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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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RE: dying...
By Iaiken on 10/27/2010 3:45:17 PM , Rating: -1
1. Microsoft is already unquestional leader in cloud computing.

Not sure about that, even though we use virtual and clouded platforms that run windows, the underpinnings are all VMWare software. Additionally, most of the relevant research is being produced by the folks over at VMWare. MS is surely a big player, but they are far from the unquestionable leader, in fact, they still have a lot of work to do just to catch up to Google, let alone VMWare.

2. Isn't XBOX #1 seller in gaming for last 4 month?

A lot of that has to do with an absolutely banging release schedule (though there is no accounting for taste) in the last 4 months along with the release of the X-Box slim. Is that growth sustainable or will it simply relapse back to pre-halo:reach figures?

Do you think Kinect will make it any worse?

Seriously? Kinect? Have you even looked at the pathetic line-up of Wii-like clones? Almost every single game idea appearing in the Kinect lineup has been available on the Wii for what, 2 years? The other problem that both MS and Sony have in this regard is developer support. My bet is that Kinect and Move become gimmicky "wii too" products that are too expensive and too underutilized.

Especially when you factor in that for the price of 4 Kinect controllers I can buy a Wii, a few games AND 3 Wii Motion+ controllers. This will force a low adoption rate and that will cause developers to stay far away, it's a vicious cycle.

3. Windows Phone 7 will be here in a few days. Isn't that enough to keep those people from CNN to shut the mouth.

Used several finalized pre-production Win 7 phones at my work, it was decent, but they are over a year behind Apple and Google in this area and it shows. If they can get it's feature richness to the levels enjoyed by iOS4 and Android 2.2 and keep it's smooth and intuitive feel, they might have a chance. We'll just have to see.

4. Microsoft is going to release earnings report tomorrow. You already what is that going to be.

It will be... acceptable.

5. What problem do you have now? I know tablet PC. If you know any history about XBOX, netbook, cloud, your mouth should be closed already.

How do moderate successes justify abysmal failures like the idea that tablets should run Windows 7? Have you seen the Microsoft Surface? Why can't they make something with that sort of usability, but in tablet form? I've used the HP Windows 7 touch screen computers, it's horrible because you can tell it was just a ham-fisted attempt to get a system that was designed around mouse & keyboard to accept tactile desktop input. The's the very reason why XP tablets sucked so hard and disappeared so quickly.

The idea for the iPad came from MS almost 6 years ago, but XP tablet edition signed it's death warrant and instead of shelving the idea and revisiting the it later as the technology emerged to make it more practical, they dropped it from development almost entirely. Their Windows 7 tablet edition is almost a mirror image of that past failed attempt and I don't blame OEM's for being wary.

RE: dying...
By 306maxi on 10/27/2010 4:09:04 PM , Rating: 4
Especially when you factor in that for the price of 4 Kinect controllers I can buy a Wii, a few games AND 3 Wii Motion+ controllers. This will force a low adoption rate and that will cause developers to stay far away, it's a vicious cycle.

Congratulations for having no clue at all. With Kinect you don't buy controllers, YOU are the controller.

RE: dying...
By Iaiken on 10/27/10, Rating: 0
RE: dying...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/27/2010 5:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
Seems like you aren't holding Nintendo to the same standard that you apply to MS... Just saying. Something about your arguments seem a little biased. Okay, not just a little, but a lot.

But at the current price point, you could STILL buy a Wii with Motion+ and sports resort AND have access to a much larger library of games that use motion controls.

Larger library of games geared for kids 10 and up, sure. Personally I'm a bit on the fence about how big of a deal motion will be in the near future. But with the 360 at least you know you will not be bombarded with games made just for kids with cartoony crap graphics.

RE: dying...
By CptTripps on 10/27/2010 7:47:54 PM , Rating: 2
Clue or no clue, interest or no interest it's still misinformation. Kinect is supposed to be $150 to addon and that will allow two full body players or 4 top half players. That is cheaper than a Wii with just one controller.

Wii + 4 controllers = much more expensive and pure crap in terms of graphics and online connectivity. There are also very few games that appeal imo. Still, this will be around the same price point (wii console plus another 3 controllers +nunchuk) as the kinect bundle.

That being said, this first run of Kinect games does look like ass, the same kind of ass that I scoff at nintendo for. Perhaps it will sell ;)

Me, I will wait until I can perform hand signals or voice commands (no voice command on launch) in an FPS while leaning around corners using my body. The tech is there, they just need to use it right and people will flock.

RE: dying...
By acer905 on 10/27/2010 7:59:07 PM , Rating: 2
I've been back and forth on the idea of Kinect. I just don't see how the sort of motion capture it uses would really be that exciting in many games. However, if they combined the system with VR glasses/helmet, something to submerse you into the game instead of simply looking at the screen, then it would be interesting. Just need to make sure that you have a clear area for playing... Hate to see someone randomly fall over in game because they tripped on the couch!

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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