Ballmer – Forced Out or Retired?

There are a number of credible rumors running round the internets on Steve Ballmer’s announced retirement.

ballmer

Steve Ballmer announced that he was retiring as Microsoft’s CEO last week. This is surprising and not so surprising at the same time.  As soon as the announcement hit, though, many people started speculating on what had happened.  Ballmer had mentioned retirement before, but not until 2018 or so.

There are two credible rumors that caused Ballmer’s ouster that I want to concentrate on with this column. Both are related, but in many ways have their own lives – the $900M Surface RT write down and Ballmer losing Bill’s support. I’m going to hit these briefly, because, quite honestly, there’s a great deal to ramble on about here…

$900M Surface RT Write-Off
The write off is old news; but very likely the cause that brought Ballmer down. I don’t care who you are, or what company you work for. If you’re the captain of the ship and get hit by that photon torpedo, either you or the ship is going down (or both, depending on the company). Thankfully, Microsoft can weather the storm, but it’s clear, they’re going to get a new captain.

Please remember that the RT hardware isn’t bad. I think both Surface tablets are decent, but it’s the tablet/desktop convergence that is the problem. It has confused and confounded users from the beginning. Microsoft is having issues shedding its traditional computing model, and that contributed to the write off and Ballmer’s downfall,

I’m not surprised, though. Ballmer has NEVER understood mobile computing. It’s the major reason why they continued to come behind RIMM (now Blackberry) back in the early to mid PocketPC/Windows Mobile days, and why Windows Phone, while considered by many to be a superior mobile platform, doesn’t have any real market share to speak of.

Interestingly enough, I wrote to Steve Ballmer 13 years ago and offered my services to him and Microsoft.  I got a letter back from his office saying, “thanks but Steve’s got this.” I am in no way saying I could have prevented this from happening, but either Ballmer wouldn’t listen to mobile strategists or they were afraid to stand up to him and tell him he was wrong. It’s too bad; and hopefully the new Microsoft and now new CEO will change the culture.

I’ve been calling for Ballmer’s ouster for years. It’s too bad it took a $1.0B finance hit to make it happen.

Ballmer Lost Bill’s Support
The other big rumor going around is that Steve lost Bill’s support at the Board level. Up to now, Steve’s had it. Bill – though not part of the day-to-day at Microsoft any longer – handpicked Ballmer to succeed him and has supported him throughout his tenure as CEO – until now.

It’s sad that it took nearly $1B US reasons for Bill to withdraw his support, but I honestly think it’s overdue.  As I mentioned, Ballmer has never understood Mobility or Mobile Computing. If he did, it’s clear that Windows Phone would have had a different product development path. Windows CE/Windows Mobile wouldn’t have hung around so long, and received such lack-luster internal support. Changes to Microsoft’s standard, PC platform would have come earlier than as part of Windows 8; and most certainly, Windows XP would have had a much different life cycle than it did.

Now, there’s a lot in that last paragraph that doesn’t necessarily deal directly with mobile computing, but a different mobile strategy would have effected a LOT more than just mobile OS and mobile devices at Microsoft.

At the End of the Day
I hope the new Microsoft CEO comes from outside the organization and brings a new point of view and mobile computing outlook to the organization. I hope that they understand what the consumer wants, what the enterprise will accept and isn’t afraid to put both chocolate and peanut butter together. While mobility isn’t ALL about CoIT at this time, it’s too much of a consideration not to have someone at the helm that doesn’t understand it.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this Microsoft development in the comments, below.

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Windows 8.1 RTM’s

…and NO ONE will see the final code until GA in October 2013.

