The news is a bit old by now; however, it’s still a big deal that Steve Ballmer has finally taken full control of Microsoft now that Bill Gates has officially stepped down. I believe that Microsoft employs over 100,000 staff and so Steve has got his hands full trying to find a way (or ways) to once again make Microsoft more agile. Hopefully Steve will be able to sort out what path he wants the company to follow: strategy, quality, or innovation.
What would you do if you were in Steve’s IT shoes? Microsoft has a fundamental dilemma: are they one huge company (a la Wal-Mart) or are they a loosely connected set of business units (a la GE)? The key point to remember here is that Microsoft is neither a Wal-Mart nor a GE so whatever path they take, they will need to create their own unique structure.
In terms of major projects, the next release of the Windows operating system cannot happen quickly enough. No matter what you think of Vista, the public perception of it is that it is undesirable. Steve can put his best people on it and see if he can turn this perception around or he can simply quickly release the next version and consider Vista a horrible learning experience.
Next Microsoft still seems to be interested in getting into the mobile phone market. I’m not sure if this is simply a case of “We can do whatever Apple can do…” or if they really see it as a key pillar of their growth. No matter what, they need to put some creative talent onto this one. They’ve got a powerful lever in the Exchange email tool — if they can build on that, they could have a leg to stand on.
Finally, Steve has got to realize that the Internet is all about search. Right now it looks like he’s still maneuvering to get a piece of Yahoo’s search business. Perhaps what he really should be doing is looking further out and finding out where Google is NOT the dominate search engine and spend some of those Microsoft R&D dollars to attack Google from the outside instead of going head-to-head with them.
No matter what, Steve will be kept quite busy for the foreseeable future. Since I use products made by his company, I hope that he makes some good decisions. Buy or sell your Microsoft stock based on how you think he’s going to do!