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A few days ago new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed his full time employees via email, and made some REALLY bold statements.   I love the way Mary Jo Foley organized all of this.   This is what I took away from her article.

1.    We’re no longer a “devices and services company,” as defined by former CEO Steve Ballmer.
2.    It’s all about productivity and platforms. In fact, Microsoft is going to reinvent productivity.

According to Nadella, “Microsoft [at its core] is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Nadella plans on pushing the productivity software and services that power “digital work and life experiences.”   While he’s thinking it would be nice of that OS would be Windows/Windows Phone on the client side, he’s really thinking Microsoft Azure and Windows Server. Nadella is making it clear that it doesn’t matter WHAT client OS is driving the end user, he wants to build software and services that empower users to do more REGARDLESS of client OS (so, yes, that means Android, iOS and Blackberry on the mobile side as well as OS X and Linux on the desktop). It clearly doesn’t matter to him.

Nadella also extended this vision to game consoles as well. According to Nadella, Xbox is one of Microsoft’s core businesses. It can influence and tie in other Microsoft products.

“Xbox is one of the most-revered consumer brands, with a growing online community and service, and a raving fan base. We also benefit from many technologies flowing from our gaming efforts into our productivity efforts – core graphics and NUI in Windows, speech recognition in Skype, camera technology in Kinect for Windows, Azure cloud enhancements for GPU simulation and many more. Bottom line, we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft.”

That should stop all the Xbox naysayers and give Xbox fans a bit of reassurance.   The company intends to not only support but grow the business unit for its popular game console. Talk selling it off can be put to rest.

July seems destined to be a month of change for Microsoft.   “Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy,” according to Nadella. Many will say this implies a reorg and reduction in force. It probably does.   It’s not uncommon after a merger. Microsoft said it expected to save $600M by combining it and Nokia.   Wall Street sees a RIF coming, as it’s always an easy way to realize cost savings after redundancies are found in combined companies. Microsoft is also further streamlining its engineering processes. Microsoft is undoing the functional management structure Ballmer put in place before he left. The times, they are a changin’.

What do you think of Microsoft’s proposed changes?   Will this make a difference that you can see?   Will the way they reinvent themselves provide you with the tools you need?   For example, will having Office on Android (as well as iOS) make a difference for you? Will revised versions of MS Office for Mac or even a version for Linux (not announced… I’m just supposing, here) make a difference?   It’s been over four years since Microsoft released a version of Office for Mac; and as I just noted, there isn’t a version for Linux.   Users of those two desktop operating systems don’t always reach for Microsoft tools first.   If Microsoft makes them available, will you use them, or stick with the alternatives you’ve been forced to find because they historically haven’t been there?   With Microsoft looking to provide productivity tools to everyone, regardless of computer or device type or OS, would you be more apt/ likely/ willing to use their products or services?   Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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Rule #1 – Thou Shalt not Throw a Tantrum at Work

It’s a moot point now, but I’m certain Ballmer is probably kicking himself…

SteveBallmer.jpgYa know… you have to ask yourself… What is it with guys named Steve that run world famous computer companies and their temper? Jobs was famous for it. If you disagreed with him, not only did you lose your job; but it was probably one of the most memorable firings of your career. Some of those are things of legend. I think the last guy that Jobs screamed at still has ringing in his ears.

Ballmer was apparently the same way. Interestingly enough, new information regarding his exit from Microsoft (I don’t like to say firing… it just gives me the willies…at least for Ballmer. I don’t know why.) is just now coming to light. Apparently during a June 2013 Board meeting where Ballmer outlined his acquisition plans for the Nokia buyout, the Board initially rejected the idea. They didn’t see what Ballmer saw when he proposed turning Microsoft into a hardware AND software company. When the Board initially said, “no,” Ballmer hit the ceiling. It was so bad and so loud that it carried out of (an apparently VERY well sound insulated) board room and could be heard down the halls. While the board eventually did back him, it’s obvious that they didn’t take well to Ballmer acting out.

