I could never understand why Microsoft bought a big well known brand like Nokia then killed the brand name and shut most of it down.
Less than two years into Satya Nadella's tenure as CEO of Microsoft, he's already had to report a lossmaking quarter. It's only the second time that's happened in the software giant's three decades as a public company, and the $8.44bn write-off Redmond posted earlier this week is the largest in its history. Don't blame Nadella …
They bought very little. Only temporary use of the Brand and only a licence for the IP. Some would say they only bought the Distribution as the factories shuttered and almost all the staff sacked.
But who is / was responsible for:
1) Windows CE in set Boxes: Died a death. BT even updated existing boxes to Linux.
2) Original Xbox. Subsidized for years.
3) Media Centre and it's original inability to be be used sensibly for European Terrestrial or any Satellite. Third party SW has always been better.
4) Movie maker and it's inability to make European format content.
5) Office ribbon and other GUI stupidities instead of fixing bugs.
6) half baked transition to .net with 3 different incomplete GUI APIs, no sensible migration or backward compatibility for VB6, though C# is a good development of J++
7) So many stupid variations of Desktop Windows. A Workstation and Server version is just about excusable. But three versions of server and four of XP, then the crazy Vista versions debacle.
8) Vista PCs that could never properly run Vista out of the box.
To be fair, VB6 as a language was very broken by that point. They needed to fix it, and doing so was always going to break compatibility.
Backwards compatibility has always been both a strength and a weakness of MS. They were maintaining behaviour in XP and beyond that dated back to bugs in DOS. There comes a time when you have to say "this is too broken, we're going to depreciate it in the next version and remove it from the next". The trick is to do this at a speed that the developers and users can handle.
The VB6 programming language is still used to this day, 13 years after it was supposedly replaced by .Net.
Microsoft have just announced "And yes, everyone’s favorite VB6 Runtime will continue to work, too. " in Windows 10.
It's beginning to look like VB6 programming will outlast dotNet.
I've developed commercial VB code since VB2. I know it was broken, where it was broken and how it was broken (inconstant starting at 0 or 1 anyone? That's just a starter.). I still keep getting agents calling me asking if I'd be interested in a VB6 role, so I know there's still VB6 code out there. In my experience for the most part such code is badly written and could have been created in VB3 for all the use the developers made of newer features. That code seriously needs replacing, and keeping it on life support does no one any favours.
When it came to .NET MS finally sorted the language out and made it an equal partner in terms of its capabilities to C#. There's a jump in thinking required, but finally you can do things like multithreading without hacks and stability issues.
Now can anyone here give me a solid, reasoned argument as to why VB6 should have been left in its original form that doesn't boil down to "I was used to it", or "we've got all this legacy code"?
According to Microsoft only 1 in 3 users of VB6 programming moved to dotNet.
Clearly another Microsoft blunder. If they couldn't persuade existing users to move it was clearly a marketing failure.
A better approach would have been an updated VB6 - evolution rather than revolution. Instead Microsoft chose to use C# with a VB-like syntax. The obvious approach would have been to widen the market - an updated VB6 for for the low-end, and C# for high-end. Instead Microsoft chose 2 versions of the same language, both targeting the same market, and in doing so lost two-thirds of their developers. Only true Microsoft fanbois would think they made the right choice.
So now Microsoft are nowhere in phone or tablet software. Microsoft missed the biggest growing markets. So-called "Universal apps" only run on Windows 10 desktop (Windows 10 Mobile is DoA).
Now Microsoft only supply operating systems to 14% of all devices. Microsoft have finally sorted it out indeed.
First of all provide a link to back that assertion up.
Secondly the reason that VB had to change was technical, not marketing. It was heavily tied in to COM, and Microsoft were moving away from COM (thank god).
Thirdly more complex VB code was full of hacks. Anything more than trivial changes to the language would have broken those hacks. It had already become distorted because of the ways that Microsoft chose to extend it in previous versions (never gaining full object orientation for example, only ever supporting interface inheritance). Those distortions and inconsistencies couldn't be fixed in an evolutionary way. It had evolved into the mess it was.
"we've got all this legacy code"
Often translates as: "It's paying the bills".
That's a powerful argument.
Note: I am not & never will be a VB6 coder.
