, and just use a generic one sp you can start windows? Windows has had this problem forever, and it still exists in Win 7.


Really? Look man if you're dumb life is going to be harder for you. You just need to face the facts.

As for your motherboard you're blaming the wrong company. Microsoft doesn't write Intel drivers. Intel writes intel drivers. Why Intel drivers don't work with an AMD product? Please tell me I don't have to explain that too.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By ninjaquick on 10/27/2010 5:04:28 PM , Rating: 2
You sound pretty arrogant, expecting a commodity provider to provide for your every whim... it is pathetic people like you that make windows lag behind because they can only change so much without people complaining about everything they do.

Seriously you are the cancer that forces Microsoft to not completely redesign Windows or anything they make for that matter.

You can't call the Zune a failure. The Zune HD out specs even the newest iPod, looks better and costs less while doing it. The problem is that Apple commands a price premium so they are expected to be premium products, Microsoft's mistake was to try to math that inflated price point.

And do you know anything about computers? at all? really? Try running OSX on a pc, but use say, a 9800XT from eons ago... does it run? no? didn't think so. You said it yourself, you are a programmer, make an OS, then, that can run on almost any hardware you throw at it. Tell me if $$$.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By R3T4rd on 10/28/2010 10:55:56 AM , Rating: 2
You do realize...he said is a programer.

12yrs as and System Admin. I work for a top 10 Fortune 500 Company, and all or most the programers that I meet, have no clue on hardware nor do they no much about building PC's. Sure, if you ask them what sub systems to call or compiling DLL's etc or if you want to do this or that from/for Windows, they'd know in a heartbeat.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By kmmatney on 11/1/2010 7:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
Although I'm a programmer (Microsoft Certified Professional) , have a Master's in Engineering from UCLA, and have been building PCs since the 286 days - I used to overclock by soldering in new crystal oscillators. So I know a lot about computer hardware. It doesn't mean I have to be happy about everything Microsoft does.

Just yesterday, I used my Win 7 computer to align a new SSD partition for another computer. This went OK - however when I removed the SSD from my system (it was connected on a spare SATA port) Windows told me my HW config had changed, and that I may have a counterfeit copy of windows. I got this from temporarily adding a new HD, and then removing it. WTF!


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By kmmatney on 11/1/2010 8:11:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not arrogant - and overall I like Windows 7 (most of it anyways). Although my copy of Win 7 informed me again (yesterday) that my OS might be counterfeit. All I did was connect an SSD to a spare SATA port, and then remove it later. That was enough for my OS to think I had installed the OS on another computer. I think this would piss anyone off who regularly swaps out hardware in their computer. But overall Windows 7 is pretty nice.

But just because they make a nice OS, keyboards, and mice, doesn't mean that everything they do is great. I still feel that not allowing people to opt out of the new ribbon menu in Office was a screw up. The new 16:9 screens are already small on vertical space, and the ribbon connector makes it worse. You can minimize it, and put custom buttons on the title bar, but its still not the same as having fully customizable toolbar. Everything new Microsoft puts out seems to be less customizable than previous versions.

And the Zune is a failure, by any commercial measure. I'm not saying it's a bad device, but Microsoft didn't give much incentive to buy one. When they first came out, I was hopeful that they would be a cheaper alternative to the iPod. Instead, they simply matched the capacity and price of Apple. Even worse, it took them forever to come out with a flash-based player. Most people who wanted a disk-less player already bought Nanos by then (including me). When they finally came out with solid-state players, they were still the same price as Apple.

If they made the new Mobile OS compatible with the Zune HD, that would be very cool. But they didn't do this either - leaving Zune HD users a bit disappointed to be left out.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By Danish1 on 10/27/2010 5:12:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There are a lot of things that continue to bug me about Windows. For example - why does it blue screen when you change motherboards from Intel to AMD? Or even when you stay within the same processor, but change the chipset? Howe hard would it be to detect that the storage drivers have changed, and just use a generic one sp you can start windows? Windows has had this problem forever, and it still exists in Win 7.


Not sure what you are doing but last time I upgraded my desktop it was from AMD to Intel when I was still running XP and I simply plugged the HD in the new system and XP booted up just fine.

Maybe you are changing bios mode from IDE to ACHI which will break windows but there are ways around that.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By kmmatney on 11/1/2010 7:20:17 PM , Rating: 2
yes, sometimes it works OK, and sometimes it doesn't. Buy why can't they just default to a Microsoft storage driver to at least let you in safe mode, and remove the Intel or AMD driver, or whatever it is that is making it imcompatible? I usually do a repair-install, but its still a pain.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By mfeller2 on 10/27/2010 6:52:22 PM , Rating: 2
Linux is not far enough along to be an alternative to Windows.
I am a Linux user for 15+ years, and have been "willing to work" to get it running as I expect on my PC. I had a PC catastrophe a few months ago, and had to start from scratch in terms of a Linux install. Tried a couple of versions of new distros (Ubuntu, CentOS), and ran into irritations with both. Wouldn't hibernate with the USB hub plugged in. Unplugged the hub, and when hibernating, the USB keyboard and mouse would be disabled on resume. Power moding for the CPU had an issue. User switching in the GUI had an issue. Simple stuff that just works in Windows (and worked with the older Linux install--seems like Linux is going backwards on the little things). I decided I was tired of futzing with the OS, and just wanted something to work, and went to Windows. It was the quickest path to getting a PC that behaved the way I wanted it. (And I ended up setting up a separate Linux box for file sharing and a few other services, but not used as a desktop PC).


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By Lerianis on 10/29/2010 4:27:27 AM , Rating: 2
All those reason are the EXACT reason why I keep telling people that Linux is NOT A GOOD OS FOR MOST PEOPLE!
It takes a techie to get the damned thing working correctly, and I'm a techie.... and I honestly STILL haven't been able to get Linux to work on my Gateway P-7811FX so that it can connect to the internet.


RE: My faith in Microsoft
By R3T4rd on 10/28/2010 11:19:01 AM , Rating: 1
LOL....


"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke














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