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Old 07-14-2012, 07:37 AM   #41
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Originally Posted by nun View Post
...but Xbox is a tiny fraction of MS profitability.
I believe his point was that MS can compete in consumer electronics. That it is a tiny fraction of their profits shows why they haven't paid much attention to that market.

ER Oct 2008 at age 54. An expat mostly settled in Thailand.
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Old 07-14-2012, 08:31 AM   #42
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I bought one of the first original 8088 IBM PC's. It wasn't too long before it became obvious that software was quickly racing ahead of hardware, and that was the paradox at the time that gave MS its lead.

Almost 30 years later, I'm inclined to think that the curves have crossed and now hardware is ahead of software. I've got a four year old Dell with an Intel Core i7 64 bit processor and 24gig of ram that can still run any program currently available without breaking a sweat.

My point is the single largest factor that probably contributed the most to MS's success no longer exists. Stalwart IBM is still around because their focus has evolved more on support services than either hardware or software.

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Old 07-14-2012, 08:46 AM   #43
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At one time Mac computers were for the outsiders. Macs were amazing, overpriced and under-powered. Their owners believed the marketing and thought they were hip, slick and cool. In the 2nd phase, Jobs created the amazing iPod. Those who could afford it joined the ranks of hip, slick and cool. In the 3rd phase, Jobs created the amazing iPhone and yadda - yadda - yadda.

Apple didn't invent the tablet. In the third, and current, phase Jobs created one that worked, due in great part to the seamless integration with the apps and media in the iStore. Where everyone else's attempts to integrate consumer electronics was clumsy, Apple's was brilliant. Phone users and Media consumers are ecstatic. Apple sells oodles of high profit margin items.

Apple, iPad and iPhone are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. If everyone owns something, the loss of hip, slick and cool will soon follow. Can Apple continue the magic without Jobs? Is their model of total control over a tightly integrated system of software, computers, consumer electronics, media sources and the cloud now a mature one that will be widely copied? How many years before the kids who want a media player decide they want anything except the ones mom and dad have? Other companies have been copying Apple's user interface concepts. Will other firms tempt the new outsiders with an interface that leapfrogged past Apple's? MS is on that path, time will tell if it works. Sometimes a mature, stodgy company wakes up and humiliates a sexy company by creating an independent team of the right people, giving them a big budget, free rein and a specific mission. Ask a Ferrari fan about the Cobra Daytona and Ford GT-40.
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Old 07-14-2012, 10:30 AM   #44
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Very interesting thread. I think some people have it right that MS is way entrenched in big business, and their consumer success/fail is small potatoes. I know an MS employee, he sits at another MegaCorp to support the MS products they use. He tries to talk up their phone SW and Xbox and others, but he also says it is a tiny part of the business.

But I still think it says something that a company with all those resources can't have a better batting average. Why go after a market if you don't have a plan with a good chance of success? Maybe it does say something about their ability to innovate overall - can they deal with competition to their core business?

Originally Posted by ItDontMeanAThing View Post
Is their model of total control over a tightly integrated system of software, computers, consumer electronics, media sources and the cloud now a mature one that will be widely copied?
I recently came across something I found interesting that is related to this, in a totally unexpected place. I just switched VOIP providers, and I was looking through their support forum. They recently provided an 'app' for iPhones, I'm not even sure if it was just to get access to their accounts, or for phone calls, or both, but anyway, their customers also wanted an Android version.

Turns out the Android version got delayed and delayed, and they finally said that they didn't expect it to be so hard, but all the different hardware variations across the Android market made it much tougher to build the Android app than the iPhone app. I've always heard that about Windows versus Apple also, and it makes sense that you should be able to get the job done much easier and with fewer bugs on a limited and more defined hardware platform.

Originally Posted by ItDontMeanAThing View Post
Their owners believed the marketing and thought they were hip, slick and cool.
That probably was true for some, but I don't know if it was the majority. I'm probably the least susceptible to advertising/marketing, and I owned Macs for years, and still get them for the family. I'm on Xubuntu/Linux myself now (talk about almost non-existent marketing!).

