back to article Ditching political Elop makes for a more Nadella Microsoft

With bad things possibly in the post for Microsoft’s Windows phone business, its commander Stephen Elop has been shown the door by Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella. As a hardened Elop detractor I literally cheered at the news. The reason I cheer Elop's departure is actually a little complicated, and not entirely for the reasons …

  1. Six_Degrees

    Mullaley faced precisely the same problems at Ford that Nadella faces at Microsoft: a corporation comprised of squabbling fiefdoms more interested in their individual power than in the company as a whole. Mullaley was brilliantly successful at turning that problem around, and when his name was floated as a possible replacement for Ballmer, many cheered. It remains to be seen whether Nadella can pull the same thing off.

    1. rtb61

      That fiefdom mentality was brought about by the management style of dog eat dog, if you were not active politically you get the lower ratings, regardless of effort. This has become entrenched at M$, making correcting it near impossible.

      So you breakup the company into it's fiefdoms and let them sink or swim. From a share holder viewpoint, it remains the same if they get equal in total pieces of each of the fiefdoms. After that of course they will focus on the better ones and sell the worst ones and those will collapse whilst the better elements become more productive and gain value.

      The problem for M$ is, the people they most need to get rid of they have trouble doing so and the people they most need they have real trouble getting because M$ is M$ and it does not attract nor support creative people.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Technocodger

    "...the "old farts" who cut their teeth on Computer Science in the mid 80s had to learn a heck of a lot more about the actual iron than the web junkies cranked out today"

    Amen.

    If "technocodger" is not yet in El Reg's lexicon, I hereby nominate it for inclusion. It is at least as good as "commentard" and could even be the next "twatdangle".

    1. Bob Wheeler

      Re: Technocodger

      There is one in every IT office, they sit quietly in the corner. Have you noticed how they never break sweat, no matter how loud the management shouts, they never rush. They don't need to because the Technocodger just knows.........

      1. cortland

        Re: Technocodger

        Hmm? Someone say my name? Oh, never mind. They'll call when something goes wrong. When a post-downsizing "center of excellence" run on the cheap, lean six sigma, goalposts, gatekeepers and checklists turns out to be not quite excellent. And not cheap at all.

        -- A technocodger

    2. keithpeter Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Technocodger

      I'm wondering if Mr Pott has registered the domains... could be a money-spinner as we all get older

  3. dogged

    Good read

    Thanks, Trevor. After reading that, I too hope Elop goes into the startup business.

  4. mix

    Mobile vision

    What next for Microsoft in the smartphone space? Any insider information?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mobile vision

      A funeral.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mobile vision

        A funeral.

        Probably, but I suspect that even now everything is still to play for. In the enterprise mobile space there is clearly no king. Apple is too expensive and inflexible, even though the marketing execs love it. Android is cludgy and unfocused (and relevant enterprise apps like Touchdown are misbegotten, user-hating shite, along with garbage like Afaria). Blackberry are still spinning out of control like Moonbase Alpha.

        All (!) Microsoft have to do is make their own phones play oh-so-easily with Exchange, make Office work on mobile as though it had been designed that way in the first place, sort out default security so that it just works for both hardware and software, ensure the whole lot works with common enterprise setups (anything from Citrix through to MS-own Lync). Make sure the phone doesn't need third party crapps like Symantec, or add-ons like Acrobat. And ensure that the phone comes by default with applications that the enterprise demand, like mobile device management, a secure email client, a secure browser, and easy remote configuration.

        It doesn't matter whether consumers like them, and in most companies it doesn't matter what employees think (although if you make their life easier, not harder, then the path to adoption is a lot easier).

        So, on balance it's going to be a funeral.

        1. 0laf

          Re: Mobile vision

          MS should be the one to step into enterprise replacing BB. They should be able to get their own phones to integrate with their own network architecture.

          We've issues Winpho to replace BB here. User like them. The phones are cheap, the users find them easy to use. They're good phones which is often a rare quality in android phones.

