back to article So whither Microsoft? If Nadella knows, he is keeping it well hidden

After Microsoft’s mega jobs bloodbath, we’re still not much wiser about what Microsoft will look like in five years' time. Steve Ballmer turned the focus from PCs to devices and services – manufacturing its own devices, and promoting its own services regardless of the platform. Satya Nadella was supposed to bring further clarity …

on slogans...

On the whole "devices and services" versus "mobile first, cloud first", I can see very little functional difference between the two. Devices == stuff you can (mostly) carry about, and services == things we can do for you (and we'll do them on our computers and send you the result over them thar Intarwebs).

With apologies to Babylon 5, I think they've had their last, best hope, and it's failed. Yes, they'll be around for a couple of decades to come, but as custodians of a fading empire rather than world be-striding colossi (colossuses?)

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Paris Hilton

Re: on slogans...

You are imagining things, the "Slogan" is quite ambiguous and can be used to mean anything.

It looks ambiguous, sound ambiguous, and quacks quite ambiguously.

Stop looking for meaning where there isn't any.

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Re: on slogans...

Well you say that, but look at Apple in the early to mid 90s. Struggling to make a profit, the long term future didn't look that good for the Fruity firm. Then they expanded, his holiness, the Jobs' role and that sure turned it round. But finding the right fit for MS, I think they need someone with a coherent strategic vision rather than, what seems to be, a CEO who's main talent is corporate doublespeak.

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Re: on slogans...

I think MS is repurposing its core synergised alignments to expand dynamically into new vertical, horizontal and diagonal opportunities as a world-class agile purveyor of flattened business bollocks.

It'll turn into an ad agency, with Nadella as Creative Director of Mobile Cloudy Vision.

Or possibly it will take an early international lead in walrus farming. Who knows?

Nadella doesn't seem interested in talking about products, so either is a reasonable guess.

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Holmes

Re: on slogans...

Yeah thumbs down because the message is so clear:

"We do know what we want, just do not know exactly how to get there, we know mobile and cloud (managed services) seems where the revenue growth is these days, so we say mobile and cloud like everybody investing any money in this market expect these days."

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Holmes

Re: on slogans...

Spot on my friend, spot on, you just missed some strategic flexibilities (who doesn't like those) but otherwise spot on.

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@Ashton Black

Microsoft isn't Apple, and never will be. Microsoft has never been at the forefront of a technology trend. They rode IBM and later Compaq and the other PC cloners coattails to make Windows dominant, acquired the software that would become Office, and ever since they've been trying to copy/take over markets others have created.

They succeeded copying Novell, failed copying AOL (remember Microsoft's walled garden version of MSN?) failed copying Google, failed (well maybe succeeded somewhat) copying the Playstation, failed copying the iPhone/iPad.

When they've been first, as with their multiple attempts to make Windows tablets dating back almost 20 years, they've utterly failed to make something anyone wants to buy. They have to wait for someone else to show them what the market wants, so they know what to build.

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Re: @Ashton Black

Well, they did come up with MS Bob on their own. We all know how that went - those of us that even remember.

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media aspirations

The XBox TV thing is still going on, they've just realised there's no point building a studio to deliver content they could farm out to people better able to deliver. Especially if that studio has failed to deliver much of anything and your only promised shows with any public traction (the Halo ones) are fully owned IP already.

MS need content to tax on their XBox portal, it's nice if they own it, possibly nice if they can recycle the production costs internally but in the big picture they're 100% reliant on other peoples content to make the service worth using. Right now that service is marginally useful to users in the US and completely pointless for the rest of us.

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MS, they rarely seem to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I have an xbox. I might get a lumia at some point but I'd never buy windows seperate from a new PC and most of the time I build my own to avoid it.

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Anonymous Coward

Clueless CEO alert. Just like HP he seems to be dithering.

Where is the big announcements of new products?

With dim Tim at Apple it's looking like Google will have very little competition. This is bad since the dominance of Microsoft on the desktop was never good and Google are dominating on mobile.

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Holmes

Microsoft can only win...

Microsoft can only win on a market by incompetence or abandonment of the rivals.

Only if the competition fails miserably or if the competition goes bankrupt can Microsoft ever get hold of a market.

And once they do get hold of a market they do not let anybody else make money on it thus starving any possible future competition.

Why is Microsoft not successful at Phones, well because there is plenty of competent people making phones.

Why can not MS dominate the server market? There is a competent contender there. (Linux)

Why did the XBOX get some market? Sony's incompetence with the PS3's price and development environments being too complex.

Why is exchange dominant on the enterprise? one of the least efficient email contraptions ever being devised by humans?: Because no one has produced a decent alternative in decades albeit it has been perfectly possible for years.

