Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
12/13/2011
02:34 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
Commentary
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5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's to-do list for 2012 should include acquisitions, a strong tablet launch, and a move into services.

Microsoft remains the world's biggest software company, but it might not be for long unless it reestablishes itself, and its brands, as the products of choice for tech users in the consumer and enterprise markets. Once the unquestioned king of personal computing, Microsoft has become almost irrelevant in key markets like mobility and search, and even seemingly once unassailable franchises like Windows and Explorer are under threat.

Here are some moves the company must make next year if it hopes to regain some relevance.

1. Launch a tablet.

There may be no more pointed an indicator of what ails Microsoft than its fumbling when it comes to tech's hottest market--tablets. At the Consumer Electronics Show way back in January, 2010, CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a range of prototypes meant to assure the public that Windows would be a player in slates. But those efforts turned out to be so kludgy that even longtime ally HP ditched its plans for a Windows tablet and opted for webOS.

Two years later, Microsoft has yet to launch a legitimate entry. What's worse, there are indications that it could be another two years before a capable Windows tablet hits the mainstream.

By then, rivals like Apple and Google will have third-generation systems into the channel, and even peripheral players like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will have carved out solid niches. Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder believes that if Microsoft can't get a solid contender into the tablet market until 2013, it might be too late. "On tablets, Windows 8 is going to be very late to the party," said Gownder.

Microsoft needs to get a tablet out next year, not in 2013, or the race may be over.

2. Ship Windows 8.

On a similar note, Microsoft needs to get Windows 8 out the door next year. There can't be Windows 8 tablets without Windows 8, and the moribund PC market also could use the new OS in time for the 2012 holiday season. Consumers and even many business pros will only continue to purchase traditional desktops and laptops to the extent that they mirror the experience they have gotten used to on their smartphones and laptops, an experience that is all about touch and apps.

With its Metro interface, borrowed from Windows Phone, Windows 8 presents a more mobile look and feel, whether it's running on x86 or ARM chips. As Windows chief Steven Sinofsky noted at Microsoft's recent BUILD conference, many attendees who were given touch-based systems to play with continued to try to interact with their non-touch PCs by pressing the screen.

"People say touch is only for small devices or lightweight things. I promise you the minute you use a touch device with Windows 8, by the time you go back to your laptop or desktop you're going to be hitting that screen. You'll have fingerprints all over your monitor if it doesn't support touch," Sinofsky said.

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TreeInMyCube
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TreeInMyCube,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/5/2012 | 10:29:15 PM
re: 5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012
How does MS bolster its credibility to deliver the enterprise tech services that you suggest they start delivering? They've spent decades positioning themselves as a product-oriented company; it would be a corporate reinvention on the scale of IBM's, and that transformation took multiple years. Plus, IBM already had the building blocks of a consulting/services organization thru its DB2 and other enterprise SW products. MS doesn't currently sell consulting or services for Word/Excel/PPT ... maybe their initial product is SharePoint consulting?
Chris Spera
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Chris Spera,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2011 | 9:49:33 PM
re: 5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012
I may be alone in this, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say it - the best thing that Ballmer can do for Microsoft is resign.

He totally missed the boat with mobility and still doesn't get it even though he seems to be paying more attention. Tablets work because they are small, light weight, and easy to use. Windows - in its many forms - is NOT. MS has always been of a mind to put their full OS on a tablet and if they do it again, even with the MetroUI pulled out of Windows Phone and ported to Windows 8, they are going to wind up with a slate based TabletPC again, and its going to bomb just like it did the first time.

Windows 7 was a DEFINITE step in the right direction. It brought stability and compatibility from Vista and XP and gave users a reason to leave XP, a 10+ year old OS, behind; but Windows 8 with its current Metro and tablet PC styled focus, is not. It needs to be mobile complementary, yes... Mobile compatible yes, but the way its currently structured with Metro on top of the full OS, the device is going to be too big, too heavy and to hot for users to work with all day long.

