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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: My faith in Microsoft
By Akrovah on 10/27/2010 4:33:08 PM , Rating: 2
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
[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.
( )
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.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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