And so on.

Nadella and the board will not change the culture of a behemoth that doesn't know well how to compete unless they have the upper hand.

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Re: Microsoft can only win...

And presumably they do so well in cloudy stuff because Amazon and Google are incompetent.

OR (and this is an option) you're just wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Microsoft can only win...

And presumably they do so well in cloudy stuff because Amazon and Google are incompetent.

No, because Microsoft have a larger herd of developers.

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On the Surface not making money...

It is something that embodies the Microsoft vision for Windows, one platform three screens I believe. Microsoft needs to invest in the most exemplary of devices that fully embody this vision, if they don't, no one will. As was evidenced with the initial release of Surface RT based devices, there is a huge risk bringing these untested form factors to market, and the Asus, Acers and Lenovo's of this world just arent that interested in shouldering that risk

"Simply putting a crude, Tablet-like interface onto Windows"

This is obviously your bias writ large, given that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, why has Apple moved to the same design concepts initially implemented in Windows Phone? Surely they wouldn't be copying it if it was "crude"

"Without consumer services Microsoft would be smaller and more profitable, argue dissident shareholders – and, vitally, more focused."

In the gargantuan IT company game you don't get to play in one one sandpit, you have to play in all of them. Particularly with the consumerisation trend in IT, the employee is choosing the tools, platforms and devices that they want, not the Enterprise IT department. Look at how many iPad's are used in business with Apple having some sort allergy to enterprise...guess who is making the purchase decision. You can't isolate yourself as an Enterprise only vendor. IBM, Oracle, SAP, etc make money sure, but their profits are nowhere near that of companies that dominate the consumer space.

"Lumia today is simply more expensive than most Indian consumers can afford"

WinPho runs on lower specs than Android - Symbian is EOL, S40 is as good as selling a toaster, you cant attach services to it.

"Xbox doesn’t have an innovative TV studio" It doesnt need one, one can still watch House of cards on X-Box video, sure Netflix is giving the studio thing a go, its by no means a proven model.

"They’re already choosing $30 Androids over $90 Lumias, and will become much harder to woo back."

Again WinPho has lower requirements than Android. No reason it cant run on those same $30 phones.

"Are Microsoft devices a profit centre, or just a showcase? " It is something that embodies the Microsoft vision for Windows, one platform three screens, call it a showcase if you want.

"And the cuts have fallen hardest on the incoming Nokia devices unit." And so it should, they are getting rid of entire product lines, factories and management levels. Of course you are going to get massive culls after such a large acquisition, particularly when there are overlapping products & services

"In his first 60 days Nadella had picked up lots of kudos for decisions made by his predecessor."

Who's to say that Steve B was going to release Office for iPad? You do know that companies often port their products to different platforms in skunkworks but never release them? Solaris for Itanium & Windows for SPARC come to mind. Nadella has a proven track record of supporting non MS platforms from his time in Server and Tools, there is a reason why SCOM supports just about any platform you want (Solaris, AiX, Linux) and I remember how my draw dropped back when it was released.

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Nadella Won't Last 18 Months

My view is that Nadella will achieve nothing in his first 18 months. He'll either quit in frustration or be asked to go by the Board.

If you think 18 months is not enough time for him to turn MS around, then they really are fucked.

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Re: Nadella Won't Last 18 Months

I can'tbelieve that after all the soul-searcing, and a CEO hunt that was nightly headlines theyhave ended up with another clueless wall-street whore. Why the F buy nokia then throw half of it away? Ow does anyone know if they kept the right half?

It. Is all toodepressingly like HP - need a short-term cash boost? Sack 25%. Of the people who make a difference.

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Game over

keeping the hopelessly unprofitable hardware and devices is a surefire way to drive Microsoft even further into the ground.

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whither = wither

whenever anyone uses the term whither about a product / company / service, I know it is withering.

yes he is verbose, but at least there is the nub of a sensible strategy: stick to the knitting.

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Anonymous Coward

"yes he is verbose, but at least there is the nub of a sensible strategy: stick to the knitting."

That must have been "lost in translation" during my real-time translation to English

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David Moyes

Is it only me who sees the similarity between Nadella and David Moyes' promotion from a "smaller team" to Utd? Following big shoes is destined to fail...

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Only Office is left

...more or less uncontested.

The OS is rubbish on GP desktops..most people there have gone BYOD anyway.

The OS is rubbish as industrial strength server. Most people have gone Linux.

All MS have left is the special purpose workstation. And the de facto office suite.

The only change is either hardware minority share or a licensed model for Office.

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Re: Only Office is left

Hmm... not for long.

Office has peaked, and LibreOffice is quickly catching up with it.

