Jackson wonders whether Nadella would have made the Nokia acquisition had he been CEO at the time, instead of Ballmer. Nadella may end up deciding to sell off the Nokia division, he said.
"The hardware business, for everybody but Apple at this stage, has become what you'd expect: It's a business with inherently low margins, even for Samsung," he said. "The school of thought that says you, as a platform-centric business, need your own hardware to combat Apple and Google -- that philosophy is changing."
5. Attract Developers
To attract more users to Windows Phone devices, Microsoft needs a more robust selection of applications. But for more app developers to write for Windows Phone, Microsoft needs more users. One solution that the company hopes will solve both problems is its universal app platform.
It aims to let developers build one application that will work on PCs, tablets, smartphones and even the Xbox, which could make building compelling apps for the mobile version of Windows 10 easier. But that's a tall order, and experts aren't convinced it will deliver.
"If it actually does what it says it's going to do, developers will find this refreshing and attractive, perhaps more so with enterprise-oriented developers than consumer-oriented development," Jackson said.
Microsoft says it remains committed to growing its application marketplace to attract more users. Both active users and downloads increased in 2014, Microsoft's Todd Brix said in a December blog post.
"We made good progress by both attracting over 30 percent more active users and by exceeding a 110 percent year-over-year increase in app downloads and gross sales," he said. "In addition, the ecosystem has grown, with an 80 percent increase in registered developers and 60 percent increase in app selection year-over-year."
Microsoft's speed of progress will not dazzle anyone, Llamas said.
"This is going to be a long slog, but the pieces are coming together to be better than they have before."
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