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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 Reclaimer77 on 10/27/2010 8:39:49 PM , Rating: 2
To the end user, what's the difference?


RE: Judged by ratings...
By Shadowself on 10/28/2010 12:19:33 AM , Rating: 1
Huge difference.

To the average end user (and many, many corporate IT teams -- as what corporate IT decrees the end user must use) being told by Microsoft that the IE browser was an integral and non removable part of Windows made it the only browser they considered. If IE had been a stand alone app like Navigator or another browser, very likely people and organizations would have done comparisons and may not have chosen IE.


RE: Judged by ratings...
By zmatt on 10/28/2010 8:51:23 AM , Rating: 2
Actually Most IT departments are smart enough to make their own decisions about that. Speaking from an IT perspective, we use IE not because we choose to, but because a lot of the outdated and unstable specialty software that our users have will only work with IE 6. IT only has so much power. We can dictate what is on the machine until it pisses off the higher ups.


RE: Judged by ratings...
By Hieyeck on 10/28/2010 11:41:11 AM , Rating: 3
Not exactly true.

Until someone can build a browser that can be as locked down as IE via group policy, major corps will stick with IE.

Why lock down settings and choice? Remember, PEBKAC is the answer to most computer issues... Not that I'm complaining. It keeps me (and I suspect many other DT trolls employed).


RE: Judged by ratings...
By Reclaimer77 on 10/29/2010 6:50:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
To the average end user (and many, many corporate IT teams -- as what corporate IT decrees the end user must use) being told by Microsoft that the IE browser was an integral and non removable part of Windows made it the only browser they considered.


That makes no sense. First off show me where Microsoft "told" IT departments everywhere IE was the ONLY browser they could use.

Secondly, even if that was the case, think about it. So just because you think you can't uninstall a browser means you can't use another browser of your choosing? Huh? Explain to me how that makes sense. It's not like IE was 10 gigabytes and you couldn't just make another browser your default, delete the IE shortcuts, and go on your happy way as if IE didn't exist.

I haven't deleted IE from MY Windows, but I still use Firefox as my main browser and Chrome for other stuff. How is having IE on my machine adversely affecting my use of other browsers?

Your arguments are retarded. Seriously.


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