          Then you discover unforgivably stupid omissions.

          We have mobile users with no laptops. They don't need them, email is all they need and the winpho does it fine. Except when the ad account password expires. There is no way to reset from the phone. They have to trek to an office sit down log in change pwd then head off again.

          No encryption option for users without an exchange server?

          Maybe winpho10 will fix niggles like this. We'll probably get some more.

          I'll be disappointed if the winPho bites the dust. I don't really like Android, I don't want to get into the Apple ecosystem and moving to BB is probably going from the frying pan into the fire.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Mobile vision

            I've just stepped back into WinPhone. Bought a Lumia 735 at the weekend, and had it all set up in a pretty short time. But my phone demands are quite limited, I care about the address book and phone most, and knew what I was getting into. Tablets are for fun, apps and techy tinkering - the phone is a basic work tool - that also handles my personal comms. If I need more, I can just tether the iPad.

            But I recommended one to my Mum over a month ago. She struggles with tech, and is in her 70s. She got the Lumia 630 for £60. I had to show her how to use it, but she's asked me one single, solitary question about how to use it since! Sorry, two, she didn't know how to put it on mute last week. I got more questions than that in the first week of her having an iPad. So it definitely is easy to use. And she's happy with it, even though it was 10% of the price of a new iPhone - which she already knows as an iPad user.

            Sod's law is MS will kill it. It's certainly never had all the love it needs to make it a mainstream success.

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: Mobile vision

              "I got more questions than that in the first week of her having an iPad."

              Whatever device she got first would have generated the most questions, as the basic concepts with modern handheld devices are very similar.

          2. oldcoder

            Re: Mobile vision

            Not a chance of that.

            Microsoft has such a BAD record with security... No other business has such a bad record.

            Microsoft software is not that good either, from just poor design, to really poor implementation - and then ramming that down peoples throat...

            1. dogged

              Re: Mobile vision

              > Microsoft has such a BAD record with security... No other business has such a bad record.

              Adobe.

              Also Apple.

              Also Google (re Android).

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Mobile vision

                Adobe.

                Also Apple.

                Also Google (re Android).

                Yes. And Microsoft has put a lot more resources and dedication into fixing the security issues with their software than Adobe or Apple. (Google has aggressive, well-funded security research teams; I haven't investigated how much they've done to improve their software development practices.)

                Microsoft has significantly reduced their vulnerability rate over the past ten years. It's still a lot worse than it ought to be, but that's largely due to the huge backlog of legacy code. Could they do more? Sure - a lot of those resources wasted on Metro for desktop Windows could have gone into reviewing old code, for example. But they're still doing better than the industry average at cleaning up their mess, in my opinion (as a professional whose work includes software security, and not by any means a Microsoft fan).

          3. keithpeter Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Mobile vision

            "There is no way to reset from the phone. They have to trek to an office sit down log in change pwd then head off again."

            Remote desktop in from home PC or local cyber cafe? I can change password in an RDP session when I have to.

            Or do you have good enough density of offices in your territory?

            1. 0laf

              Re: Mobile vision

              No remote sessions from non-business PCs. That is a big no-no for us.

              We have enough offices to mean that this is an inconvenience rather than a disaster however it makes the platform look bad. These users should effectively never need to visit an office. But now they do just every ~40 days to change a password and nothing else.

      2. CRConrad Bronze badge

        Re: Mobile vision

        And lo, how soon you were proven right.

  5. Arctic fox

    Interesting article Trevor

    As to the issue of Elop's removal indicating that Nadella plans to bury the mobile phone division (as some have suggested) I have to say that I am not so sure. Given your cogent point with regard to Elop using whatever he is in charge of as a power-base to drive achieving whatever he has been tasked with it would be logical of Nadella to place that under another division (Windows) and another guy (can't remember his name right now but I do remember that he is a phone guy) to ensure that Elop's former fiefdom is not in a position to be obstructive.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Interesting article Trevor

      I don't personally believe the mobile division will be annihilated entirely, but it will be restructured and made to come to heel.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Interesting article Trevor

        Trevor,

        I hope not. I've just bought one. Probably cursed it for everyone else now...