Of course, I AM hip, slick and cool!

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Old 07-14-2012, 01:01 PM   #45
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I read the Vanity Fair article and felt it was pretty accurate. The real message - at least what I got out of it - is that Ballmer has pretty much failed as CEO. The only area I'd give him credit is for maximizing revenue out of existing businesses.

The reality is he should never have been CEO. He has no technical vision and the businesses he's invested in have yet to show any real profit. Only now he might be turning it around, but for him to get to this point after 10 years speaks for itself. I'm still amazed the board treats him as well as they do, but since Bill and him own a sizeable chunk of the company, it's not really a big surprise. And just to back it up with some recent data, look at the $6.3 billion write off they had for aQuantive. It's lucky for Ballmer that the Yahoo deal fell through, if not, there'd be another big loss to add to his record. I'm curious to see how well the Skype purchase works out.

One of the problems with MS is that it really is an enterprise company, that wants to be a consumer company. But that's not where the money comes from.

Some people have mentioned the Xbox as a good MS consumer product, but realize that this product has yet to make money over its lifetime. I'm also very skeptical about the Kinect. I know they sold a lot, but how many people with them really use them. However, I am more optimistic with the Kinect in the enterprise space (Kinect for Windows). There are some interesting applications happening in that space and since it's geared towards enterprises, there is potentially good $$$ to follow.

I feel similar with some of the touch areas that MS is trying to get into, for example, their recent purchase of Perceptive Pixel, which is geared towards large touch display (think CNN, etc). Along with Kinect, they have a pretty good story for the enterprise and vertical applications. I think they'll end up owning most of this market, just like they do with a lot of Windows Embedded applications (cash registers, displays at airports, etc - a lot of this is running Windows Embedded).

I'm more skeptical in the consumer space. They always want to go for this market, but it doesn't come natural for them. But they need to be careful they don't lose traction in the enterprise space (keep mindshare). It's hard for an enterprise to move away from MS technologies, it's way to ingrained and works too well. Windows 8 is a risk in this space, because I can't see enterprises be willing to deal with the Metro UI. I suspect they'll stick with Windows 7 - as they did with Windows XP - and only move if/when they have to. And if the Metro UI really doesn't work well on the desktop, I wouldn't be surprised if MS is pressured to provide desktop access by default. We'll see how this plays out.

As for MS internally, it's pretty busted. Morale isn't high, especially among employees that have been there for a while. The review process sucks. I'm always amazed at how much time managers spend reviewing people. This is a twice a year process where managers will go for days figuring out how to rank people. And it's mostly based on how well you've managed expectations/visibility then on how you've performed.

The stack review process used to work well, over 15 years ago, but back then it wasn't enforced as much as now. Plus, the company offered stock options with a growing stock price. Now you have a two tier system: one for the partners and the other for regular employees. Partners rake it in, with questionable value (IMO), and regular employees are earning a paycheck, with a good bonus/stock grants if they manage their career well.

All in all, for an employee, it's not a bad place to start your career, but unless things change internally, then you should be looking for the exit after 5-10 years. But that might be true for a lot of companies nowadays...
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Old 07-14-2012, 10:53 PM   #46
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My observations about MS:

Their upgrades of Office are counter-productive. I know of no features not already in the product and every time they change it skilled current users go nuts. Stop! (They stole Word from Word Perfect, a perfectly adequate word processing program.)

The old adage that a programmer who knows where his bugs are nesting has a secure job is true (or at least was true) at MS. Testers can't find them all. The HR tool of rack & rank is foolish.

It has been probably 15 years since I retired from corporate life. At that time here is what I observed:

I don't think you can compare MS to IBM except for some enterprise software. MS has never been in the enterprise hardware business, nor have they done consulting. They both have database products but IBM (at least in theory) delivers a product ready to implement while MS provides a platform for the customer to finish developing.

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