Steve Ballmer has said he plans to remain at Microsoft until roughly 2018. The question is whether he should wait that long. The company's performance under Ballmer's watch has been decidedly mixed since he assumed the CEO's slot from Bill Gates almost a decade ago.
Core franchises are hurting, few gains have been made in key, new markets, and in many respects the company has seemed adrift in recent years. Still, Ballmer has been a tireless champion of Microsoft and few executives spend as much time on the road as he does, meeting with major customers and talking up the company and its products at industry events and confabs. Ballmer is a tireless, passionate pitchman.
But if 2010 isn't the year for a change in Microsoft's corner office, the company's board must at least start to map out a transition plan and identify strong, young talent that can lead the company in the 21st century. It's a critical time, as Microsoft needs to adroitly navigate profound market changes, none more significant than the industry's shift to cloud computing. One individual to watch is senior VP Amitabh Srivastava, who was recently appointed to head a new server & cloud unit devoted to developing and marketing Microsoft's Azure cloud OS.
7. Launch A Game-Changer
Finally, Microsoft needs to release a new product in 2010 that will set the industry abuzz. The fact is, the last significant new launch from the company to garner a respectable level of attention, and demonstrate some staying power, was the Xbox. That was 10 years ago.
Microsoft must set the agenda again and steal some of Apple and Google's thunder by developing a game-changing product. Whether it's a phone, a tablet computer that really works, an e-reader, or something completely from left field, Microsoft needs a hit. Windows and Office are tired franchises, and the company must get the tech world talking about Microsoft again. Why let Steve Jobs have all the fun?
If Microsoft can accomplish even a few of these goals in 2010, it could put itself on the road to redemption. But if it stays on its current, middle-of-the-road course and rejects bold moves, next year will be another tough one in Redmond.
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