That doesn't matter. You can find legacy code in all sorts of languages paying the bills, including the wage bill of its deriders as they work on all that new shiny - which, if it's good enough, will become legacy code in due course.
Unless your program is a bill paying package then it doesn't pay the bills. It may provide employment for programmers, and thus allow them to pay their bills, but that's not an aim of most businesses. They want software to solve their business problems that is reliable, easy to use, cheap to maintain and easy to extend. VB6 code is getting progressively less reliable, harder to maintain and more difficult to extend. There's a shed load of old COBOL code out there with the same problems.
VB6 programming is the definition of reliable, easy to use, cheap to maintain and easy to extend. The same apps that ran on Windows 98 can run unchanged on Windows 10.
And no, COBOL is different - they have a manufacturer still updating and supporting the language.
VB6 just has Microsoft, who prefer to waste time and money on failures like Vista, Windows 8, Silverlight, XNA, Windows Phone, Nokia, Universal apps, .Net, and many more.
But they didn't buy Nokia *brand*, that's the point - guys at Nokia sold over 20.000 phone engineers to Microsoft, and loaned the brand for limited time. Next year Nokia would be able to sell it's own branded phones again, and Microsoft won't be part of it (perhaps it'd be collecting license fees if those phones would be Android).
@irmoko - (perhaps it'd be collecting license fees if those phones would be Android).
I've wondered for a while whether Google isn't powerful enough to write a decent ext driver for MSWindows (and macOS?) and ditch the FAT system on Android - it would also allow dedicated cameras/media players to do the same, since the FS driver seems to be the main reason that people stick with FAT.
because they thought they could purchase the customers( sales channels ) and switch the product those channels were selling at the same time and it would still work. But unknowing to Microsoft's upper management, their software really isn't that good. Switching the Nokia sales channels to Windows Phone didn't work and Nokia already did damage to its channels when they signed the deal with Microsoft to be exclusively Windows Phone OS. Seems like Microsoft turns to stone anything they touch.
All these examples of Microsoft's failures shows that Microsoft can not succeed when they can not directly leverage the desktop position of the Windows OS.
As a phone OS, WP is flipping awesome and frankly, any carping about it generally comes from people who've never used it in anger; I've used Symbian, various flavours of Android, Windows Mobile even, and my current Lumia knocks any of 'em (and any fruit-based phone I've seen) into a cocked hat. The *only* flaw is the relative paucity of applications, but anything I want to do, I've found an app for or the functionality is baked in.
I'm betting that they've shuttered the bulk the old Nokia phone business, you know, feature phones, and they will probably dump all the low end smartphones too. I predict that we are going to see something like a few models of "Surface" phones, high end flagship quality devices and that's it.
And yet I've never been able to buy a decently specced Windows Phone at my carrier. I figured that between Nokia and Microsoft they'd get a wide range of models to market straight away, with all of the carriers on board and market the hell out of them. Instead they kind of dribbled out, with what, only one high-end model in years now.
I don't even know if I can blame Nokia before it got bought. I suspect that there's a lot more problems going on with Windows Phone than they've ever let on. Manufacturers seem to avoid it like the plague...even when they aren't making any money with Android either.
> I could never understand why Microsoft bought a big well known brand like Nokia then killed the brand name and shut most of it down.
Because Nokia was 90+% of Windows Phone and the agreement of paying Nokia $1billion per year to keep making WP was going to end. Nokia were already making Android X and would dump WP as soon as it could (having never made a profit from it in spite of $1billion).
MS never bought the brand name of Nokia, they only had it for a short time.
It wasn't MS that 'shut it down', it was the lack of sales. When the factory has no sales it stops production and fires the workers. They can try selling below cost (which was a lot of the sales were) but only for a limited time.
Nokia was already in trouble even before they were Elop'ed.
They had been caught on the hop when the iPhone arrived, and although the iPhone 1 had some serious failings which a mobilecentric company like Nokia wouldn't have made, Nokia had all the maneuverability of an overloaded oil tanker, giving Apple the opportunity to fix the flaws and release #2 before Nokia could really come up with any answer.