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@chekri

There is a problem with shifting Windows Phones on very low cost hardware, and it's innate to the OS.

That problem is, WP makes it very difficult to pirate your apps. There are whole markets (especially the Indian subcontinent, China and some of South America) where better than half of the app "market" is filled by piracy.

That's the only reason why Android will continue to own those markets. It's not about Google Play, it's not about what's "better". It's about whether the phone is the only investment or whether it's an ongoing cost.

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Re: @chekri

The thing that made MS-DOS so popular was it was easy to steal.

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Re: @chekri

Couldn't agree more. Wish I could up vote your comment by 1K. Some level of acceptable pirating is the secret of success to any major platform.

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Story behind Seattle layoffs

OK, the story behind the Seattle layoffs is that Microsoft is ditching its testers. This sounds like a joke, but it isn't. They figured that since 30% of the bugs are found by developers, 30% by testers, and 30% by customers, they'd just ditch the majority of the testers and have the developers do more testing.

Unfortunately, this means that the customers will now be finding 60% of the bugs.

The testers who do remain will be "focused" on testing "scenarios" of customer usage. Unfortunately, the management has no clue what these scenarios might be. A couple of years ago I was in a team that decided to go with "scenarios," and we were given no information about how a customer might use the product. I honestly regard scenario testing as entirely futile.

Microsoft just might as well go with the full cost-cutting finale of, "fire the smartest people because the cost too much."

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Re: Story behind Seattle layoffs

Sounds stupid enough to be true.

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Re: Story behind Seattle layoffs

But also apparently is wholly invented.

[citation provided]

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the poorest version of Skype is the one Microsoft produces for its own Windows Phone.

Is this literally true?

The recent OS X version are vile and the BlackBerry version is very poor too.

If they aren't the worst then I pity and WinPho users having to use it.

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Re: the poorest version of Skype is the one Microsoft produces for its own Windows Phone.

I suspect it's in comparison with the other latest versions but seeing as they are all shite it's a dubious distinction, even as an insult.

On Mac OS I'm sticking with my pre-E-Bay version; I've removed from my droids and Windows and hardly use it nowadays. The last straw was when screensharing was removed - I can still do that with my version but unfortunately others can't.

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Re: the poorest version of Skype is the one Microsoft produces for its own Windows Phone.

I've used it on Windows 7, Windows 8, Mint, Ubuntu and Mac OSX. The version of Skype for Linux using an older interface version seemed the only one still working right. On the other OSs it's slow to start, loses it's login frequently now and sometimes just fails to start altogether. It was MUCH better before Microsoft's ownership. It seems everything Microsoft touches goes to heck.

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They are just disliked, because they are greedy

They breed an army of dumb MCSE / MCITP Xbox jerks that think they know I.T.. These idiots slag off VMware, Linux, Apple, Android and we just sit there laughing at them.

Change is mandatory and they don't get it. Stop trying to be a creator of everything to try and kill off all competitors. Embrace the competitors and be happy with the slice of the market.

Simple.............stop being greedy.

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N2

Re: They are just disliked, because they are greedy

Agree entirely,

Greed worked when they were the only player, but not any more & it will be their downfall

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This is heading into a larger version of the shafting they gave the Silverlight devs, that is MS are about to shaft everybody, this time including wall street

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Happy

Whither Microsoft or wither Microsoft?

Seems like the answer to the question "Whither Microsoft" is to wither Microsoft. Or is it whittle?

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Windows

Microsoft has major potential, if only...

I've written it dozens of times and I will probably continue to do so (maybe even more times) because quite frankly I really think that Microsoft does manage to create some very impressive software environments. Were they late to the party when looking at common aspects such as multi-user? Sure. Did they come in late when it comes to better security, separation of userland and kernelspace and rolling all of that into a user friendly manner?

For sure.

But looking at Windows 7 I also think its fair to say that eventually they did manage to do just that. And when looking further, the management components, I also think that their whole MMC (Microsoft Management Console) is plain out impressive when looking at all the stuff you can do there. From controlling your firewall to managing certificates (on a user, service or system level), and all of that can even be applied to remote computers or servers too. Before I discovered PowerShell I actually used an MMC module which I had set up myself which contacted all my in-house servers and allowed me to easily check up on their event logs. All from one program.

Even Windows 8 and Server 2012, which I personally despise due to the Metro interface, has made some significant progress on this field. Which, despite my personal opinion about these products, is impressive.

Office? LibreOffice is coming really close now where basic functionality is concerned, but having a whole programming environment at your disposal (VBA language & full IDE) which allows you to program on an "office level" (full access to the whole office suite, not merely the program you're working with. I can 'do' stuff in Excel or Outlook even if I'm basing my software on Word) is pretty darn impressive too.