There are other instances that my friend, Preston Gralla cites in an article regarding Ballmer’s temper (by the way, it’s VERY rarely acceptable to drop the “F-bomb” at work. I don’t care if you’re Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer…you just don’t do it).

Anyway, the current rumor has it that this particular rant is what ultimately lead the board to suggest that they and Ballmer part ways. It was the F-bomb that broke the camel’s back, and the last tantrum – among many over the years – that Ballmer (at least officially) threw at Microsoft.

If you look back at what happened to Jobs when he left Apple, it was largely because of his temper and mouth. As I said, I’m not sure what it is about computer companies with CEO’s named, “Steve;” but they sure do get angry a lot. Gralla sees this as poetic justice, saying that, “for once, the bully got bullied.” It may be bullying. I don’t know. I’ve never met either Jobs or Ballmer, so I really can’t say for certain. However, I would like to say that it wasn’t anger, or a bad temper, or anything else other than “passion.” Perhaps it was misplaced or mismanaged passion, but from what I’ve been able to see, I don’t think Ballmer MEANT to be a jerk. He may have thought YOU were one when you didn’t agree with him or couldn’t understand his message/point/vision, etc.; and that’s why he screamed at your, but I don’t think he meant to be a jerk. I think it may have been a bit different with Jobs. If you didn’t “get it,” I think he thought you were a moron and didn’t want you around.

But that’s (at least part of) the price of genius, isn’t it? Some of them are a bit “out there.”

I don’t know too much about Satya Nadella just yet, but it’s clear he’s making changes to how Microsoft works and functions. This isn’t going to be the same Microsoft that Gates gave to Ballmer. Nadella is definitely going to put his own mark on the company, which is good. He needs to if he’s going to be taken seriously and if the company is going to have any real chance at surviving.

We’ll have to wait and see how Nadella does. 2014 is going to be an interesting year for Microsoft. While it’s not necessarily going to be the making or breaking point, it’s going to set the stage for what is to come for the company, for certain.

What do you think? Are Nadella’s initial management changes good ones? Is his mobile strategy on target? Will he be a better CEO than either Gates or Ballmer? Why don’t you join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think

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It’s Official – Hell Froze Over

Or Microsoft really did get a new CEO with fresh ideas…

Satya-Nadella-700x325

Satya Nadella is starting to make his presence known at Microsoft. Not only did Tony Bates and Tami Reller leave the organization, with additional executive changes still likely to be made; but Microsoft recently announced that its going to make its Xbox Live gaming service available on iOS.

Yes. You read that right…

Microsoft is seriously looking to bring its Xbox Live gaming hub to not only iOS, but Android as well.  Now the platform will be available on every major mobile OS, according to The Verge. The news broke due to a job posting at Microsoft that indicated that, “[Microsoft wanted to] create a modern framework that is open-source, lightweight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.”  Microsoft later confirmed the intent to revive social, mobile gaming. Currently, that effort is blocked by proprietary networks, like Apple’s Game Center.

There’s huge money to be made, here. Limiting mobile gaming to their own platform, Windows Phone and Windows Store, is hurting Microsoft right now.  There aren’t a lot of users on either mobile Microsoft platform, and there are literally millions on both iOS and Android that could provide a huge revenue stream for Microsoft. Xbox is an immensely popular console gaming platform, and not every Xbox user is a Windows Phone user. Being able to play Xbox games, with saved progress from your console and vice versa, will be a huge win on both the iOS and Android platforms.

It’s clear to me that this is a result of Satya Nadella’s new influence. Prior to that, I don’t think either Ballmer or Gates would have sanctioned this kind of move. Julie Larson-Green’s “One Windows” mantra also wouldn’t have supported this effort. It deemphasizes Windows, or at least would have in the eyes of the older organization.

So is this a good idea?  Do you have an Xbox and carry either an iPhone or an Android smartphone? Do you want to see an Xbox Live gaming hub on iOS and Android devices? Is that a good idea, or is this just going to make things weird?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole matter. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below, and let me know what you think?

