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One Microsoft, all the time: What Ballmer's newly unified vision could mean to you

Brad Chacos | July 12, 2013
Microsoft just overhauled its entire organizational structure to focus on a vision of ubiquity—a vision that could pay dividends to YOU down the line.


One Microsoft, all the time.

They're just five words, but those five words hold a universe of importance to Microsoft. Those five words prompted a sweeping revamp of Microsoft's core organizational structure this morning: Newly vertical divisions were carved out, executives were shuffled, and some senior-level people even lost their jobs.

One Microsoft, all the time. It means a lot for Microsoft. What could it mean for you? If everything goes to Steve Ballmer's grand plan, no less than a seamless computing experience across every device you own.

That grand plan envisions a truly unified OS experience across your phone, tablet, notebook, desktop PC, and TV. They all run the same apps, the settings are in all the same places, and your game saves carry over from console to computer and back again. Live tiles everywhere!

With this reorg, that vision could—could—become reality in a few years.

Islands in a rocky sea
The first hints are already in place with Windows 8. The controversial modern UI spans desktop displays and tablet screens alike, shares a plethora of design elements with Windows Phones and the Xbox 360, and even rocks a common core with Windows Phone 8 and the impending Xbox One, making it easier for developers to swim between the various islands in Microsoft's ecosystem.

But for all that, the various elements of Microsoft as we knew it were just that: Islands.

The Windows Phone team worked on Windows Phone; the Windows division worked on Windows proper; the Office team worked on Office; the Interactive Entertainment Business presided over Xbox; and so on. Microsoft has been shifting to a more unified design structure in recent months, but having so many fiefdoms with so many chiefs introduced cracks on the edges of Microsoft's grand vision.

Windows Phone's core UI is just a wee bit different that Windows 8's, as is Xbox's interface. There are no underlying design principles uniting the Xbox, the Surface tablets, and the average Windows Phone. Apps and services are updated as each department sees fit, on the platforms of each department's choosing. Basically, the Microsoft ecosystem has been a hodge-podge.

No more.

One Microsoft, all the time
Microsoft's reorg slices the company into divisions that are aligned much more closely with its "One Microsoft, all the time" vision. All of the company's in-house devices, from Surface tablets to Xboxes, fall under one division now. Another division is in charge of creating the core operating system for every Microsoft platform, while yet another unit now heads virtually all app development.

Each division controls the reins of a crucial vertical slice of Microsoft, slices that transcend specific platforms and services. Those divisions will be able to deliver a unified product across the width and breadth of Microsoft's platforms—assuming all goes to plan.


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