        Thanks for a really good article by the way. I really enjoyed the perspective.

        I never bought into the conspiracy theories either, Nokia were buggered way before he was brought in. But I did sort of feel that it was a failure of management that he didn't try to take one of their technologies and railroad it through management til their eyes watered. It seemed a bit lacking in confidence in his own abilities.

        Even though I can understand the good reasons for not wanting to be the 3rd (well I guess 5th? at the time) phone ecosystem competing for customers and developers. Was WebOS still going when he took over at Nokia? Or was it just 4, with Blackberry?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ummmmm

    The whole article smacks of rubbish to me. When you go for a ceo role it is pretty normal to 'let go' competitors within the company who ran against you. This is all that has happened here.

  7. Sil

    A little ridiculous

    It's a little ridiculous, the firing of a single executive, especially one with limited power, won't change a company.

    On Nokia it is customary to put the blame of its demise on Elop, but he did a fine job of postponing the inevitable. Nokia was doomed because of years of complacency.

    Had it opted for Android instead of WP, the same would have probably happened, because of its complacency heritage, and it was already too late when Elop came to try to make a power play in the Android camp, because there were already very well established players.

    If Microsoft can't make money producing smartphones, it should probably sell the factories to people who can, although there are very very few companies earning money by producing smartphones.

    It should not however abandon Windows Phone. If it does, it destroys imo the value of Windows 10 and universal apps, a move far more reaching than smartphones.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: A little ridiculous

      Thats just it though NOBODY I know actually wants or, even likes the idea of running CrApplets on a PC. The way forward for MicroSoft in the short term is to probably to solely focus on the Enterprise Market, and try to takeover where Blackberry are failing. For the exact reasons give a few posts up. Then they can let the rest of it trickle down into the consumer space. As it stands MicroSoft have next to no consumer value over Apple or Google's Android.

      And if Universal CrApps mean more TIFKAM... Then I'll be off to the greener pastures of Mint Linux like a shot! Integration is kinda nice, but I think the price of Free (Windows), might still be to high!

      1. dogged

        Re: A little ridiculous

        > Thats just it though NOBODY I know actually wants or, even likes the idea of running CrApplets on a PC

        And you know everyone. You're like on of those Green voters who still can't understand why Labour lost the UK Election - "Well, nobody I know on Twitter votes conservative..."

        1. Longtemps, je me suis couche de bonne heure

          Re: A little ridiculous

          the UK election?...where are you from? the USA?

  8. LDS Silver badge

    Nadella is not so clever as he (and someone else) thinks

    If Elop didn't have a vision, the problem with Nadella is his visions are usually someone's else. He's a "me too" man, a stream follower. He's shaping Windows in ways that could appeal to some of its most vocal critics, but those critics are usually wrong. Most of them don't like Windows because it's not like an OS set in stone in the '70s, and never changed since then much, and becasue Windows took the PC stage so easily. Nadella is doing his best to ensure that Windows alternatives become more appealing, crippling his own products to ape someone's else. It's a plan that never works as intended. Usually, it backfires.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tremendous opportunity here for MSFT

    The impact of Nadella can already be felt in mobile, where you can sense their direction is to win big in the enterprise.

    - Office works on Android, and pretty well. The Outlook client is solid. You can save and read from Google, Sharepoint and Dropbox.

    - Their Sunrise calendar app is not half bad.

    - They are playing around with business-friendly widgets like Office Lens, to help people manage expenses and receipts

    Fast forward two years and imagine: A strong enterprise user experience on Android. A really stellar one on WinPho. Skype and Lync in the back pocket in case the mobile carriers get awkward. AD integration and GPO to enforce separation of work and personal info on devices. Could be compelling for businesses.

    (I think I need medication - I just realized I wrote a pro-Microsoft post. And in mobile. Ye gods.)

