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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: An image problem
By Pirks on 10/27/2010 4:50:18 PM , Rating: -1
Nah, new Windows will fail, these days it's all about closed systems. (original reader1 left us but he was right) MS should copy Apple's approach more actively. Create their own walled garden, lure consumers into it by combining best qualities of a walled garden (app store with safety checks, nice upscale hardware, nice retail or quick warranty service with North American phone support, not Indian and stuff like that) with best qualities of a large open system (huge software market, low hardware prices etc).

MS should attack Apple on the Apple's ground and try to expand their Xbox model much further. Make MS PCs, phones, tablets. Control everything. With control it's much easier to differentiate themselves against competition, this is what Jobs does so successfully, this is what makes their high priced hardware to sell so well.

Of course this is all pertains to the consumer market only. For the enterprise market the old model is perfect, no need to change anything.

RE: An image problem
By Boze on 10/27/2010 10:07:14 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry but I don't think you could possibly be more wrong.

Windows 7 revitalized the consumer image of the Windows operating system family. Even though I found Vista to be a very good and stable operating system, I was about one month from switching to a Linux variant when Microsoft offered Windows 7 RC1 for download. And I have never looked back. I've wanted to make a Hackintosh, but I've come to realize: What's the point? Windows 7 is a superior operating system that I can run on most any hardware available and works with almost every piece of software and hardware I'd ever want to use.

As far as your crack at Indian technical support, my girlfriend recently purchased a Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 6000 v3.0 - which sadly is plagued with problems, and I don't know if its just that keyboard and Windows 7, or that keyboard period, because I no longer have any XP or Vista machines to test on - which has had technical problems. I called in her stead (she's terribly non-technical) and the Indian gentleman that assisted me was wonderful. Not only did do everything he possibly could have to fix our problem, he shipped us a Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 (mouse and keyboard), brand new in a retail box. The entire turnaround time was 6 days. Now unfortunately, she still has problems with the keyboard (randomly stops functioning for some reason), but I feel confident that when I call back tomorrow, Microsoft is going to work diligently to fix my issue. Microsoft's warranty on their hardware products (minus XBox 360 I guess... I don't know personally) has been flawless, from my personal experience.

I think one of the biggest missteps was Microsoft not actively pursuing the Courier. Even if they were a year, or even two years, later down the road than iPad, Courier would have been a hit with corporate customers and professionals, and probably would have caught on with specific segments of the consumer population (high school / college students).

Microsoft could certainly turn their situation around, but they're going to need to stop internal bickering and more forward as a cohesive unit.

RE: An image problem
By Pirks on 10/28/2010 11:19:46 AM , Rating: 1
one of the biggest missteps was Microsoft not actively pursuing the Courier
Hence you agree with my point about necessity for MS to develop their own hardware and integrate it vertically Apple-style. Good.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

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