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The Search is Over

Microsoft has a New CEO – Satya Nadella

I first saw this on Wired, but didn’t put any credence in it until I saw Mary Jo Foley’s article on ZDNet. Based on what we’ve been seeing, despite my earlier column on how association with Ballmer may be a tough hurdle to clear, Microsoft gave Nadella the nod anyway and on Tuesday 2014-02-04 made him the company’s third CEO.

Satya-NadellaThere are three other announcements that go along with this:
1.    Ballmer is out, effective immediately. However, he remains a member of the Board of Directors.
2.    Gates is stepping down as Chairman to take a role on the Board as Founder and Technology Advisor.  You can think of him as Nadella’s consigliere or major domo.  He will “devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction.”
3.    John Thompson, who was the one-man force behind the CEO search, is taking on the role of Chairman of the Board, effective immediately.

Nadella’s first issue is likely to be some level of “discussion” involving the support of the “One Microsoft” initiative that Ballmer laid out in the July 2013 reorg.  ValueAct’s Mason Morfit is taking a seat on the Board in about a month or so of this writing (March 2014).  The One Microsoft initiative has Microsoft supporting both consumer and enterprise sectors of technology; and Morfit doesn’t support that business strategy. He wants Microsoft to drop consumer hardware efforts like Surface, Windows Phone and Xbox One. He’s also not a Bing fan, either.

Microsoft recently agreed to make Morfit a member of the Board in order to avoid a proxy fight initiated by ValueAct if Microsoft didn’t agree to drop or scale back the consumer side of the business. Taking that on as one of his first issues as CEO would be a challenge for anyone. It certainly looks like Nadella will have his hands full, if that does, in fact, happen.

Nadella has a lot to offer Microsoft as CEO. Most notably, he has 22 years at Microsoft and knows the culture and people. Individuals coming from the outside, taking visible, upper management roles have historically not done well at Microsoft due to the high technical nature of the culture and business.  Nadella won’t have issues there.  His background as an engineer will help him a great deal, as will his tenure at the company.  He doesn’t have anything to prove, and the ‘Softies have already afforded him credibility.

This is Nadella’s first go as CEO, so we’ll have to play a wait and see game before we know how independent he truly is.  Gates’ new role as Founder and Technology Advisor may be created specifically to give Nadella someone he can go to for advice, guidance and assistance. It may also be nothing more than a PR gimmick to help “erase” the Ballmerfication that I mentioned the other day.  We’ll have to wait and see.  However, given Nadella’s experience as an engineer and as the enterprise and cloud services guy, he’s got a good background to take the company into the future…provided he’s really given the opportunity and support to do so. It depends on how much of a voice Ballmer and Morfit each have on the Board.

What do you think? Did Ballmer really suck THAT bad? Is Gates’ new role as Founder and Technology Advisor for real or for show? Will Mason Morfit give Nadella problems, or will he wait and see how things go before pressing his agenda at the Board level?  Does Nadella look as though he will be successful, or will his entrance start the spinning of a revolving door outside the CEO’s office?  You tell me.  Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts…?

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What will Bill do now, with the House that Gates Built?

Speculation is rife with what Gates will do after Microsoft’s new CEO is named

bill-gates-jpg

I’ve always liked Mary Jo Foley.She’s got a great analytical mind, and her connections are awesome. When she puts out a new piece, it always makes me think…

Case in point – MJF recently opined about some interesting, behind the spot light issues related to Microsoft’s CEO search:

  1. No new info, despite her sources; so we still have to wait for a formal announcement
  2. The board and the company want to distance itself from Ballmer somewhat (or at least remove him from the spotlight)
  3. Gates is said to be stepping away from the role of Chairman

The world is waiting, and we want to know who is going to be the next Microsoft CEO.  While all signs currently point to Satya Nadella, no one knows for certain, and unfortunately (for him…), he and Ballmer have been pretty tight.  Being mentored by Stevie B. isn’t a bad thing.  However, I’m certain Wall Street wants a CEO bereft of and Ballmerfication, and unfortunately, in this case, being mentored by Ballmer certainly isn’t helping Nadella win the role.

