Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Aug 2013 13:12 UTC

Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

This was long overdue. Microsoft needs fresh blood at the top - not a salesman, but a visionary.

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Microsoft needs either a visionary or a brilliant business leader at the helm. It's very hard to identify the former and, even after they are identified, few have the staying power of a Steve Jobs.

Microsoft owns the corporate environment with Windows and Office. Windows runs on the vast majority of computers in consumers' homes. Their Xbox is a top gaming platform (the one anomalistically successful new product line of the Ballmer era).

They don't need to sell phones, tablets, or MP3 players. All of the money that they wasted in their Zune line, Surface tablets, and various failed incarnations of mobile phones could have been spent improving their operating systems, Office suite, and even their Xbox product line.

Instead, both consumers and businesses are loathe to "upgrade" when a new version of Windows or Office appears, with most feeling that there's no compelling new functionality to justify the expense -- the initial expense, hardware upgrade costs, or the time involved in the installation, training, and transition. That explains why Windows XP still commands 35% of the market share compared to Windows 8 at less than 6%. And it was only recently that Windows 7 was finally on more desktops than the ancient Windows XP.

Microsoft needs to offer compelling reasons to upgrade. They have to be better than "yes, Vista totally sucks, so upgrade to Windows 7." New features added should be clearly explained and easily understood by their target customer base. When Apple introduced its Time Machine backup feature, they explained what it did and showed it in action when the OS was introduced. Everyone who saw the intro immediately understood why it could benefit them to have it. Microsoft needs to do upgrades more often, at lower prices, and to have each be evolutionary rather than a massive change to the user interface.

They need to go to the Apple model of click a button to buy the OS upgrade and it then downloads and installs. Period. No product keys, activation, trips to the store to buy CDs/DVDs, choosing between multiple "editions," and so forth.

In closing, Microsoft should be focused on maintaining a dominant role, not acting like a kid who missed his morning Ritalin.

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