    1. Peter X

      Re: Tremendous opportunity here for MSFT

      I agree that MS do seem to be making much better decisions under Nadella. However, whilst I know a few people with Windows phones and they all seem to like using them, I suspect the business case for MS to continue developing the platform is.... difficult!

      Given the market share of both Android and iOS, MS absolutely must have convincing Office apps running on them in order to ensure the Office revenue stream continues. All OS revenues however are likely to get a lot thinner - I doubt they've ever really made any money on WinPho, and the days of being able to charge much for a desktop OS appear to be ending.

      So unless they can dramatically increase the market share for WinPho, it seems to me that it's simply a massive cost for MSFT. Obviously, in the past, under Ballmer, they'd have simply thrown money at it for years on end (like they haven't already) until eventually, at version 3+, it's not too crap (..and to be fair...!) and all the competition has been killed off (ah... this!) and then they'd have a winner.

      Does anyone else think there's a good _business_ case for keeping WinPho?

      Or looking at it another way, imagine you're a share holder, Nadella's saying WinPho is costing X per-annum to develop/maintain, developing apps (Skype/Office) for WinPho costs Y per-annum, and you will *never* actually make any money off it directly... then what are you left with? Just a bit of leverage over a very small percentage of the market?

      On the other hand, I guess if Nadella _did_ announce WinPho was to be discontinued, then that might upset a lot of partners/customers who have bought into it.

  10. oldcoder

    Everything said in the article may be true.

    It is also exactly the kind of person to destroy Nokia, and did.

    Nokia had several product that were quite good. Several more in development.

    The simple choice of picking Microsoft for the phone OS destroyed the company, and all of the good products, and even mediocre products - which were keeping the company afloat.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Everything said in the article may be true.

      And there are good reasons to point out that Nokia had problems before Elop. And as Trevor points out he came, as far as we can understand, to Nokia to get the ship on course again.

      But what happened next, Elop opened his mouth twice. Great mistake. Then he started to dump out the window everything that could have kept Nokia floating during the transition.

      Like a car dealer who pushes all cars out the back door forgetting perhaps a few lying around. And when a customer steps in and asks about those cars he will say - "Oh that is rubbish, come again in a year or two, there will be a long queue of people then eagerly waiting to bye our new cars".

      Then there was the N92, quite a good phone I was told. But that phone was marketed only in a very limited market. Finland, Norway and perhaps Sweden and Denmark not sure. What kind of CEO refuses to sell a good product, was that Elop's decision or was Microsoft behind it.

      Then there was the fact that he moved to Nokia Finland but left his family in Canada and that seemed to indicate he had no long time plans with Nokia. His CV is all about short stints too.

      The problem "conspiracy people" have with this is that they refuse to believe it was all about stupidity and nothing else. A bit like with the assassination o JFK, some refuse to believe it was all about one lonely guy (I doubt it too). The book written about all this doesn't claim any conspiracy but calls him a "tomppeli/tollo/tompelo" which isn't a mean word, a guy who stumbles around walking into walls and similar, mostly slightly obese too. There is another ghost in this "saga" and that is Ballmer. Ballmer went to Finland several times to meet with Ollila the CEO then to persuade Nokia to build WinPhones. It was no thanks each time. Did Ballmer become obsessed with wanting to bye or destroy Nokia's phone division. Who knows, I don't.

      All the same, Elop is in my books a huge flop in the history of modern industry.

      Trevor's article is a nice one about the peron and I can appreciate that, while my comment is not, as I can find no reason to write one when it comes to Elop's stint at Nokia.

      Last time I heard him speak was when he was asked why he deserved all those extra millions when fucking off of Nokia. Divorcing can be very expensive was his answer, more meh meh.

      The only positive thing about that time that comes to my mind was the fact that Nokia helped people who lost their jobs to find new ones and assisted people in creating startup's like Jolla. If Elop had any part of that I don't know.

      Nokia has always been more than just the cellphone division, and still is.

