Why all the consumer love at Microsoft? It's the weak spot

Summary:Microsoft's business-focused products are continuing to carry the day, not that you'd know it from the consumer-centric media events as of late.

Many of Microsoft's enterprise users -- and those of us who love unearthing juicy details about products like System Center, Forefront,  and the like -- have been bemoaning Microsoft's increasingly consumer-centric obsessions.

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Sure, Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner might still be taking some half-hearted public pot shots at Oracle, VMWare and IBM. And Microsoft's Dynamics ERP wares, now a billion dollar business in their own right (not even including Dynamics CRM) might get their day in the sun every once in a while.

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But the real reason the Softies are putting so many of their eggs in the Xbox, Kinect, the newly announced Home Premium Office 365 , and Windows 8 consumer-friendly apps and games is consumer is Microsoft's weak spot. Or... if you are a glass half full kind of gal/guy... consumer is where there's the most room for future growth.

Microsoft's Q4 FY 2012 earnings breakout makes this plain. The Server & Tools units revenues were bigger than Windows/Windows Live, as noted by Business Insider. And the Microsoft Business division (home of Office) was bigger in both revenues and profit than Windows, Business Insider added.) The premium SKUs of Windows Server and SQL Server were selling like hot cakes in Q4 FY 2012, according to Microsoft. Business deployments of Office 2010 and Windows 7 were still strong, despite the fact that launches of new versions of these products are just around the corner.

Meanwhile, gaming console sales were down, Windows consumer PC demand was down, Online Services is still in the red. In short, Microsoft's business product and services sales carried the quarter and the year.

So if you're Microsoft, what do you do? Hire a big-name consumer-marketing and polling pro? Or spend the money on highlighting on the next versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server and Lync Server -- all of which also went to public beta this week (though Microsoft officials said next-to-nothing about them so far)?

Microsoft is making a concerted effort to appeal to consumers more than business types in its communication these days. But make no mistake: This isn't because the company is a consumer powerhouse. It's because it isn't one... at least not right now. Whether Microsoft can ever wring the kind of money from consumers as it does from business users remains to be seen, but that's no doubt the hope.

Topics: Consumerization, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Tech Industry

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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