The N97 was a case in point. A knee jerk touch activated symbian phone, which could have been really good (it had battery life which you can only dream of these days), but it was obviously a rush job, and the flaws doomed it to failure. There were some fixes OTA, but with various invisible geographic agencies in charge of update release, you were pretty much screwed unless you knew how to unlock the phone and switch to generic Euro model (which received updates direct from Nokia).
The support forums were full of Nokia moderator employees with an overdeveloped sense of self importance, complaint posts got deleted instead of solutions offered.
I remember spelling out to one of the moderators that treating customers badly was not the way to retain those customers, and that without customers they wouldn't have forum posts, and without forum posts they wouldn't need moderators. In short be nice to the customers or be out of a job.
I got banned for "disrespecting Nokia".
I dumped the N97 and went out and bought an Android phone.
6 months later Elop arrived, and the decimation began.
So Microsoft (a non mobile company) buys a conceited dinosaur of a mobile company, and they fail to make a success of mobile devices... Hardly a shock.
Gates left Ballmer with a gigantic reserve of billions of dollars when he 'de-coupled' from Microsoft. Not only that he left Ballmer with some bloody awesome ideas.
Example 1: nearly a decade before Apple released the iPad, Microsoft developed a version of Windows XP suitable for a 'tablet PC', controlled by a stylus. Bill Gates hailed that Tablet PCs would be ubiquitous within five years. Ballmer missed the mark by failing/refusing to see the need for hand-touch technology and user-centric marketing -- two key elements behind the iPad's success, and this despite the success of Windows Mobile in the HTC brand range (aka the XDA on O2).
Example 2: Gates led Microsoft early to mobile phone market, too. He tried to keep things simple for users by mimicking the look and feel of Windows on what became Windows Mobile and then Windows Phone. Unfortunately after the release of the iPhone in 2007, Microsoft’s share of the smartphone market tumbled from nearly 50% to a point where Ballmer steered Microsoft into a partnership with smartphone manufacturer Nokia .. as dealt with in the article.
Suffice to say Ballmer just seems to have regarded Gates' carefully built up reserves almost as some personal fountain of fortune and it looks remarkably as though that so long as there was cash waiting to be spent then Ballmer could splash out regardless. We occasionally read about how some secretary has gone berserk with her boss' unlimited Amex card, buying huge quantities of useless items and flying all her mates 1st class in a desperate attempt to impress - Ballmer reminds me very much of this.
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A million here, a million there, and soon enough you'll be talking real money...
...was originally coined by Sen. Everett Dirksen, a Republican from Illinois (back in the 50's and 60's...long before the Republicans had lost their collective minds). This was back when a million dollars was real money.
Remember, Ronald McDonald never had an original thought; the only thing he was any good at was reading scripts.
Nope. Intel has a parallel tack of acquisition and divestment that is almost as bad as Microsoft's
They bought StongARM from DEC, developed that into the fantastic XScale range of processors, then sold it to Marvell.
They developed then dumped a wide range of embedded CPUs.
The same for flash - both NAND and NOR.
The same for USB chipsets.
Now they wonder why the embedded industry is shy about designing anything with Intel in it. As soon as you start shipping, they'll make the parts you depend on obsolete.
My guess is that Windows 8 itself probably didn't cost a great deal of revenue directly. In the consumer space the move towards handhelds was already underway. Enterprise customers had already generally said: no thanks, we're still busy with Windows 7. Yes, it was a PR fuckup, but if you look at the EBITDA since then it's been steady.
In much the same way that the Vista fiasco led to a concentration of minds and a thoroughly reasonable Windows 7, Windows 8 is leading towards Windows 10. The OS available on release date is probably less important than many of us imagine. More important is the general shift at Microsoft towards services and also acknowledging that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" with Office and Cortana for Android and IOS. Windows 10 may just end up being one way of getting those services into people's hands.
Yeah, except that Windows 1 0 is shaping up to be another bloody fiasco again.
This maddening obsession with tiles is not going to do Microsoft any favors with the PC crowd (they still exist, there are just less new ones coming in), and Microsoft's bull-headedness when it comes to the UI is becoming legendary.
It already cost them the tablet market, I wonder when they learn ?
Ah, I'm sure that, when Microsoft only has $10 billion left, someone will start yelling "fire !".
You always get more value for your cockups if you play them in pairs.