      I believe people working for big firms elsewhere in the world should ask to be treated the same way.

      Trevor mentions the sell to Microsoft as a positive thing, still there where people within Nokia who claim Google made an offer too but that offer was pushed under the rug for some reason.

      Enough about history, I never worked for Nokia but I knew lots of them since 1969.

      If a hospital board of doctors employs a plumber as a heart surgeon then they are crazy but should one not also question the plumber.

  11. keithpeter Silver badge
    Windows

    That photo

    It speaks volumes does it not, the relative stance of the two executives.

    Also motivates me to keep up with my diet...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd agree that Nokia's taking was not Elop's fault

    One of my best friends was a coder for Nokia and from listening to his endless complaints about their culture, it's easy to conclude they were well, truly, and deeply screwed. Lots of brutal "screw the other groups" politics. Things like multiple international teams working on the same projects, but refusing to comment in anything other than their native languages. If their "leadership" wasn't on top of major glaring problems like that, they probably weren't on top of much else either.

    As for the market, the 800-lb gorilla is Apple - not in terms of market share, but in terms of profits (something like 90% of the smartphone nets). I suspect we're hitting "Peak Apple," though. Hardware quality and industrial design are still top-notch for asperational-market appeal, but their software quality has been deteriorating significantly over the last five years (to the point that they're merely average). I'm leery about them taking political stances in their walled gardens, even when those stances are ones I agree with. Sadly, walled gardens are the future for mass-market computing systems - even Google and Samsung are coming around on that.

    Anyway, Office and Outlook / Exchange are still the epicenter of many business activities, so Microsoft has a shot. Even though they've been the company I love to hate for the last few decades, I hope they are able to stay in it. Both Google and Apple need the competition - a duopoly isn't good for consumers. I'd even like to see a few more players as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd agree that Nokia's taking was not Elop's fault

      "Hardware quality and industrial design are still top-notch for asperational-market appeal, but their software quality has been deteriorating significantly over the last five years (to the point that they're merely average)."

      Has it been deteriorating or has everything else just caught up?

      I suspect that there is simply a limit to what you can do with a handheld regardless of technology, and at some point it all becomes polishing. Once you reach that point, it becomes about who can deliver the same amount of polish cheapest.

  13. gryff

    On the one hand, this article does provide some much needed balance.

    On the other hand it trots out the same tired "truths" -

    Such as 'the Nokia was screwed before Elop arrived' argument. No, it wasn't. Volumes were still growing. Profits were declining and everyone was focused on turning that around by getting the hell away from Symbian and later S40. We knew software engineering was an issue, that's why we got a software guy (Macromedia, ...Microsoft) to sort that out. Except he decided the problems were products and costs.

    There were actually well formed plans and visions on the table when he arrived. For example, that is where the initial 800 firings in the Symbian organisation came from. (The Multimedia unit had overbuilt its R&D organisation. What they needed 4 R&D sites to achieve, Mobile Phones did with one and typically quicker + cheaper. Shutting Bochum, Vancouver, Jyväsylä and Tokyo was the start of a long needed rationalisation that probably would have ended with Southwood and some tweaks in Oulu in an alternate universe.)

    Then there are these two gems: "Elop's strength is in executing the ideas of others, not in driving through his own" "Give Elop a well-defined and properly scoped mission and he is a fire-and-forget missile"

    -->Asked and answered. It was "get off Symbian and into a Qt/Linux world ASAP" Qt had already been run on Symbian, S40 and Linux (Maemo/meego) when he arrived. This would have allowed a very different path. Stephen thought different. He decided North America was the key, ignoring that Nokia had made vast amounts of cash with nearly no market share there.

    "Elop will tell you that everything he did was known to the Nokia board of directors and with their support."

    --> That's his story, other sources disagree.

    "[once] Nokia's mobile ambitions had been mortally wounded Elop was tasked with selling off that arm of the company. Given concise marching orders he did just that."