However, there’s a lot of hub-bub going on behind the scenes regarding Bill Gates, former MS CEO and current Chairman of the Board of Directors.  The latest shizzle is all about Bill taking on a more prominent role at the company after the CEO transition is announced. That news is causing quite the stir.

Bill has been all about curing/preventing malaria and building a better toilet as part of the humanitarian work of the Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation.  While there may be active reports of him taking a more proactive role at MS after Ballmer’s retirement, I don’t see it happening. Gates has said repeatedly that his life’s work is his foundation, not the software company that built the fortune that enables it.  While Microsoft may power the Foundation, it’s not his driving focus. Helping humanity overcome its challenges is.

That being the case, any reports that are out there about Gates taking any kind of an active role in the fate of the software company are most likely false and nothing more than rumors. Microsoft spent a lot of time spinning Gates away from the organization as they spun Ballmer into control. Reversing that and adding a new CEO into the mix is only going to confuse everyone, including shareholders and Wall Street; and that’s exactly what Microsoft doesn’t want to do. They want to strengthen Microsoft’s stock position, not call it into question. Besides, it’s been more than six years since Bill’s been involved in Microsoft’s daily grind. I really don’t think he wants to get back into it.

What do you think? Will Bill Gates come back to Microsoft in a formal role after Steve Ballmer retires?  I’d love to hear what you think about this latest batch of rumors.  Why not join me in the discussion area, below and tell me what you think?

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Is Microsoft Preparing to Name Satya Nadella CEO?

It seems the candidate pool is getting smaller…

Satya Nadella 2012I’ve been trying to cover Microsoft’s CEO search since Steve Ballmer announced his retirement last year.   There have been a number of interesting candidates and one or two that I think would have made a decent leader for the tech giant. Recently when Alan Mulally pulled himself out of the running, Nadella appears to have emerged as the top candidate.

It also seems that this may have been the direction all along.   While no one at any major news outlet is citing any named sources, and with other internal and external candidates either having been eliminated or dropped out, Nadella is the one name that has remained near the top of the list.   Microsoft wants to name a new CEO in the early part of 2014.

ZDNet’s Larry Dignan says that the Microsoft CEO spot is “the job that no one is jumping for.” I agree. It truly seems as though succeeding Ballmer will be a big challenge, especially with him continuing to be part of the Board of Directors after his retirement.

However, it seems as though Nadella won’t have to contend with Bill Gates as Chairman of the Board. There have been a number of stories circulating with Nadella’s candidacy looking more and more like a done deal, that Bill Gates will exit the organization as Chairman of the Board at Microsoft.   Gates wants to focus the rest of his life’s work on the Gates Foundation that he founded with his wife.   Board member John Thompson, who is heading up the CEO search, is said to be a front runner for the Chairman spot if the rumors about Gates stepping down are true.

The whole setup with Gates and Ballmer still on the Board is likely one of the biggest issues for anyone interviewing for the Microsoft CEO spot. Who would want the company’s top leadership role when you have both the original and 2nd CEO scrutinizing your every move?   Not many, it would seem.

Mary Jo Foley also said that when she sat down with Ballmer AND Nadella in separate interviews in November of 2013, she didn’t get any kind of indication as to who would eventually win the CEO spot; and she still isn’t certain.   The world is waiting for an answer; and it looks like it will have to wait until some thing formal comes out of Redmond. Until then, it may look good for Satya Nadella and his decades of experience at Microsoft; but we’re definitely in wait and see mode.

What about you? Do you feel that Satya Nadella is the best choice for Microsoft CEO; or is there a better candidate out there? I’d love to hear what you think in the discussion, below.