I don't know of anybody that uses or even has used the (lets copy the Nintendo Wii) Kinnect on the Xbox. It seems to have no real purpose that a gamer would want given the Xbox has always been pushed as having more "hardcore" (i.e. FPS) games than anything Nintendo would consider decent on it's consoles.
Now couple that with effectively destroying Rare as a credible Games producer by forcing them to make second rate games just to support the Kinnect.
Bingo - Two plagues on the bottom line for the price of one.
At least now Rare can, hopefully, get back to producing the quality games, of a type Nintendo would approve of and therefore attract the audience you just alienated.
Sorry, forgot, all the top talent got that pissed off by being forced to produce rubbish that they all left.
I would bet those pair of mismanagements have cost the best part of a billion.
Err gonads matey, (small boy) has a lot of fun with Kinect sports, dance, adventures etc...
His cousins and schoolfriends also find the above most enjoyable, as do I after a beer or two!
Methinks he is a little young to be chasing stuff/shooting it/blowing it up eh (that's my job)?
Horses for courses my friend...
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"Sorry, forgot, all the top talent got that pissed off by being forced to produce rubbish that they all left."
I think that touches on the BIGGEST problem of Ballmer's reign. He was such a bloody asshat with the talent. All of the best and the brightest left or got fired because of Ballmer.
... Aces Studio were closed, developers laid off (5000 of them), and Microsoft attempted to sobstitute it with "Flight" and its "freemium" model which utterly failed with the flighsim customers.
Total lack of that market understanding.
If Flight Simulator didn't bring in enough revenues to live on they could have simply closed it, or sold it. Instead some bright minds at MS decided to force it into a fashion-driven product which didn't fit its real market.
MS became really too fashion driven in the past years. Unluckily, Nadella is not the right man to change this trend. He just has a different fashion to follow, and he's too arrogant too to really understand the market MS products should be aimed at.
Windows 10 is on track to be another big debacle it looks too much like a "revenge" over Windows 8, than a proper evolution fixing 8.x mistakes.
Lockheed Martin still makes money from it (they licensed it) as Prepar3D, selling it as virtual training facility wher eyou can control the scenario fully. As more and more complex drones are available, it makes even more sense.
If you believe there are just a few dozen nuts, you're like Ballmer and have the same market sensibility. You may wonder it is actually used by real pilots and ATC controllers as well to train themselves (up it was used to test new real procedures in the simulated environment), and there are a good number of software houses making money selling add-ons, even for a ten years old product still widely used. It wasn't billions, but it was an iconic product, and the oldest one then still made by Microsoft.
But what was more interesting, it's not only the shutdown of the PC game studios (believing probably that XBox would have taken the world...), but also the total lack of proper product managment. Had they closed simply a product line with little or no revenues, ok, that's business. But they didn't. They believed they could "reboot" it following the fashion and believing to extract more money from customers with the "walled garden" approach.
They took a product manager known only for the "Ants" game (or something alike), put him in charge of a product he didn't understand, trying to turn it into something appealing to console users, decided to kill a long product heritage and its large 3rd parties support to impose a "freemium" model (fully controlled by MS) about which many warned MS it couldn't work for that market sector - they stubbornly went on accusing critics of being simply "whiners" - then after eight months the new product was shutdown wholly because only a few liked it, no money were made, but of course it wasn't because it was a bad product noone wanted really, it was just because of the "bad press".
Can you see a pattern here? It happened more or less in the Windows 8 years - an indication that within MS there was a culture shift leading to some key people being able to force their own personal views despite many signals - inside and outside - they were very wrong. How many billions allowing this kind of culture inside MS costed? And it's not getting better under Nadella...
win 10 seems to be all SatNads problem. What the utter lack of consistency and continuity in the UI suggests that instead Sinofskis tyrannical iron fist approach they I've resorted to utter chaos with zero clear leadership.
Given that I question how much control SatNad has over his managers. They each seem to be doing their own thing.
Both the Google thing and the Apple thing are understandable as defensive plays. The objective was not to be good at it, but to stop Google and Apple from being good at it.