Ballmer has stuggled since taking the helm at Microsoft, and the company hasn't been able to stay on track. It has been in a steady state of decline since he took over. Leadership...Leadership is responsible for this, and Ballmer is the current leader. The responsibility for that CLEARLY lies with him. He, and the resulting stock numbers over the past decade, have clearly demonstrated that is he not the right leader. Microsoft has had a long history of playing catch up, even under Gates; and it needs to be a strong, clear leader as pgreen017 states. They need to slim down, get back to their core competancies, and focus on those things they know they do right and do well.

MS is going to need a well established leader who inspires his/her team to perform well, perform consistently, and to address their user's needs, wants and desires. Regardless of what anyone says, that isn't Ballmer. He is not inspiring, charismatic or in any way dynamic. Its time the board acted and made an appropriate change to right the course of the company before it hits an iceberg and sinks.

But I'm just sayin'...
pgreen017
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pgreen017,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2011 | 6:44:25 PM
re: 5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012
All of this talk of cloud computing and phones and XBox is very nice but from where I stand, Microsoft still hasn't solved some of the most basic problems it faces. I've been a Microsoft shareholder since the first few months it went public, but I've been selling down my position over the years due to its lackluster financial performance. I think Microsoft needs to drastically slim down; it is doing many things badly; it needs to do a few things well. Microsoft needs to lose some partners so that it can focus its energies on building high-quality products with those partners that remain. The Windows OS is still way too unreliable, too complex, and too unfriendly. The lure of tablets is not just that they are small, portable, and touch-based. It is also that they have an intuitive interface that literally anyone can understand in a few minutes. And the iPad just works and works. My iPad Gen1 has locked up only once in the 17 months I've had it. I wish I could say that for my multiple Windows machines. Trying to be everything to everyone may have given Microsoft market dominance, but it has meant that everyone gets the same troubled experience. The other major challenge that they haven't solved is security. Why should we have to go out and buy (or even download, for free, from Microsoft's own web site) a security package? This is technology that should be integrated into the base operating system and should be largely invisible. Once Microsoft has their software cleaned-up so that the 30+ variety of downloadable executable files are no longer a problem, they can use their market dominance to put forth a robust, 2-factor authentication scheme for the masses, or biometrics, or bio-something-based authentication; whatever reliably works and is robust against all forms of attack. It is way past time to bid adieu to static passwords.
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/19/2011 | 8:54:04 PM
re: 5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012
That is more a function of printers, such as the ones from HP with WebOS. But HP managed Palm and WebOS down the toilet. Still, I agree that there is still a need then for drivers. But tablets are mainly intended to be mobile devices, so what good does printing to a stationary printer do? I could see a market for decent, lightweight mobile printers.
mrdata
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mrdata,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 5:50:42 PM
re: 5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012
Good article and right on the money. I dont usually make a comment because you have to sign in to do so. I do like places which allow for free input, without having to register everywhere to do so. The thing that really puzzles me is if I want to register, I need an email, but if I want to share it with a friend, I need a twitter or facebook account? Since when did having an email account become so unimportant as twitter or facebook? Who in their right mind dropped off "email to a friend" and decided to have just facebook and twitter as the only options to communicate information?
EVVJSK
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EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 8:47:51 PM
re: 5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012
One other thing Microsoft could do is get a good search engine (be it Bing or other) to do better knowledgebase searches within their own system. Searching the MS KB is still nearly as painful as it was 10 years ago. Google has made it better, but one would think Microsoft might have an actual inside track on doing it better.
EVVJSK
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EVVJSK,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 8:40:54 PM
re: 5 Moves Microsoft Must Make In 2012
Based on what I see with Android (can't speak with regard to iPad), I see a functionality void when it comes to tablet printing. Getting printing working from tablets to common PC type printers (so they can be used by both, but without the requirement of having a PC to generate printer images) is going to be of value. If Windows Tablets can do that, it may significantly help them get a foothold (not as much reliance on printing these days as there was 10 or 15 year ago, but I don't believe it is going away completely either).
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