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Microsoft CEO Search Rumors

Now that Alan Mulally is out of the running, where does Microsoft look for their new leader?

image2993A lot of wind was taken out of a great many sails in the past couple of weeks. Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company and thought to be the front runner in Microsoft’s highly visible CEO search, recently took himself out of the running for the Redmond, WA company’s top spot. Now the whole world is wondering what Microsoft will do; and what direction they will head in.

Yes. Microsoft could promote Satya Nadella. That’s still a huge possibility.   Based on Mulally’s removal, I’m certain that many – if not most – people are expecting Microsoft to quickly march in that direction. However, that may not be the case.   Based on Mulally’s removal, if Nadella was the front runner, this would be a done deal by now.

I think many folks – including those that inhabit Wall Street – are wanting and expecting Microsoft to hire from the outside for this role.   I know many in the tech journalism field are a bit happier with those prospects than with the idea of promoting from within. It has nothing to do with Nadella – what he can or cannot do.   It has more to do with breaking away from the old guard and starting anew with someone who has a clear understanding of either how to rebuild troubled organizations (as Mulally did) or with someone who has a decent enterprise and mobile computing vision (as Ballmer never had).

Current word on the street is that Microsoft is  currently considering Hans Vestberg, CEO of Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson for software maker’s the top spot, at least all this, according to Bloomberg. The report, published  2014-01-16, indicated that Vestberg was a “media-savvy technology fanatic,” though many on Wall Street would find his candidacy a surprise.   However, with potential external candidates evaporating, I’m not surprised with anyone that Microsoft may give consideration to.

No matter how you slice it, Microsoft is expected to name a new CEO early in Q1 2014. The biggest hurdle that the new CEO will have, is not turning the company around, but likely that both Ballmer and Gates will retain their seats on the Board.   I can’t imagine any CEO wanting the company’s two previous CEO’s scrutinizing and critiquing their every move.   Ultimately, this may be why Mulally passed on the role.

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‘K… Unlock ‘Em if You Got ‘Em!

Major US carriers agree to unlocking principles.  Story at 11pm…

shutterstock_129802106I’ve been following this particular story for the past few weeks or so.  Quite honestly, this particular issue is near and dear to my heart as I cut my journalistic teeth on mobility – all forms of mobile computing to be precise – and its probably the one computing issue I really know the most about.  Today’s development is significant, as it brings the US closer to parity with other countries in the world when it comes to interoperability (but the true form of that is a whole other ball of wax for a later date…)

Anywho… the four major wireless carriers in the US – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as fellow CTIA member US Cellular, have all agreed to the following:
1.    To post their device unlocking policies on their websites
2.    To notify customers once their devices are eligible for unlocking
3.    To unlock mobile devices for customers after their service contract has expired
4.    To unlock prepaid mobile devices no later than 1 year after their initial activation
5.    To respond to unlock requests within 2 business days
6.    Military customers who become deployed can have their devices immediately unlocked upon providing the appropriate deployment paperwork

According to former NFL wide receiver and current CTIA President and CEO, Steve Largent, “…this agreement will continue to foster the world-leading range of devices and offerings that Americans enjoy today.”

While I applaud not only the wireless carriers and the CTIA for coming together on this, let’s not forget that carriers in the European Union have had similar policies in place for a while now.  Technologically, the US is behind the curve. This is a catch up move.

However, it is a significant and important development; and its one that I’m very glad came about. While this doesn’t supersede the restrictions in the DMCA that prevents cell phone owners from unlocking phones on their own, it will give cell phone users a clear understanding of when and how they can get their phones unlocked and if they will have to purchase what is commonly called a “burner phone” if and when they travel internationally before they’re eligible to unlock their current phone with their home-based carrier.  (that still doesn’t sit well with me, but its much better than what we had before).

The six, adopted unlocking principles, in their entirety, are:

1. Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.

2. Postpaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.

3. Prepaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

4. Notice. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier’s website.

5. Response Time. Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request.

6. Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy. Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers

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