 

Microsoft confirmed today that it has released Windows 8.1 to manufacturing. This important milestone indicates that development and testing have completed and the final version is ready to burn to physical discs or ISO images to be distributed to OEM partners as well as MSDN and TechNet subscribers. However, it’s also been confirmed that MS will not make the bits physically accessible to anyone other than hardware partners, like Dell, HP and others, until 2013-10-18.

windows8-1

According to my buddy, Ed Bott, the reason(s) for the delay are pretty simple

 

  • Hardware makers need time to tweak and refine drivers so they work out of the box
  • Microsoft needs to refine its Mail, People and Calendar apps
  • Third party developers – like Facebook – need time to finish their Windows 8.x apps
  • Microsoft will also fix bugs via Windows Update, and lock it down

 

Barring any weird issues that prevent the 2013-10-18 GA release (General Availability) from occurring, the pubic accessibility of Windows 8.1 on that date will be about 1 year after the GA release of Windows 8. This also fulfills Microsoft’s promise for rapid updates of their OS: 1 year instead of 3-4. It looks like the day of the Service Pack is gone. It’s also in line with what Apple has been doing for the past few years with OS X – a major release a year.

 

Microsoft hasn’t said when MSDN and TechNet subscribers will get access to the final version of the new OS. However, based on Microsoft’s apparent desire to keep this under wraps until the GA release in October 2013, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if MSDN and TechNet subscribers didn’t get the software until the end of September, or the beginning of October.

 

I will have more information as it becomes available, as well as a full delta review here on Soft32 (the differences between the Consumer Preview and the GA release) once I get access to the software.

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Why Hasn’t Google Mopped the Floor with Apple?

The mobile space is very competitive; but how why hasn’t Google killed it? Let’s explore that a bit…

aaaIntroduction

Every now and again, even the best of us get hit with a moment of clarity. You know, that moment right after you lay your head down to sleep, you find it…you see it, and it hits you.

BAM!

THE reason, despite ALL others why Google, in spite of their huge vendor penetration and installation base, hasn’t totally mopped the floor with Apple and sent the iPhone packing…and it call comes down to one word –

Ecosystem. Or is it Fragmentation…? In many ways the two are so irreparably intertwined, it’s depressing. However, anyway you slice it, its totally Google’s fault.

Fragmentation

A couple years ago, I wrote an article titled, Opinion – How Google can Trump the iPad. Back in 2010, no one had ever said, heard or understood what an ecosystem was. I was kinda close, but didn’t quite close the loop.

I got about 98% of the way there. Yes, the ecosystem is all about your content on your device; but its more about capturing the consumer and keeping them and their business regardless of what device they’re using. They keep coming back to YOU as the source of truth.

They use your productivity services. They use your applications. More importantly, they purchase those services and applications from sources YOU control, continually providing you with a revenue stream.

Is this starting to sound familiar? Good. Hold that thought… I want to clear something up first.

This is NOT an article about how totally eff-ing awesome Apple is. This is really an article that asks, “how the hell could Google miss the damn boat?!”

Google is partners with Samsung, LG, HTC, and bought Motorola so they could create and sell Android devices of their own. There are more worn out Android devices in land fills now-a-days than there are iPhones in active use, yet iOS and Android are virtually even in market share.

Android Takeover

Can ANYONE tell me why that is?

If you go the fragmentation route, you find that there are so many different versions of Google’s mobile OS out there that it kinda gives you a headache. As of 2013-08-01, you can see the spread of Android versions currently in use. I’m not certain what’s most frightening, the fact that Honeycomb was a total loser, or that Android 2.1 Eclaire still commands a 1.4% share of all devices currently on the market today.

Including Key Lime Pie, there are 35 active versions of Android. That’s all of them, folks. To some extent, you can find every version of Android ever released by Google active somewhere; and Android devices are like grains of sand – numerous to uncountable, even from a single vendor.

To be honest, that figure includes every major, minor and point release of the mobile OS to be made available to end users, and not every version made it to every device.

To contrast this, iOS has seen about 1/2 as many releases in only 6 devices. In the Apple camp, OS releases are highly controlled. Many changes are rolled up to an annual major, release cycle. Minor releases are only introduced as needed. Point releases are used to address crucial, showstopper bugs. The OS simply doesn’t have the level of releases (in software, we call this “churn”) that its competitor’s does. iOS appears to be much more stable and organized as a result.

So, I think its safe to say that there are a bajillion Android devices from numerous vendors running a bajillion versions of Android. The perception here is not just fragmentation, but complete and utter chaos when it comes to devices and OS releases.

