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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.

The new boss also needs to make sure that when products do launch, that they're ready. Under Ballmer, Windows 8 was an ambitious change from Windows 7 that would have taken some getting used to no matter what because of intentional differences from its popular predecessor. But only 10 months later with the release of Windows 8.1 did Microsoft address problems that should have been resolved at launch.

Microsoft entered the computer hardware market with its laptop/tablet Surface line but wound up writing down $900 million in Surface RT losses, something the company can afford financially but that hurt its reputation in a market it wants to dominate. Its Surface RT (now Surface 2) looks like an attempt to better Apple's iPad by adding Microsoft Office to a tablet. It's solid hardware but is doing poorly because of price, and a dearth of apps that customers actually want.

These are part of Ballmer's legacy, and the stigma should leave when he does. His replacement needs to make clear that nothing Ballmer left behind is sacred.

No. 3: Build on the success of Office 365
Microsoft successfully bet that customers would rather buy Office as a service that is available from multiple machines including phones - and is constantly updated than to buy it as software they have to install and upgrade as they go along. It comes along with cloud storage, too.

Office 365 scored 1 million users back in May. That doubled by the end of October, a strong start and an important part of transitioning users from software buys to continuing services. At $100 per year for Office 365 Home Premium, that's already a significant revenue stream that seems to be soaring. It helps validate the company's definition of itself as a services and devices operation.

No. 4: Make Office available for iOS
Businesses are dealing with Apple devices as part of their bring-your-own-device programs, and it's time Microsoft acknowledged it.

Since corporate customers are not limiting their employees to using Windows-only devices, Microsoft should not freeze out those other devices from using their popular productivity suite. Popular isn't not a guaranteed status, and there are competitive alternatives — such as Google Apps — that Microsoft should not ignore. It's better to sell a product to Apple customers than it is to ignore them and drive them to buying someone else's product.

No. 5: Chase down Amazon Web Services with enhancements to Azure
Microsoft has been chipping away at Amazon Web Services, racking up impressive numbers of new customers and producing a constant beat of new features for its own cloud service. This includes multi-factor authentication for services, adding big-data analytics based on Hadoop, auto-backup to Azure, and creating a public cloud for government (planned).


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