In a recent post I mentioned that years back I launched the world's first Tablet computing conference and at the time our fortunes were tied to Microsoft. Obviously the tablet PC market did not take off and now that the iPad has debuted and is already deemed to be successful by analysts, many are beginning to dissect the problems at Microsoft.
One very good article on the matter is from Mary Jo Foley at ZDnet who says the answer is for the company to continue focusing on small and isolated teams which launch new products isolated from the corporate parent. Ironically this is exactly what Microsoft did with ResponsePoint, the SMB PBX which was full-featured and a tremendous value. Somehow the company just didn't see sales ramp as fast as they would have liked and abandoned the project after a few years. I was really hoping this division would lead to the transformation of the whole company.
Then again, telephony is a funny business, there are a few small PBX players in the market whose CEOs I wouldn't trust to put gas in my car and the reason they have a job is because of a legacy reseller base in a bunch of small cities you never heard of. In these towns, the Interconnect (that is what telephony VARs used to be called if you are new to the biz) golfs with local small business owners and as a result gets the phone system buy.
But back to Microsoft, another good article comes from InfoWorld - this one argues that it is too bad that Microsoft hasn't been broken up.
Perhaps this is the right approach. From my perspective Microsoft is much too big for its own good and lawyers and politics have stolen the company's soul. Some past Microsoft execs say the problem has to do with Steve Ballmer who is not technical enough to run the company.
If Steve Jobs could clone himself and be the head of just about any company, he would improve it. But if Jobs was to run Microsoft, wouldn't you expect the company to see sales skyrocket? The brand name that Microsoft has - the product line, the distribution channel, the cash... There is just one item missing and it is big... A soul and passion for excellence above all else.
This is not to say that many of the products coming out of Redmond aren't the absolute best in the market. But there needs to be more cohesion and a grander vision and better execution.
A multitude of small spin-offs may be the answer or just the cleaning house of lawyers and political animals. BTW I hear there are lots of job openings in DC.
There should be no immediate concern for the company's profits as the existing OS and Office franchise can be milked for billions of dollars over the years. The fear should be the company continues to lose its best people and its products continue to deteriorate as Google, Apple, Oracle and others take share from every possible angle.
There is time to turn the ship around but sooner or later, one of the shots coming from the competition are going to disable the rudder.