Next Page

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UPDATED – Apple Developer Website Hacked – #3

apppleApple Developers got a delightful update in the past couple of days. More of the site is back…

The Apple Developer Network status page has seen quite a bit of updates lately. In fact, Apple developers got a nice surprise over the weekend – much of the site’s resources are back, including software downloads.

That didn’t take too long, and I’m really pleased with the level of progress that Apple has made since putting the status page up.

While the Member Center is still offline, each of their three dev centers – Mac, iOS, and Safari – are back up and running. The latest released build of each related developer preview for OS X Mavericks, iOS 7 and Safari are available from each page. However, please note Mavericks, Developer Preview 4, released on 2013-07-22, still isn’t showing as available via the OS X Development Center. Currently, the most current release is Developer Preview 3, released on 2013-07-08. If you want Developer Preview 4, you’ll still need to download it via the Mac App Store after installing Developer Preview 3.

AAPL Status

A lot has happened with this story, and I’m going to move on to other items at this point, unless and until we hear about what actions, if any, will be taken against the security engineer that caused the whole bally-hoo in the first place. At that point, we’ll want to revisit the story, as I’m certain there will be consequences, and quite likely, serious consequences.

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UPDATED – Apple Developer Website Hacked – #2

The saga continues and the site is still down

apppleIf you remember, I reported that the Apple Developer Website was hacked on 2013-07-22. Since then, the site has been down. I recently reported recently one update. Apple has recently published a second:

Apple Developer System Status Update
We apologize for the significant inconvenience caused by our developer website downtime. We’ve been working around the clock to overhaul our developer systems, update our server software, and rebuild our entire database. While we complete the work to bring our systems back online, we want to share the latest with you.

We plan to roll out our updated systems, starting with Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles, Apple Developer Forums, Bug Reporter, pre-release developer libraries, and videos first. Next, we will restore software downloads, so that the latest betas of iOS 7, Xcode 5, and OS X Mavericks will once again be available to program members. We’ll then bring the remaining systems online. To keep you up to date on our progress, we’ve created a status page to display the availability of our systems.

If your program membership is set to expire during this period, it will be extended and your app will remain on the App Store. If you have any other concerns about your account, please contact us.

Thank you for your continued patience.

apple_hack-610

The status page is pretty cool. It shows you via green or grey light, what systems are up. Currently, iTunes Connect and Bug Reporter are operational. Everything else is still dark; and it seems that Software Downloads will be one of the last things that are brought back online.

As both OS X and iOS are both in Beta right now, this is extremely and urgently problematic. On Monday 2013-07-22, Apple released OS X Mavericks Developer Preview 4. Yesterday, it released OS X 10.8.5 Build 12F26.

Currently, the only way to get the new builds is if you already have the previous build installed. In that case, the software may be updated via the Mac App Store. There’s currently no other way to get the software until Apple brings everything else back online.

iOS 7 hasn’t seen an update to Beta 3since is last release on 2013-07-08. Had Apple followed the currently trending schedule, we also would have seen it released on 2013-07-22. My gut tells me we won’t see Beta 4 until after the Developer Site is fully restored.

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Microsoft $900M Write Down – Why is Everyone Surprised?

I mean… I’m not. This is what happens when you don’t sell the stuff you make.

wpI’ve been watching and reporting on the Microsoft space since 1997. I knew that there was a change coming to their business long before it was publically announced a few days ago. News of the nearly $1.0B write-off come on the heels of a huge Microsoft reorg. Given the wide press that Windows 8 adoption numbers have had, and the abysmal Surface RT sales and licensing figures that everyone suspects are accurate, All that’s happened to Microsoft in June and July of 2013 canNOT be a surprise to anyone.

However, one of the things that everyone IS asking is, how did this happen? My good friend, MaryJo Foley put it the best, and you can read about it in her article, linked above. It’s a good question, too; one that should have been asked in a different form long before the decision to take the write-off was made. Microsoft should have been asking itself and its pundits, “what should we do to keep this from happening?” (or some similarly formulated question…)

The write-off, or “inventory adjustment,” as Microsoft is calling it is a $900M charge for Surface RT, its parts and accessories, as announced on 18-Jul-2013. Unfortunately, the entire world is focusing on this specific development, with many people providing I told you so, arm-chair quarter back/Monday morning analysis of Microsoft’s reported financials.

