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7 things on Microsoft's 2014 to-do list

Tim Greene | Jan. 3, 2014
Microsoft needs to make Nokia work, get Office on iOS, and find Ballmer's successor in 2014.

Nokia's Lumia 1520 and lower priced 1320 phablets smartphones with screens between five and seven inches give Microsoft an immediate entry into the relatively new phablet market that last quarter accounted for 22% of all smartphone sales, according to IDC.

No. 2: De-Ballmer the company
With Steve Ballmer on his way out as CEO, Microsoft needs to leave him behind. The new boss must quickly state the company's goals and set up an internal structure that can convincingly support those goals.

That's important not only for achieving the goals, but also for convincing investors of the company's ability to execute. Microsoft's stock price has jumped up and down over the past month on rumors about who will be the next CEO and when that person will be announced.

Despite the company's continued enormous profits during Ballmer's tenure as CEO — $5.2 billion last quarter, up 17% from the same quarter last year critics have been calling for his replacement for years, and his successor must address some of the reasons they've been so vocal.

Clearly Ballmer did a lot of things right, but his missteps hurt critics' perception of him. Ultimately a lot of complaints had to do with speed.

"Hey, dude, let's get on with it," Microsoft board member John Thompson told Ballmer earlier this year, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. "We're in suspended animation."

The conversation was about Microsoft taking measures to catch up to Apple's and Google's consumer products, but it was emblematic of some other notable snafus during Ballmer's 13-year tenure as CEO. Microsoft participates and is expected to lead in markets ranging from enterprise software and services, to consumer software and services, to games, to tablets, to phones, to search. Its competitors are well heeled giants focused on fewer products on which they bring to bear enormous amounts of cash and expertise.

But under Ballmer, Microsoft missed the main wave of the mobile revolution in both tablets and phones, offering products in both areas that just didn't capture customers and have gone through iteration after iteration trying to catch up. And as Ballmer himself says, his biggest failure under his leadership was Windows Vista, which he says in a Fortune article took too long eight years to get right with the shipment of Windows 7.

Ballmer took steps to address this lack of agility earlier this year with a corporate reorganization and management overhaul that has been playing out over the intervening months. Those changes have to be endorsed and taken on by his replacement or rejected and reworked if the company hopes to move more quickly in such a variety of realms.


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