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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: Judged by ratings...
By Tony Swash on 10/27/2010 6:02:40 PM , Rating: -1
Microsoft has never been a big player in the consumer market. The adoption of Windows was driven by the enterprise and corporate markets, which Microsoft targeted very successfully early on. Most consumers went with Windows because it was "compatible" and because the economies of scale resulting from the enterprise market drove down Wintel box prices. But the actual experience for most consumers working with Microsoft products was mostly bad and often hellish.

Microsoft has almost no experience of making profitable and popular integrated hardware and software consumer devices. Even when Microsoft manages to sell large numbers of consumer devices it fails to make much profit. It's early attempts with Xbox were poor and plagued with faults. Eventually a reasonably competent version of Xbox was produced but Microsoft has failed to achieve even remotely commensurate returns on its huge capital investemnt. The Zune has been a ridiculous flop. Windows Phone 7 may be a success but competing against the free Android platform it will not make the sort of profits that have underpinned Micorosoft's business model for so many years.

Does anyone believe that in five years time Micorsoft will still be selling millions of expensive Windows licences or costly Office packages?

The enterprise sector will be colonised by the successes in the consumer market and not the other way round.

Microsoft is a stranger in a strange land.

You can see the tired confusion in Steve Ballmer's eyes.

Microsoft is still roaring but nobody is listening


RE: Judged by ratings...
By acer905 on 10/27/2010 6:28:02 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. Strange feeling, but it's true...

Microsoft is going to become irrelevant in the future. Businesses aren't going to play the upgrade game just because MS wants to put out a new OS. This is especially true when the upgrade requires major hardware upgrades, and delivers limited productivity increases.

And, as consumers continue to show people, they want simple. They want pretty. They want the one with the Wifi's and the bigger GeeBee's. I doubt that i will abandon my desktop anytime in the near future, but many people will. Connected mobile devices, with a multitude of accessories (non-proprietary is best) for enhanced functionality (ie extra battery for long trips, Bluetooth keyboard for long text input, dock for monitor/desk usage) are where things appear to be heading.

Microsoft and Windows don't quite fit well into such a scenario.


RE: Judged by ratings...
By acer905 on 10/27/2010 7:53:27 PM , Rating: 2
For you Tony...

Just thinking about stuff... I can see a future product from Apple. They have been seemingly pushing the iPhone and iPad as the next best thing since sliced bread. iOS is getting fairly popular, and is getting features that make it productive (ie copy paste & multitasking). And, with the latest info on Lion, it seems like they are bringing the iOS experience to the desk.

Knowing their penchant for shiny, and seamless integration, it makes me wonder if their ultimate goal is to kill OSX (which would explain why they refuse to come up with, say OSXI, instead putting out 10.# versions) and completely replace it with iOS.

If this is their goal, I think i may have figured out a product for them. While tablets are fine as an on the go device, desk use is not their strong point. People really enjoy their large screens, and (for lengthy text input) physical keyboards. This is where my idea comes in.

Introducing the "iMac; Dock Edition". Imagine if you will a 24" widescreen monitor, with an integrated 1TB HDD, wireless mouse and keyboard, and iPad dock. When you are at home working on your term paper, just plug your iPad into the dock, and work as you have always worked. WHen you wish to leave, simply undock your iPad and take it as you go. But wait! there's more. Next to your iPad dock port is your iPhone dock port. Simply connect both devices to your "iMac; Dock Edition" and run apps from both, with all the power of both.

(to tell the truth... this actually sounds somewhat cool to me...)


RE: Judged by ratings...
By Tony Swash on 10/28/2010 5:51:10 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Introducing the "iMac; Dock Edition". Imagine if you will a 24" widescreen monitor, with an integrated 1TB HDD, wireless mouse and keyboard, and iPad dock. When you are at home working on your term paper, just plug your iPad into the dock, and work as you have always worked. WHen you wish to leave, simply undock your iPad and take it as you go. But wait! there's more. Next to your iPad dock port is your iPhone dock port. Simply connect both devices to your "iMac; Dock Edition" and run apps from both, with all the power of both.

(to tell the truth... this actually sounds somewhat cool to me...)


I agree.

Actually back in the early 1990s, before Jobs returned, Apple made a subnotebook called a Powerbook duo which could be inserted into a dock on a desktop mac so you could access a screen, keyboard/Mouse and bigger storage. I never had one but I thought it was very interesting as it combined low storage mobility with the power of a full desktop computer.

See here
http://lowendmac.com/misc/mr07/0904.html

Interestingly Apple have over recent years occasionally secured patents on a similar set up and such an arrangement with an iPad is an interesting possibility.


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