While I’m not going to get into much of that, I can’t say I’m surprised. What specifics had been circulated – Microsoft hasn’t provided specific sales numbers to my knowledge – shouldn’t make this a big surprise to anyone. Microsoft has been trying to misdirect everyone to other issues, accomplishments and subjects for months.

MJF wants to know how it happened. I want to know why no one took the current actions – reducing prices of licenses, hardware and accessories – until now. I also want to know why there isn’t a (more) aggressive marketing push, and why Microsoft isn’t doing more to attract more 3rd party developers.

The problems here are 3 fold. All of these need to be addressed in order to turn the ship around.

  • Hardware pricing
  • Windows Store Issues
  • Windows 8/RT UI Duality

Microsoft-Surface-ad-multiple-devices-hands-001

Hardware Pricing

Simply put, Microsoft needs to sell these at a serious loss if it wants to get Windows RT and Surface RT tablets into the hands of the public. Pricing these at or near iPad/iPad mini pricing isn’t going to cut it. The right price is $199 to $249 regardless of features, manufacturer, or storage size.

Microsoft needs to price Surface RT at a level where it’s stupid NOT to buy one, if only just to have it, in case there’s a major breakthrough and we bump into a, “Hey, Mikey..! He likes it!” moment.

Windows Store Issues

A friend of mine is returning a Lumia 928 Windows Phone due to lack of app selection and maturity within the Windows [App] Store. Simply put, what little apps there are, suck; or don’t compare to the level of app quality in the iOS or Google Play App Stores.

The same can be said for Windows RT; but its problems are a bit more profound. There aren’t a lot of apps in the store, and what apps are there, aren’t great. Moreover, Windows RT devices can’t run Win32 apps. Despite the fact that it’s a “Windows machine,” Surface RT can’t run any of the ba-jillions of Windows apps out there.

The only way Microsoft is going to be able to address this, is to do its best to attract quality developers to its RT dev programs, and get them to start pumping out apps. However, tablet or mobile device apps tend to be less robust than, and priced well below, their desktop counterparts. Unfortunately for Microsoft, this is a long row to hoe, and is going to be a complex problem to solve. Unfortunately, the hardware is only as good as the software it runs.

Windows 8/RT UI Duality

Microsoft tried to build a hybrid OS to help the masses bridge themselves between the growing tablet trend and the public’s love for traditional computing.

Unfortunately, the results generally suck.

Windows 8.1 goes a ways to address this issue, but doesn’t resolve it. Bridging the gap between the computing trends in a single device isn’t working. Most people are used to the fact that their iPad or Android tablet doesn’t run the same kind of software as their Mac or Windows PC; and they’ve accepted it and they’re willing to live with it.

Microsoft needs to separate the UI’s and allow everyone to get back to work. Windows RT wouldn’t suck as an OS if MS would simply combine Windows Phone and Windows RT into a single effort, since they’re so close already. Leave MetroUI based apps to those devices and let the desktop folks get back to work with something that they’re more accustomed to…for now.

If we need to update the UI, let’s do it in an evolutionary, not revolutionary manner. The problem is that XP and its Start Menu have been around too long, and that paradigm of UI is available in Windows 7 as well. Windows XP is still used in the enterprise, and is slowly being phased out, not for Windows 8, but Windows 7. It could be 5 years or more before that UI paradigm is gone. One of the biggest reasons why it was so successful is because consumers were able to use the same UI at home and at work.

Adopting RT in the enterprise currently isn’t possible, as the device integration isn’t there. Home, as well as corporate users, are rejecting Microsoft’s new Start Screen, so, so much for MetroUI.

This is just me; but Microsoft MUST address all three of these issues as part of its reorg or its going to find itself taking additional write-off’s in the immediate future. It can’t afford to do it, and I really don’t’ want to think about a world without a Microsoft… that’s scary, and something that I really don’t want to deal with.

