Microsoft's new North Star: 6 things that have to go right

The Microsoft reorg is a bit complicated, but the overall aim is to be more agile. For now it's unclear whether Microsoft can truly harness the power of one. Here are the hurdles Microsoft will have to clear.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Microsoft reorganized, outlined a strategy that revolves around services and noted that it will be a company unified behind enabling the important personal and work tasks in your life. Microsoft's North Star is ambitious, but a lot of things have to go right to actually execute.

The Microsoft reorg is a bit complicated, but the overall aim is to be more agile. For now it's unclear whether Microsoft can truly harness the power of one.

More: Microsoft 3.0: A meaner, leaner devices and services machine? | CEO Ballmer's reorg mail to the troops: 'One Microsoft all the time' | Microsoft re-organisation: From devices to big data, what it means for business

Can Microsoft really integrate these disparate products, create one experience, navigate management dotted lines and become nimble? We'll see.


Here's a look excerpts from CEO Steve Ballmer's memo to the troops and what has to happen for Microsoft to actually deliver.


We will strive for a single experience for everything in a person’s life that matters. One experience, one company, one set of learnings, one set of apps, and one personal library of entertainment, photos and information everywhere. One store for everything. Microsoft has the clear opportunity to offer consumers a unified experience across all aspects of their life, whether the screen is a small wearable, a phone, a tablet, an 85-inch display or other screens and devices we have not yet even imagined.

What has to go right? First, consumers have to decide they really want a single experience. Apple has proven integration with hardware and software works, but the proposition gets trickier as cloud services enter the picture. Google is also well positioned. The biggest wild card is that consumers---not enterprises---have to pick Microsoft's experience to cover work and personal life.

Look at our tremendous assets. We have a super-intelligent cloud that understands people and can solve problems for them. We have a platform that is adaptable to every screen — big, small, mobile, institutional, personal and even wearable — and is defined by a set of universal services that meet people’s needs at home, work and school. We have a gaming and home entertainment platform second to none. We excel not only at the things people do most often but also by what matters the most to them. Our platform, services and apps are not limited just to activities in people’s personal lives but also span their professional lives. We have focused not only on what matters most to individuals but also on what’s vital to businesses around the globe, IT managers and developers.

In the critical choice today of digital ecosystems, Microsoft has an unmatched advantage in work and productivity experiences, and has a unique ability to drive unified services for everything from tasks and documents to entertainment, games and communications.

What has to go right? Microsoft needs to execute on its restructuring and break down silos. CEO Steve Ballmer can talk about the power of one, but delivering on these integrated experiences is another matter entirely.

The bedrock of our new strategy is innovation in deep, rich, high-value experiences and activities. It’s the starting point for differentiated devices integrated with services. It’s at the core of how we will inspire ourselves all to do our best work and bring to our customers the very things that will make a difference in their lives...Such high-value activities include the full breadth and depth of areas like personal expression, decision-making and tasks, social communication, and serious fun — and we have both the drive and the capacity to reinvent these experiences for people across the globe.

What has to go right? Tech buyers of all stripes need to see Microsoft as a work and play company. For its part, Microsoft has to show it can do casual technology and also use it for "more important tasks."

No technology company has as yet delivered a definitive family of devices useful all day for work and for play, connected with every bit of a person’s information available through one cloud. We see tremendous room for innovation in software, services and hardware to bring the consumer this new, more complete and enveloping experience.

Our family will include a full spectrum of both partner and first-party devices. We believe we need all of these categories to drive innovation, fulfill market desire for diversity of experience, and achieve volume.

What has to go right? Microsoft has to navigate the balance partner devices and the herding cats problem with its own hardware like Surface. So far, no one in Microsoft's army has come up with the killer form factor and hybrid device.

We will continue to reinvent the core “shell” of our family of devices and build upon what we have started with Windows 8. We will keep evolving our new modern look, expanding the shell so that it allows people and their devices to capture, store and organize their “stuff” in new ways. Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.

What has to go right? Microsoft needs Windows 8 and its user interface to take root. Microsoft also has to keep its core shell from becoming too bloated.

Our new strategy will put us right at the intersection of the consumerization of IT and the evolving needs of the enterprise customer, delivering the devices that employees want and the productivity, security and control that IT managers need.

Ballmer talked enterprise and consumerization. He said the plan is to "facilitate adoption of our devices and end-user services in enterprise settings."

This means embracing consumerization of IT with the vigor we pursued in the initial adoption of PCs by end users and business in the ’90s. Our family of devices must allow people to be more productive, and for them to easily use our devices for work.

What has to go right? Consumers need to adopt Windows 8-based devices---PCs, tablets and smartphones and bring them to work. Consumerization needs consumer buy-in to work. So far, Windows 8 and Windows Phone have failed to cause a consumer groundswell.

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