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12/26/2013
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Michael Endler
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Microsoft In 2013: 7 Lessons Learned

If a key to success is learning from your mistakes, Microsoft should be well positioned for 2014.
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Ballmer Had To Go
In some ways, Steve Ballmer might never get the credit he deserves. Though Microsoft's stock price hasn't moved much during his tenure, the CEO oversaw years of revenue growth that made the company what it is today. Nevertheless, he's also placed some terrible bets, such as infamously dismissing the potential of devices such as the iPhone and iPad.
Microsoft's board appears to believe in the One Microsoft vision, but both the CEO and his co-directors know that someone else needs to take the helm. Under his leadership, the company executed the rollout of Windows 8 and the Surface line with the nuance of a bull in a china shop. The company has corrected much of this in recent months with Windows 8.1, but some of the missteps, such as initially forcing Win 8 users to boot to the Modern UI, were foreseeably wrong-headed.
Ballmer represents an era of PC monopolies, stack-ranking employee evaluations, and siloed management. By his own admission, he realized the company needed new blood to lead it into an era of collaborative, multidevice, cross-platform workplaces. The Microsoft board reportedly accepted his decision without debate -- lesson learned.
Any additional lessons derived from Ballmer's departure will become clear in 2014, when the company will announce its next CEO. Will he or she be an insider? Someone with a technical background? Will the next CEO share Ballmer's desire to reach consumers?

In some ways, Steve Ballmer might never get the credit he deserves. Though Microsoft's stock price hasn't moved much during his tenure, the CEO oversaw years of revenue growth that made the company what it is today. Nevertheless, he's also placed some terrible bets, such as infamously dismissing the potential of devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

Microsoft's board appears to believe in the One Microsoft vision, but both the CEO and his co-directors know that someone else needs to take the helm. Under his leadership, the company executed the rollout of Windows 8 and the Surface line with the nuance of a bull in a china shop. The company has corrected much of this in recent months with Windows 8.1, but some of the missteps, such as initially forcing Win 8 users to boot to the Modern UI, were foreseeably wrong-headed.

Ballmer represents an era of PC monopolies, stack-ranking employee evaluations, and siloed management. By his own admission, he realized the company needed new blood to lead it into an era of collaborative, multidevice, cross-platform workplaces. The Microsoft board reportedly accepted his decision without debate -- lesson learned.

Any additional lessons derived from Ballmer's departure will become clear in 2014, when the company will announce its next CEO. Will he or she be an insider? Someone with a technical background? Will the next CEO share Ballmer's desire to reach consumers?

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J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
12/26/2013 | 10:42:15 AM
Win7 vs Win8 & Tablets vs PCs
I had no desire to move from Windows 7 to Windows 8 but a crashed laptop forced my hand.  Even without 8.1 I have managed to reach a coexistence/avoidance zone with Metro.  And I have been pleasantly surprised that for most things, Windows 8 works for me like a faster Windows 7.  I have not invested in a MS tablet, I have an Android-powered Nexus.  I love it  - but as an auxiliary device, as a consumption device.  I still don't see how anyone can live with the compromises of a tablet to do daily production work.  Maybe I'm old school (or just old), maybe it's the three large monitors on my laptop, maybe it's generational, who knows. :)
robzilla
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robzilla,
User Rank: Strategist
12/26/2013 | 12:35:09 PM
Surface 2 overpriced still!
Microsoft always seems to make mistakes that would ruin another company and then work them out.  Windows ME, Windows Vista, Windows 8 were failures then Win XP, Win 7 and now Win 8.1 seem to fix those huge blunders. Windows 7 is still the best desktop OS Redmond ever produced. Making the os lighter and touch friendly was long over due and done in a way that lacked any respect of its usrt base. The failure of Windows 8 was simply how it was done.  More steps between 7 and shoild have occured to allow z migration and forcing people to use tiles on a desktop was a disaster that alienated most users. Also the cost of ot its surface tablets was a joke. Considering MS was a huge underdog in this market they should have dumped these tabs near cost. $500-$600 and up for a tablet is just way too much. What if the Surface RT had a pricr of under $200 and pro started @$300? You would have had a huge adoption of the technology and complaints woild mot have been as wide spread then as successive versions come out ramp up the price and features and grow your app ecosystem.  Add value and charge for it but at first you need to take a loss or at least not expect to make a huge profit right from the start. I would like to buy a surface butvfor the cost I can get a nexus 7 that will do most of what the rt can for half the price. Microsoft needs to be aggressive at first to push adoption and then as with all their failures and successes once they have a large enough user base can push out updates to fix issues and make a great product. Have an hp fire sale and see what happens.  Microsoft can afford to make mistakes because of their user base and usually they come around.  
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
12/26/2013 | 12:56:02 PM
Re: Win7 vs Win8 & Tablets vs PCs
Try a Win 8.1 tablet with those three monitors and an external keyboard and mouse.  You might be surprised that the right tablet is not really a compromise when a few peripherals are added for the desktop experience.  I've been using a Dell Venue 8 Pro for the past several weeks and I'm very surprised how good the tablet side is. I'm equally amazed how well desktop apps work.  I already had a BT mouse and keyboard and I purchased a Miracast dongle for my HDMI TV.  Suddenly it's a great desktop too.