Google maybe King of Search, but GMail is very visible and appears to be the precursor to moving computing to the web. Its an end-run around the Windows OS which is key to MS' success. MS might survive as an enterprise server OS company, but that would be a totally different beast from Gates/Ballmer era. The double-whammy is the cloud where compute is centralised into a few mega-corps none of which have a desire to pay OS licensing fees and all of which have the resources to not need MS.
Likewise with Apple. MS' problem was (and still is) that Apple created an alternative compute platform. First it made Windows look a bit rubbish and non-Windows cool with the e-/i-Mac. Then it seduced users away from Windows and the PC as its primary compute interface/platform with its phones and tablets. All the work in building up an impregnable ecosystem was undermined by tiny, weak, battery-powered devices. Linux added more cool to non-Windows bringing pain to the server end. Linux also brought a threat to the client end with a competent desktop which just needs an ecosystem.
Sadly MS' execution has been awful in their non-core areas. Interestingly, even their core areas of OS/GUI design have looked awful too. I wonder how much fail has been generated by them never really needing to compete since Novell collapsed. Suddenly, they are hit with competition and potential competition at both the server and client ends and they are... struggling.
It certainly isn't the end of MS. They have a competent if uninspiring core OS with a GUI which can be fixed. They have a couple of killer apps which provide OS lock-in in the enterprise market.
Personally, I'd like to see more secure desktop OS design, more fine-grained control of applications. I wonder if they will risk meddling with what they have or be imaginative enough to launch new products which might cannibalise the old.
You miss the embedded... (now called "IoT") it appears to be taking over.
It already took over supercomputing...
It already took over the stock markets... booting Windows out as "too slow", "inflexible", and crashes.
it already has a bit over 50% of the servers...
Phones are just a branch of embedded.
As I have said many times before Ballmer is Microsoft's answer to Derek "Del Boy" Trotter. Always looking for a deal, a scam, "Gaw on darlin', giz a couple of sovs for it! Luvvly jubbly!". Sadly Ballmer isn't anywhere near as smart or lovable as Del Boy. Where Del Boy is just unlucky, Ballmer is just a prat!
Almost all entrepreneurs make the comment that to succeed, you have to be prepared to fail; and to succeed big, you have to be prepared to fail big.
This is something that the US seems to accept much more easily than in the UK, where there seems to be a culture of standing around waiting for someone to screw up, so that you can applaud as they wallow in the sticky brown stuff.
This attitude will actually cause people to hold back from having a go; and that will be to the detriment of business in the UK.
This is something that the US seems to accept much more easily than in the UK
The bankruptcy laws have a lot to do with that. In the US if you fail bad there's little to stop you walking away from the debt and starting all over again. There are attendant tax-breaks for those lending the money so venture capital is far less risky than it might appear.
You forgot the Xbox 360. To sell it in the EU they had to switch out the solder, lead based wasn't allowed here so they went for the cheapest possible lead free stuff they could get their hands on. RROD!
Bloke does into see ole Steve and says "yeah, to fix this cock up, gunna cost us over a billion" and Steve goes "okay, do it"
On the one hand, we have the mighty cock up of using cheap solder which couldn't stand the heat generated, causing RROD's, that's the cock up that cost the billion+. But then we have Steve okaying spending that billion+ to save the Xbox brand, so, not all bad I suppose (unless you're in Japan, where the Xbox One struggles to sell triple digits a month)
In spite of this though, I don't think you can really count the Xbox 360 as a failure though. It's a pretty dominant force in the last gen console markets.
And for what its worth, I got my original when they were a couple of months old and never had an RROD. My housemate bought his at the same time and got one after a couple of years. I think it was one of those things where you had to just roll the die.
To be fair, the entire industry switched away from lead about that time and not only in the E.U. The first generation of replacement solder materials seemed pretty sketchy. It wasn't just the XBox 360 either. Lookup the "nVidia graphics recall" sometime. 21 million dodgy laptops due to bad "plastic" solder there. You might also Google "non lead solder problems".
That was the most cringeworthy article that I've read in a long, long time. The truly sad thing is that this really is only the short list and it's bound to get longer still. I think the only upshot of the Ballmer era is the huge volume of business case studies that MBA programs will produce on what not to do.
Microsoft also went and purchased a substandard 3D modeling package with a substantial user base and then closed down the company. That never made any sense to me. Why did they buy truespace to start with? Seems to have nothing to do with their core business.