    -->I wasn't in the room for the negotiations but the sources I do have indicate Stephen wasn't that close to the deal. Post summer 2012, Elop seems very much to have been put back in his box whilst the Finns sorted out the mess and extracated Nokia with dignity. Which they did rather well: "This is broken beyond repair, but you can have it for €5.4 billion and a free Stephen Elop?"

  14. nijam Silver badge

    > The problem is that he reached for the mobile vision with which he was most familiar: Microsoft's

    In other words he was a Microsoft mole after all, albeit implicitly rather than overtly.

    I've worked in organsisations which have taken on management from outside, and it's always that same story.... you intend to get new ideas, but all to often end up with another organisation's discards. It's not even surprising.

  15. Longtemps, je me suis couche de bonne heure

    This is rather cheeky but here is a story from somewhere else...

    http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2415589/microsoft-might-dump-windows-phone-in-favour-of-android

    I find it quite plausible, as Nadella is not wedded to the past, and has shown signs of wanting to takeover Android but then use it as a trojan horse for making Microsoft services compulsory on their Android phones.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ageist

    "the "old farts" who cut their teeth on Computer Science in the mid 80s"

    you wouldn't be racist or sexist in your wording, so, why do you think it's acceptable to be ageist?

    shame, spoiled an otherwise interesting article.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: ageist

      A) Age is relevant here, especially as correlated with experience, the type and quality of education during their formative years, the culture under which individuals were raised, etc.

      B) "Old fart" is not an "ageist" term, unless you are unbelievably oversensitive. It is a term of endearment. It categorizes individuals by age, yes, but it also implies a fondness for the group in general.

      If I'd wanted to be ageist I could have chosen any number of other descriptors. Ancient cranks. Hoary gits. Creaky bastards. Grumpy greybeards. So on and so forth.

      Now, as to the acceptability of agism, that's another story. On an individual level I don't think it's fair to be prejudiced against anyone. Black, white, short, tall, fat, skinny, old, young, you name it...everyone deserves to be considered individually.

      That said, I have negative sympathy for old people as a group.

      The few members of "the best generation" that are still around, I have no issue with. But my parents' generation? The boomers? Fuck 'em.

      Boomers ruined our planet and created trillions upon trillions of dollars in debt in virtually every other nation. They collectively lived easy lives of low unemployment, easy access to jobs, capital, material goods and resources and left my generation and those who come after us with the bill.

      Collectively, boomers are selfish, myopic and in denial about the damage they have done.

      Give me an old person and I will do my level best to judge them individually, just as I would anyone else. But I don't have any room in my heart for treat them - as a group - with deference or even respect. I have no room in my heart to treat boomers as a group as though they deserve a goddamned thing.

      All of that said, I do rather like "old farts". Technocodgers with decades of experience and a certain cynisim about hype and trends. I've no issue with them, and I use the term they use for themselves: "old farts".

      Though, I fully intend to convert thtem all to "technocodger" by the end of the year. Just you wait and see...

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: ageist

        Guess you are about 50 then?

        Hard to tell, as there a several boomer generations.

        Pretty bitter though, it seems.

      2. ducatis'r us
        Facepalm

        Re: ageist

        So you hate your parents,well good for you. As a "boomer" I cunningly engineered the defeat of fascism fifteen years before my conception I invented the National Health service ten years before my conception to deliberately ensure that I grew up healthy rather than dying at five. Whilst I was growing up I secured a better education than my parents had (and passed that on to my children). I now cannot afford to retire because my children don't have the opportunities I had and I have to continue to support them. Is that because I ruined the planet? Or is it because the economic and political ruling classes carried on as they always have, enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of us. If you really think that the ills of today can be blamed on one generation without regard to the prevailing governance of the western world (because your dismissal of that generation cannot apply to the rest of the world's people who just struggled anyway) you have been conned. We did not engineer the world in which we grew up (in the West) and we did not conspire to keep our children in poverty.

  17. ducatis'r us
    Facepalm

    "He doesn't birth his own vision" Good Grief!

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