All this from a $229 device (Microcenter holiday price) that included Home/Student version of Office.  Although it's no match for the raw power of my core i-5, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD laptop, Intel has done a heckuva job with the Bay Trail Atom SOC. It's so good, it doesn't deserve the Atom namesake.  I can only imagine how capable a Haswell-based tablet is.  If the Venue 8 Pro had a Haswell, more RAM and USB 3.0, I'd get rid of my laptop as I'd have no use for it.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
12/26/2013 | 1:02:21 PM
Re: Surface 2 overpriced still!
I agree that Microsoft's prices could be sharper but the S2 Pro is not just a tablet.  It's a Ultrabook replacement that's every bit as capable, if not faster than most. Unfortunately it's a tablet too and folks look at that price and it makes them pause...especially when they want more RAM, storage, a keyboard and Office.
dfollis
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dfollis,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/26/2013 | 1:14:22 PM
Lots of Lessons
Things will improve when MS finally cries uncle and realizes that a mobile OS is not a desktop OS just as they learned that a desktop OS is not a mobile OS a few years back.  Apple knows this, Google knows this, and eventually Microsoft will realize this.  Here are some other lessons that Microsoft could learn:

1.  Give people a choice.  Keep a legacy UI as an option but also allow a new UI if that makes you feel innovative.  Honestly people only want three things from their UI.  They want it to be secure, stable, and fast.  Making it affordable would be a bonus and speed adoption.  Windows should not cost more than $50 and should not be version crippled.  No one else does that and that is why the other OSes are seeing increased adoption rates.

2. Stop forcing PowerShell upon admins.  If you want businesses to adopt new server versions then don't force them to learn PowerShell to enable critical features/functions.  A CLI is designed for systems that cannot support a GUI or to enable repetition/batch commands and script automation.  It is not efficient for turning things on and off in most cases.  For MOST users, figuring out the arcane command sequence takes way more time then checking a box.  I do realize that there are folks who live on the command line and more power to them, but they are the minority.  PowerShell is a great option to have but it should not be the only one.

3. Lower your license fees; not to mention stop making them so insanely complicated, and you will observe higher adoption rates, less piracy, and increased revenues.

4. People are ONLY buying less PCs/Laptops because the OS and hardware improvements have extended longevity of their current hardware.  How many people reading this have had a two or three year old computer and dropped an SSD in it?  That easily gives you another one to two years of usefulness due to the speed bump.  The average lifespan of a PC/Laptop has gone from 3 to 6 years.  I firmly believe that is the cause for at least 70% of the drop in sales.  Not because people only want tablets.  Tablets filled the gap but in the next two years you will see PC/Laptop sales increase as these older machines become unusable and start to fail.  You cannot comfortably operate Excel or Word (and many other business applications on a tablet!!!)  The other issue is Windows 8.  How many people have you heard say "I need a new laptop but I don't want Windows 8"?  Come out with Windows 8.2 and a start menu, with Metro as an optional screen that can be turned off and you will see sales surge.  I know it sounds silly to the "I love change", bleeding edge types, but that is the way most end users feel.

The solution isn't difficult it just requires some humility and willingness to listen to their customers, what they are actually saying, not what MS wants to hear.

 
dfollis
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50%
dfollis,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/26/2013 | 1:18:24 PM
Re: Win7 vs Win8 & Tablets vs PCs
No, you are like 90% of the market and MS would be wise to listen to these type of comments.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
12/26/2013 | 1:21:35 PM
It's important to learn the right lessons from one's mistakes
That doesn't always happen.  MS seemed to have learned the right lessons in the wake of the Vista debacle, but it now appears that Windows 7 was a strategic retreat rather than a course correction.


Time will tell if the next CEO will do better in that regard than the current one has.

 

RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
12/26/2013 | 2:15:40 PM
Re: It's important to learn the right lessons from one's mistakes
I totally agree with jries921. Microsoft seemed to have learned a great lesson from the Vista failure--it seemed to be back on the right track. Then Windows 8.
Chuck Marunde
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Chuck Marunde,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/26/2013 | 8:11:58 PM
MS yet to see mountain of dissatisfaction
Let's face it, 2013 was a disaster for Microsoft. Consumers rejected Windows 8 right out of the shoot, they rejected their tablet, they rejected their cell phone, and consumers are in the process of rejecting their efforts at competing with Amazon in the cloud and competing against Google on many levels. I don't own any Microsoft stock, but I would think about shorting it.
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
12/27/2013 | 2:13:27 PM
Microsoft suffering from Apple envy?
Microsoft is stronger in the cloud and the enterprise data center than people realize. But it is unprepared emotionally to become an IT company, as opposed to a consumer company. It wants to keep the old consumer mantle and Steve Ballmer suffers from nearly terminal Apple envy -- hence the insistence that Windows 8 be a touch screen graphical interface.
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