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Apple Developer Website Hacked

For those of you with developer accounts, the site was hacked…

1202275-apple-hack-hacking-pirateI’ve had an Apple Developer account for about 3 years. Like all development account members, I use it to get access to Apple’s prerelease software to help with my development and testing efforts. I’m a hobby developer. I don’t develop things for sale.

The big problem with all of that is that I have a single email address or single Apple ID. Apple ties your Developer account to your Apple ID, and you log into the site with it. I knew the site was down and had been down for a few days, more than expected. Today, I was greeted with the following note from Apple

 

Apple Developer Website Update:

Last Thursday, an intruder attempted to secure personal information of our registered developers from our developer website. Sensitive personal information was encrypted and cannot be accessed, however, we have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers’ names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed. In the spirit of transparency, we want to inform you of the issue. We took the site down immediately on Thursday and have been working around the clock since then.

In order to prevent a security threat like this from happening again, we’re completely overhauling our developer systems, updating our server software, and rebuilding our entire database. We apologize for the significant inconvenience that our downtime has caused you and we expect to have the developer website up again soon.

Awesome.

The site got hacked, and they can’t guarantee that my Apple ID and password, as well as my other personal information, weren’t compromised. That’s just terrific.

Well, this certainly isn’t the end of this one. You can bet that there will be additional fallout on the Apple side of the world for this. While I think it’s a good idea to completely change the system, part of the changes would be to NOT tie everything to my Apple ID, but to another user ID and password.

There will be more from me on this as the story develops. Please watch the Soft32 blog for additional updates.

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Microsoft Reorg Attempts to Streamline a Newly Focused Organization

Many are touting this as Ballmer’s last hurrah.  I’m gonna run down the changes very quickly.

Latest Electronic Games Debut At E3 ExpoThere have been rumors of a reorg at Microsoft for quite a while now. There have been many questions on who would stay or who would go. Let’s take a very quick look at the way the new organization shapes up.

So far, Ballmer is still in, obviously. However, many think that if this doesn’t go right, this could be his last hurrah. Microsoft will be reshaped into a single organization  with new engineering groups and some centralized groups being creating and changing hands, respectively

Terry Myerson, currently in charge of Windows Phone engineering, will run the new Operating Systems Group. Myerson will be responsible for engineering of Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox operating systems. Myerson also gets handed responsibility for anything that attaches directly to these OSes.  All of that is currently running on a common kernel based on Windows NT, so it makes sense to house it all in one place.

Julie Larson-Green, currently responsible for the Windows and Surface engineering groups, becomes responsible for the new Devices and Studios group which will have engineering for Surface, Xbox, mice, keyboards, games and entertainment.
Qi Lu, current responsible for Microsoft’s Online Services Division, is now in charge of the new Applications and Services group. Lu has engineering for Bing, MSN, Office 365, Office servers and clients, Dynamics CRM and ERP, Skype, Yammer and Lync reporting into him.

Satya Nadella, current head of Microsoft’s Server & Tools business (STB), becomes the head of the new Cloud and Enterprise group. Nadella remains head of engineering of all of Windows Server, System Center, SQL Server, Visual Studio and all other current STB products, plus the Global Foundation Services unit at the company.

Kurt Delbene, the former President of the Microsoft Business Division up until now, is retiring.

Microsoft also centralized its support divisions.  They breakdown this way:

  • Tami Reller will head up a new cross company marketing group.
  • Tony Bates, the current President of Microsoft’s Skype group, will head up a new evangelism and business development team. Bates is responsible for key Microsoft partnerships like the ones with Yahoo and Nokia.
  • Amy Hood, Microsoft’s current CFO will have responsibility for the centralized finance organization
  • The legal affairs group continues to be headed by Brad Smith.
  • The human resources group continues to be run by Lisa Brummel.
  • Kevin Turner remains Chief Operating Officer, loses control of centralized marketing

I’m cooking up an interesting What-If column related to Microsoft, the reorg and their recent product pricing adjustments for Surface.  Come back later this week and check it out.

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