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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. :)
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.
dfollis
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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.
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 | 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.

 
StevenJ13
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StevenJ13,
User Rank: Strategist
12/28/2013 | 8:00:05 AM
Re: Lots of Lessons
"People are ONLY buying less PCs/Laptops because the OS and hardware improvements have extended longevity of their current hardware."

This.  I use to get new PC every year.  I have not bought one in over 2 years.  The last PC (laptop) I got still has more RAM then some of the servers I use.
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.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2013 | 12:03:00 PM
Re: Microsoft suffering from Apple envy?
I can't completely agree with that. Microsoft a consumer company? Seriously? No, they are a business oriented company, and that's what they have always done best. Their problem is that they think they need to also be a consumer company, but they have never shown any understanding of the consumer market. People bought Microsoft OS machines because that's what they used at work, could get free software from their employers (or otherwise), and knew how to use it (again, from work). Those days are over. The entertainment division has now lost an accumulated $12 billion, or more, since the first XBox went on sale, despite Microsoft's attempts to conceal those losses over the years with mergers with profitable divisions, and now, the licensing fees from Android. Bing has also lost billions. First, Windows Mobile failed, and now Win Phone is doing poorly. Even though a few small EU countries are finding some success with it, worldwide marketshare is still just around 3.5%, about what it is in its home market here. Microsoft is losing money on this too. It's questionable as to whether the acquiring of Nokia's phone division will work out. How many of those customers are buying Win Phone because it is a Nokia product, and they have loyalty to Nokia, and how many are buying them them purely because they are a Win Phone product? This is something we may not know for at least 18 months, when Microsoft loses the right to use the Nokia brand name. Unless, of course, sales drop before that. In fact, every area that could be said to cater to consumers has lost vast amounts of money, and continue to do so. Despite what some "analysts" say, Microsoft should rid themselves of this despoiled vision of being a consumer powerhouse, and concentrate on their successful areas in business. Yes, they will be a smaller company. But they will also be a much more focussed and therefor, profitable one.
samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Strategist
12/30/2013 | 2:58:27 AM
Re: Microsoft suffering from Apple envy?
I regard this as transformation period, i mean from computers to iPads, Apple is moving into the enterprise and it's due to employees who feel more productive using Apple products, but parallel to this MS still keeps good relevance in the enterprise market as i don't find people comforfable in typing meeting notes in their iPad.
virsingh211
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virsingh211,
User Rank: Strategist
12/30/2013 | 3:48:05 AM
Re: Microsoft suffering from Apple envy?
I don't want to compare Apple and MS, Apple is doing good in iPad and iPhone infact i agree transition is on the way which will continue iPad growth but MS is not only about phones and tablets they do have other wings as well. I agree they have been going through tough times but with the same they are also doing good in the cloud, I am eagerly waiting for Alan Mulally to take over at Microsoft.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2013 | 7:56:45 PM
did they learn?
Did MS learn from their mistakes? I don't think we know that answer yet. So far they have shown they don't pay attention to user input. Windows 8 and the Office ribbon are 2 examples of this. Fixing your mistakes isn't learning if you continue to make the same ones over and over.
The_NPP
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The_NPP,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/27/2013 | 10:54:06 PM
Linux, I am coming to ya!
Microsoft learn something but they are going to keep the same directions????  Doesn't sound like learning to me!

So what you're saying is I should go ahead and move all my PCs to Linux. I mean, I can't even nest my apps and I have 200 icons on my $*%&#*ing Start Screen where I have to scroll for about five minutes before I can see the ones to the far right.

Yeah, just what I need. If you need me I'll be living in Linux and happy while you people are lost in endless icons.

Maybe you guys never created folders on your desktop, but I did!  And I grouped my SHORTCUTS in various groups according to the tasks I had been assigned that day.

Maybe ... huh ... Maybe Microsoft doesn't understand I am not at work to "video chat" or "make movies" or "join a chat room". No. I'm using my PC to work on projects where I need 20 different apps on a rotating basis and not always the same apps all the time. So here I go again, scroll, scroll, scroll to the right typing to find the things I USED to be able to nest in folders.

Yeah. Moving to Linux. Want to come with me?

Ha ha ha ha! The guy in the next cubicle just came up with a song while trying to find his apps: "Scroll, scroll, scroll your apps, gently in the screen. Wearily, wearily, wearily, productivity is just a dream." (Sung to the tune of "Row Row Row Your Boat")

What MS SHOULD HAVE learned is to lead, not follow.  Produce for those who those who need to produce instead of producing for those who want rainbows and video chats with friends in different bars.  My assoicates and I need to produce and Windows 8 (like Office 7) is more about the pretty pictures.

... Hold on! New memo just came out! For those wishing to do so, we can reconvert back to Windows 7. Well, that takes care of the office but my two main home machines are going Linux. Good-bye Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Tell Vista I said "Hi".

cpmcgrath
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cpmcgrath,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/28/2013 | 8:26:45 AM
Re: Linux, I am coming to ya!
OR you could learn that you are no longer using windows 3.1, and instead of looking through a giant list, or wasting your time sorting shortcuts into folders, navigating through the heiracy trying to figure out which folder contains the shortcut you want, you could simply...

HIT THE START KEY ON YOUR KEYBOARD TYPE THE FIRST FEW LETTERS OF WHAT YOU'RE AFTER AND THEN PRESS ENTER.