But that is the whole problem : Microsoft's core business is disappearing. Windows is being replaced by something else everywhere that matters (iPhone and Android, and virtually no tablets on the market have Windows), and the upcoming generation is growing up without looking at the Microsoft logo.
Office is disappearing because Google Docs, which explains Office 365 which only has a chance because everyone is used to Office. Except that governments the world over, thanks to Snowden, are starting to push for Open Standards, in other words ODF.
ODF is the death knell of Microsoft. If Microsoft cannot hold its customers to Office format, then any office suite will do - and Libre Office is free and Open Source.
Microsoft HAS to find another way to remain relevant. Cue The-Interface-That-Used-To-Be-Called-Metro and all the hoopla around the App Store. Microsoft will not change that because it cannot. It has to look like Android because otherwise it is doomed.
Although some will argue that it is doomed anyway.
They, and a lot of other software houses, are seeing the same problem. So when faced with two choices what would you, as a customer and developer, want to follow:
1) Build on what you know to make a product that does what the customer wants, reliably, and securely.
2) Dick around with the GUI and look for ways of whoring your customer's data to advertisers?
Now ask yourself what most MBA type running those companies go for...
Maybe it was for patents Truespace had given their tenure in the field dates back to the Amiga.
I'm not sure what was going on in the 3D space in 2008 when they bought Truespace but in a few cases Microsoft has purchased companies just to shut them down and keep the technology away from other companies.
$264m profit, on a 33% share of the international calls market, and it is a very mature market with little growth prospects.
Vodafone trades at 11x earnings. Skype, probably less than that, because Vodafone has spectrum licences that other potential new entrants don't have.
$1bn would have been a good price. $1.5-$2bn would have been an OK price. $9bn was way too much.
Once Microsoft was able to sense what people needed and provide it in a way that made their lives easier.
Somewhere along the lines they seem to have decided that they could tell people what they should want, and to make matters worse, to race after the leading competitor products that people really did want at the same time.
You must be confusing the destruction of other companies because they created better products with Microsoft creating the products for its customers.
Are there any products Microsoft created out of thin air(ie before anyone else in the industry) and was successful? Everything I can think of was either purchased companies or products or copies of products others created and became popular.
I don't remember writing that Microsoft invented stuff.
Just that they spotted what the users wanted and gave it to them.
MS-Dos was beautiful after CP/M
Win 3.1x was very good for its time.
Word under MSDos was really easy to use, and Word for Windows was very good.
Win 9.x too.
And even XP
But somewhere along the lines we started getting delights such as "documents and settings" folders - as if the two things naturally sat together, and Office "ribbon" designed to stop users hiding away the clutter they'd never use, and Gawd 'elp us, WIn 8.1 for touch screens stuck on our non-touch computers.
> I don't remember writing that Microsoft invented stuff.
My point was that Microsoft didn't get market share because they had better products, they didn't.
> MS-Dos was beautiful after CP/M
MS-DOS 1 was complete crap: no hard disk support (CP/M did), corrupted diskettes if you swapped them (CP/M checked), EDLIN. MS-DOS 2 was not much better.
CP/M had been around for 6 years by the time MS-DOS came out and DRI had brought out MP/M - multi-user and pre-emptive multi-tasking (1978), MP/M II (1980) MP/M-86 (1980) and was demonstrating Concurrent-CP/M - pre-emptive multi-tasking with virtual screens.
MS-DOS was always behind the curve, limited to 32Mbyte partitions until MS-DOS 4 (though Compaq and others implemented patches to avoid the limit), MS-DOS 5 was nearly 2 years behind DR-DOS 5 and then DR-DOS 6 went to another level.
> Win 3.1x was very good for its time.
Yes, it took 3 versions plus a subversion to be better than GEM which preceded Windows 1 by a year and a half.
The really object lesson here is the strange behaviour of giant money printing companies when their core business slows down. If Microsoft had stopped at o/s and productivity and released all of the extra money to shareholders as dividends then I'd guess Bill Gates would have an extra $10bn of cold hard cash to solve the world's problems with. Their share price would now be gracefully declining as the market matures away from them, but shareholders would have had large sums to reinvest to better effect than this.
