Can Microsoft Culture Be Changed?

A piece on Forbes discusses the current state of Microsoft, and suggests a break-up as one way to fix the company. While I’m undecided on the breakup idea, the author made one comment early on as part of the argument in favour of a break up. This comment is one that I disagree with, and we have historical evidence the author is wrong.

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Ballmer To Step Aside?

News came out today that Steve Ballmer is set to retire with in the next 12 months. Apparently the search is now on for a successor. Is this good news for Microsoft? Is the fact they don’t have a successor in place alarming?

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Is Microsoft Re-org A Step Forward?

The past 24 hours have had some interesting news that impacts the PC world. First, there is a piece on All Things D about the decline of PC sales in the previous quarter. Then, we have a serious of pieces, again from All Things D, that outline the latest Microsoft re-organization, some thoughts on if there is an “heir apparent” to Ballmer. While the Microsoft org chart shuffling isn’t strictly about PC’s, it is clear (to me at least) that it is motivated by the impact that PC’s will have on the company, and how the shift to cloud and mobile computing is leaving them behind in some ways.

(Update: it appears that JLG at The Monday Note holds similar views to me on this)

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Do You Want Devs For Your Platform?

I saw an interesting piece on Microsoft trying to woo Apple iOS developers over to Windows Phone. This got me thinking about developer platforms, and how some companies have limited themselves by limiting their development tools. The idea that I’ve been mulling for a while: if you want developers to build for your device, make your tools available to them on the platform they use. What does this mean? If you want iOS developers, you need to make sure your development system is available on OS X. It also applies in other directions.

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Is The Surface A Head-fake?

Some of the folks at Acer are questioning whether Microsoft will really build the Surface tablet or not. They certainly aren’t happy with the idea of Microsoft becoming a hardware competitor. However, the Acer message is pretty muddled. Some are dissing the machine, saying it won’t gain traction. Others figure it’s a fake to goad OEM’s to build something better. But then, Acer isn’t noted for being the most “normal” of companies when it comes to making comments. But one idea is intriguing: could this just be a head-fake by Microsoft? I’m not sure that it is, but consider some of the evidence.

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An Even Bigger Question About The Surface

Here’s probably the biggest question I can ask about the Surface: will I get one? The answer: yes. Not a qualified “yes”. Not a “probably yes”. But a definite “yes”. But why?

In part because I’m a technology junkie. I would have bought an HP TouchPad during the firesale, had I been better organized (missed out by a couple of hours, dithering over whether I should or not). I’ve been tempted to get a Playbook, just to mess around with it, but I want the price to come down more first. I’ve done some work on Android, so I own a 7″ Galaxy Tab. I wouldn’t call what I have a collection, more of an “accumulation”. But I do have a weakness for electronics.

I also use a variety of technology in what I do. For the past couple of years, my primary platform has been a Mac, but I do use Windows for some tasks. I have a couple of Windows machines at home that my kids use. I also use Linux from time to time, and used it a lot (including as my primary computing, coding and productivity platform) in a previous venture. The reality is that, if you are going to do things in my primary industry (financial markets technology), you have to support Windows, which means you need to stay familiar with it. Besides, Windows is perfectly adequate platform for day-to-day computing. I’m looking at a new venture, and Windows is on the list of office technologies we are considering. A lot of people I expect to hire are already familiar with it, and the people I will need to maintain the IT environment already know it. Choosing Windows removes a number of barriers that can slow a start-up down.

So yes, I will get a Surface. I still haven’t decided which one (the ARM-based one or the Intel version), but I have time to decide. Depending on the budget, I may very well get one of each. I guess the one advantage of such a long lead time between announcement and ship is that I have time to decide which I want.

Surface Pre-Announcement Was A Mistake

I believe that Microsoft’s announcement of the Surface months in advance of availability was a mistake. Worse, we don’t know exactly when it will go on sale. All Microsoft has said is that it will be available “3 months after Windows 8 is released”. That could put the Surface being in stores sometime in December, or about 6 months from now. A lot can happen in 6 months. The timing probably won’t be fatal, but it doesn’t help their cause any. And it demonstrates that Microsoft is out of touch with marketing in today’s technology world.

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