Seriously, I'm so sick and tired of hearing about so called 'Power users' who switch to their mouse and scroll through a heap of information to find the one item they care about instead of just typing a few letters. This functionality has been in windows for the last 8 years. If you haven't embraced it, stop calling yourself a power user.
The_NPP
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The_NPP,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2013 | 6:43:52 PM
Re: Linux, I am coming to ya!
Well, let's see:  I have eight applications where the first six letters are the same.  huh.  I can either group shortcuts, click the group to open it and then click the specific app I want, OR I can click start, type 7 letters and hope I didn't type anything wrong.
Now, that was one group of apps.  We won't even mention the reports which begin with the same basic lead, sometimes of up to 15 letters, but the suffix was the thing that seperated them.  Huh.  Click folder then click specific report OR type fifteen letters.
Yeah, I can see what you mean.  Typing fifteen letters is WAY easier than clicking three of four times.
Tell you what:  You got back to video chatting with people in other bars and I'll continue to make sure your world keeps running.
Sheesh!  No wonder all the programming functions are going to India, et. al.  And all we'd have to do to bring them down to our level is force them into Windows 8.1.
As noted before, I need to be productive, not make videos of cats dancing.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2013 | 11:51:40 AM
Re: Linux, I am coming to ya!
For most people, moving to Linux is going from the frying pan to the fire. Linux is more complex, even though it works very hard to look and act like Windows. Most of the software is much worse, and confusing to use. Support is non existent. There are good reasons why there has never been more than a 1.5% marketshare in Linux desktops.
The_NPP
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The_NPP,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2013 | 6:52:16 PM
Re: Linux, I am coming to ya!
Oddly enough, I agree with you for the most part.  But, as I see it, a major contributing factor was also that Windows worked and did what was needed.  You could be productive with it.
More than anything this reminds me of when they took away the menus in Office 7.
My boss was all gung-ho about converting the entire office to cutting edge O7 but I convinced him to test it on his machine first.  Within two weeks he stormed into my office demanding I remove that $*%&# Office 7 because he couldn't get any work done.
Same with Windows 8.x.  Designed to look pretty and not to be fuctional for a person needing to be functional.
This also reminds me of chicklet keyboards.  Remember those?  Yeah, chicklet keyboard (I hope I'm getting the name right), IBM Jr., Vista, Windows 8.x, Office 7.  See the trend?  Made to "look nice" instead of realizing that people using keyboards need to work (for example).
Sidebar:  This is one of the reasons I chuckle when I see hackers in movies or on TV coding super fast.  What do they do it in?  A fancy Winodws IDE?  Nope.  Shift into TTY because they need to be productive FAST! And Windows 8.x ain't the way to do it.
In the movies and on TV, high productivity is implied by shufting into TTY.  What does that tell you?  Heh.
Chuckle!
Here's another funny for you:  When I need to intensive file interactions YES I still write batch files that run on the command prompt.  Why?  Because they run 200% to 500% faster and with better control.
Sadly, college grads are appearing without the CMD controls they need and while they wait for Windows to respond, my work is getting done and I'm out on the greens getting in a quick 9.
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Strategist
12/28/2013 | 11:25:39 AM
Microsoft's refusal to listen to customers was the downfall of Windows 8
I used to work a bit in IT back in the days of Novell. I'm not an "expert" by any means, I'm an aerospace engineer in my "real" job. Over the last year I've installed Classic Shell or Stardock's Start8 on at least 25 of my friends and business associates desktops or lap tops, and after showing some of them how to do it, they have in turn done the same for several of their friends. Why? Because they were FORCED to buy a machine with Windows 8 on it before the manufacturers finally wised up and started letting consumers choose Windows 7. (Heck, Dell now even touts that as a "feature" to try getting you to buy a desktop.)

No one except the Windows 8 guru kid at Staples seemed to much like Windows 8's Metro interface. It was a confusing jumble of different sized LARGE crayola colored icons that did not work intuitively. (While most consumers were just getting used to and comfortable with the beautiful Aero interface in Windows 7). And then, there was no Start button that consumers had become so used to using since the ancient days of Windows XP (which many consumers are STILL running). Note that a kid could have gone from 1st grade through high school and the only OS he has ever touched was XP. Wow, talk about having an OS ingrained into your consciousness!)

I actually had frenzied phone calls from friends who had turned their new PC on but could not for the life of them figure out how to turn the dang thing off. Jeez.

All Microsoft had to do was a bit of easy H1-B visa programming to bring back the Start button, add in an easy to find boot to desktop check box, and then lap top and desk top users would have been HAPPY with Windows 8. It has many advantages over Windows 7: a faster, more secure operating system that takes better advantage of new hardware.


But Microsoft was adamant about FORCING customers into dealing with their unwanted tablet interface, in their faces every boot up, even if it was just one extra click to the desk top.

All I know is Microsoft made a lot of money for Stardock in the first 6 months of the year.

If they want to make consumers happy, how about just adding back in the good old (real) START button with menu in 8.2 and be done with it, after licking their wounds. Metro will be there for the FEW that want to mess with it in a desktop setting or those who might eventually upgrade to a touch screen one day.

I believe the verdict is in. Consumers do NOT want an all encompassing OS that works on phones, tablets, lap tops, and desktops or at least don't want to be FORCED into learning an inferal tablet interface they have no intention of buying into with the purchase of a device running that OS.

As a final note, maybe consumers really only want TWO choices in most things. Maybe we are If, then, else type creatures. (Just try being a third party political candidate in this country.) For tablets, Android or iOS are two choices enough. How many people go into a 31 flavors ice cream joint, spend 20 minutes trying to figure out what they want and end up getting vanilla or strawberry?
AshleyJ483
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AshleyJ483,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/30/2013 | 8:36:30 AM
MSFT
Lesson microsoft should have learned: Dont loose you core competency by resturcturing yourself, dont go mobile if you dont have a strategy, dont work without a CEO

 

http://bit.ly/MSFTInfo
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