Of course, if they'd stopped at just o/s they'd be a smaller company and possibly have been taken over so this isn't a tirade on takeovers per se, but that's where real management comes in. Complementary products which are well integrated into your core, good! (at least for you. Not necessarily for the people who have to support or use more of your crap). Random purchases of free IP phone brands and hardware manufacturers with no obvious synergy, bad!
Amazon and Apple have been spectacular at this, at least so far. Discretely purchasing $10-$100m sized capabilities to speed up your R and D is tremendous management and even if you have a 50% complete failure rate it affects neither your bank balance nor your brand.
Google have been less good, and HP have probably pissed away more than half of their shareholders equity on Autonomy and Compaq alone.
This is something to concerns me as an Apple shareholder. Having $200 billion and counting of cash laying around means they could get a really stupid idea and blow $50 billion buying Uber or something equally ridiculous. Bad enough they spent $3 billion on Beats, which seems like it can't ever be recouped, but I fear if this first "large" acquisition comes to be viewed as a success, it opens the floodgates to dip into that cash pile.
While I despise Icahn, I agree with his idea that Apple should return substantially all its cash to shareholders (I know much is overseas, so they'd need to sell debt in the US) to eliminate this temptation. You don't need to worry about saving for a rainy day when you're piling on nearly a billion a week. Pretty sure they don't have to worry about funding new initiatives like driverless cars or a working model of a Death Star.
Had Microsoft done the same, Ballmer wouldn't have had that big pile of cash he started thinking he should do something with other than roll around in Scrooge McDuck style.
The idea of buying a failing under-performer and cutting off its testicles just so you have a machine you can sell in Woolworth's is a well known bad idea. Once a company saddles itself with anything like Compaq, it's time to bolt the stable door and take the horses to market.
Ballmer sought to chase down one of Microsoft's competitors when it reached into a market that Redmond hadn't already conquered.
In Ballmer's defense, that strategy had worked pretty well for Microsoft in the past. Off the top of my head, here are 6 instances where Microsoft wrested control away from the market leader(s) by introducing a functional equivalent.
Stacker -> DoubleSpace
1-2-3 -> Excel
WordPerfect/WordStar -> Word
OS/2* -> Windows NT
Lotus Notes -> Exchange
Netware -> Windows NT and later Active Directory
*Not sure if OS/2 really counts as a "market leader," but IBM was still a force with which to be reckoned so I'm including it anyway.
It's no coincidence that those wins all came when Microsoft was leaner and that they all formed part of a clear strategy along with Powerpoint to create a productivity suite which coupled tightly with their dominant O/s.
It's also no coincidence that most of these failures came much later when Microsoft was struggling to maintain its growth and the exec team were essentially flailing around for the growth that Wall Street stupidly expects ad infinitum.
The more sprawling an organisation becomes the harder it is to build acquisitions into a coherent strategy and really the only strategic planning that I've seen across any of the failures in this article was the attempt to build a coherent UI across Phone, table and desktop. We all know how that worked out, and in some ways it's an illustration of precisely why giant enterprises are nervous about integrating shiny new things into their cash cow product.
Microsoft now feel to me like they're in the IBM/HP/any telco territory of being certain to screw up any business they acquire even if it's the right strategic fit purely because they're too big to properly integrate anything. That's when it's time to become a dividend stock and start actually paying those shareholders who hung around for long term returns.
> Stacker -> DoubleSpace
Microsoft were sued by Stacker because MS _stole_ their code. Stac won $120million and briefly had a stop on sales of MS-DOS to get a further settlement.
> 1-2-3 -> Excel
> WordPerfect/WordStar -> Word
Microsoft made Windows run their products much better than competitor's ones by having a hidden API. They also changed the API to delay Lotus and WordPerfect getting their products to market.
> OS/2* -> Windows NT
What killed OS/2 was the inclusion of Windows 3.0. IBM was under anti-trust provisions and was required to not announce products more than 3 months in advance. They had Windows 3.1 running under OS/2 before it was released and announced it. Microsoft simply delayed 3.1 release until the 3 months was up and IBM had to release with 3.0.