Service management? Either you check 'm out using the GUI (which is, you might have guessed is, is powered by MMC) or use commandline tools such as sc ("service control"). Need to check if the service behind your shares is still up? Open a DOS prompt: "sc query lanmanserver" and wham.

And that's not even mentioning other interesting software such as Microsoft Expression Web (discontinued) and/or Visual Studio. Both of which can be used completely free of charge, even for commercial purposes.

If only they would put their money where their mouth is. They have a huge infrastructure (once again something I consider impressive) when it comes to the "Microsoft community" if you will (dunno of that's the official name). There are dozens of fora, many websites will conduct periodic surveys (it sometimes can even get annoying) and for most products they even maintain official means for the end users to respond to the software (for example by allowing them to send in suggestions).

Its all there. Not always as easy to find perhaps (but then again..) but still there.

So here comes the hard part: why doesn't Microsoft pay any attention to what the masses have to say? It has happened time and time again on a lot of different platforms. From Visual Studio 2012 (in which I also participated) to Windows 8 and Office related manners. Thousands of people who vented their opinion, and if you went through those (huge) threads it became pretty clear what the general opinion regarding a product was.

For the record: Even with something as the Office Ribbon it became quite clear that people were divided, that there wasn't a clear like or dislike. Heck, even though I dislike the environment with a passion I'll have to admit that the same applies to Skype. In general people like Skype, simple.

So what does Microsoft do with this major customer feedback? Absolutely nothing. At least that's the impression they give out. Sure; I wouldn't be surprised if there are people within Microsoft who are tasked with customer feedback and customer relations. But it doesn't get nearly as much attention as it should have. Worse yet; as soon as it becomes clear that the masses really do not like a specific feature or option (for example because it gets tens of thousands of votes and comments, in an area where a few hundred reactions is common) then Microsoft doesn't seem capable to adapt. In the many cases I've seen so far the initial "solution" was mostly driven by a single person who merely so happened to work for Microsoft and thus could also only do so much.

So a long story which basically boils down to: Microsoft needs to wise up and start realizing that they no longer live in a world where there's only Windows and Office. There is no more expectation of a large customer base simply because said customer base has no alternatives to begin with. Because they do.

Microsoft should realize that the massive popularity of tablets is something they could easily have created themselves. No, I'm not talking about the Windows tables or Metro, quite the contrary. I'm talking about a growing amount of people who got totally fed up with Windows (esp. during the Vista and Windows 8 days) and started looking for decent alternatives. Preferably something cheaper than Apple while still easy to use. Enter the tablet...

If people massively cry out for a start menu then give them a start menu. If you don't then I'm pretty sure that you can start preparing for the next major cutback.

If Microsoft doesn't wise up here, if they don't start becoming a competitor instead of a dictator-want-to-be then they are heading for a lot more trouble.

Something I personally really hope to see will never happen, but if they keep this up...

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Falling off a train......

MS used to be in the position of the train driver, but they lost focus and left the cab. Once you have fallen off the train you can run as hard as you like, but you can never catch up with it and get on again. Looks like MS really have fallen off this time, and over the next ten years the train will have disappeared over the horizon........

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LDS
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Surface "luxury consumer hardware"?

"sold at luxury consumer prices"? I see it as a luxury business hardware sold at business prices, as all the high-end laptops I saw and see around my enterprise. Sure, it's not the device you buy in bunches for your sales force, but it's in that price range of devices upper management and executives usually want and get bought for them. Sure, I can only get a Dell Latitude, while people above me get XPS(which are aimed both at the high-end consumer *and* business user) or high-end Sony Vaios

Luxury consumer devices could be iPads and high-end Android tablets, designed for the comsumer user and with some enterprise features bolted on later to try to make them appealing to sysadmin. Surfaces Pro come with the same Windows you will install on any other Windows PC or laptop, integrates perfectly with any Windows based IT system - unlike non-Windows devices - and with enough connectivity features (keyboard, mouse, USB, docking station) to work flawlessy in any business environment and running the same business software you need.

Sure, if you look at any tablet as a "consumer device" only then yes, the Surface Pro is a luxury item. If you look at it as one of the first real "business" tablet, it's not so pricey, especially it's a real workhorse able to run even demanding professional software.

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WTF is Lumia

Lumia? LOL never even heard of it before this article! I guess the MS PR staff needs refreshing.

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I got an account on outlook.com and I have now a windows 8.1 on mobile. My advice to the author is that he too should get an account and a mobile like I did to understand the slogan Mobile First, Cloud First. I see that this is going to change the game.

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Windows

BONG?

Is Nadella's new memo writer Steve Bong?

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