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Microsoft adjusts its consumer-strategy priorities (yet again)

Microsoft is still not throwing in the towel on the consumer space. But it is cutting jobs and phasing out some products.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

According to a Business Insider report, Microsoft has eliminated as many as 200 jobs by shutting down its Modern Life Experience (MLX) team, which was focused on a number of consumer-facing products and services. The MLX team oversaw the Mile IQ, Money in Excel and Family Safety brands.

(Based on a growing number of "Open for Work" postings by those affected by the MLX cuts and repositioning, the number of individuals affected might be closer to 125 or so.)

The groundwork for these cuts has already been laid. Microsoft quietly distanced itself from MileIQ, the mile-tracking service it obtained when it bought Mobile Data Labs in 2015. In 2021, Microsoft sold the company back to the founders under the MileIQ LLC name. Money in Excel, which Microsoft launched in 2020 for keeping track of personal financial accounts, is being dismantled and due to be discontinued in June 2023

A number of people on the MLX team who worked on Family Safety, Microsoft's parental-control service, are posting that their jobs were eliminated, but I hear (at least for now) the Family Safety product is not being dropped. In fact, Microsoft designated Family Safety as an "inbox app" for Windows 11 earlier this year.

The MLX job cuts follow the company's decision to curb hiring in its Office and Windows divisions and cut 1% of its 180,000-plus person workforce in July. This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft also is tightening spending on travel, training and work-related gatherings. As Microsoft officials acknowledged on the company's Q4 FY22 earnings call, consumer PC, Xbox content and services revenues, and advertising spending were all negatively affected by the shutdown of suppliers in China, the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war and unfavorable foreign exchange rates.

Microsoft launched its Modern Life effort in 2018 with the goal of trying to win back consumers, starting with a number of "Modern Life" services. The target audience for this initiative was "professional consumers," or prosumers, meaning people who already knew how to use technology but wanted to use it in ways to make themselves more productive. In 2021, it seemed as if Microsoft was planning to expand its Modern Life initiative, which had been focused heavily around "families," to include more educational/learning products and services.

Do the MLX cuts mean Microsoft is backing away from consumers and putting all its eggs in the enterprise basket? For better or for worse: No. There remain a number of consumer-focused areas where Microsoft is continuing to invest.

Gaming remains the crown jewel of Microsoft's consumer-outreach efforts. But Microsoft is still pushing ahead with its Microsoft 365 Family and Personal subscriptions and Teams consumer effort. The WebXT (Web Experiences) team at the company is continuing to add consumer-centric features to the Edge browser and Windows itself with various widgets. 

Should Microsoft back away from consumer services and products outside of Xbox/gaming? That's a question for another day, but one that Microsoft officials still don't seem to be considering.

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