Another ploy that MS did was when there was to be a new OS/2 release (on 22 diskettes) they went around all the diskette manufacturers and bought all of the next 6 months supply. They had several warehouses full of diskettes and eventually had to dump them, but it strangled supply of OS/2.
> Lotus Notes -> Exchange
> Netware -> Windows NT and later Active Directory
Microsoft introduced a server that shared connections to Netware so that 100 clients could run to a 10 client licenced Netware server. This strangled Novell's revenue. They also announced that "the next version of Windows will not support Netware". This is why Novell bought DRI so they could give DR-DOS away with Netware to ensure there were supported clients.
Microsoft didn't take over a market by having a better product.
"Stacker->Doublespace"... Microsoft stole it, and lost the lawsuit. Unfortunately, the company was put out of business by the lawsuit.
"1-2-3->excel" ... DOS isn't done til xyz won't run.. introducing artificial failures to force other companies out.
"WordPerfect/WordStar -> Word" breaking contracts, illegal business activities, and another lost lawsuit, and forced yet another company out of business.
"OS/2* -> Windows NT" first breaking a contract with IBM.
"Lotus Notes -> Exchange" That one I'll grant was a better product. Though it was very insecure (it didn't properly even handle SMTP as it couldn't even reject a message due to insufficent disk space; instead it would crash).
"Netware -> Windows NT and later Active Directory", better product, but adding deliberate incompatibility with established standards (Kerberos, LDAP, and DNS), and insecurity. Had they actually gone with the standards they would have been in position to take over support for UNIX and Linux, which would have gotten them into supercomputing and distributed systems (now called clusters). As it is, it has shut them out of those markets.
In addition to the obvious ones, it's clear that being too polite to fire your ex-roommate as your CEO is a death kneel to shareholders. He also presided over killing the MS name as a consumer brand by letting literally 120,000 malware, viruses and trojans pollute WIN PC ... along with poor updates ... in fact, MS bragged they spent $6 BILLION on WIN 8 (before it's release, afterwards - of course,silence) ... Xbox - only MS could spend $30 BILLION to make $20 BILLION on Xbox1 ... but what might be worse, it helped kill the $3K WIN PC market for gamers who almost all switched to a then $399 box to play PC games without driver or malware issues ... or to put it more bluntly, $1k+ WIN PC marketshare has dropped from 97% to 3% in 15 years ... and MS shareholders paid him with $20 BILLION along with the LA Clippers as their parting gift.
Why is going from 97% to 3% >$1K PCs bad for Microsoft? It isn't like they charge as a percentage of PC sales price. The cheaper they are, the more PCs that will be sold -> the more Windows licenses that will be sold, all things being equal. This is more of an issue for Intel than Microsoft - or to be honest, really a problem for Dell, HP, etc. than Microsoft or Intel (since Intel's CPU ASPs have not dropped all that much)
Ron Johnson had the ultimate halo effect. He was in charge of Apple's stores, so of course he must be a mega genius. The thing is, they were opened only in really rich areas, selling products that were in high demand. He had little or nothing to do with that success, it is like being the realtor who answers the phone when a Russian billionaire calls looking to buy the most expensive apartment in Manhattan for his daughter. You're going to make a multi million dollar commission, but for being in the right place at the right time, not because you are amazing at your job.
What about Skype?
It's a decent enough company, sound business model, makes a profit and so on, but Microsoft vastly overpaid for it. The problem was that there was little growth potential because everyone was already using it, and had the risk of losing market share to new entrants such as Google Talk, WhatsApp and Apple's FaceTime.
It is not well known that one of the reasons Microsoft did so well under Steve Ballmer with substantial profits up to mid 2000s, was the brilliant contract Gates and Ballmer extracted from Hardware OEM that mandated these manufacturers paid Microsoft a Windows toyalty for every computer made, irrespective if a large customer placed an order from OEM for 20,000 units without any OS installed. This dominant advantage had nothing what-so-ever to do with any creative technology or innovation, which are the most critical capabilities to carry a corporation forward into the 21st century.
With the explosive growth and dominance of the Internet and Web technologies like Mobile - smartphones and Tablets, social media services, mass, geogrpahically distributed server farms running primarily Linux, Virtualization, Cloud Computing and especially "comtainerization" - all areas where Microsoft was left flat-footed, Steve Ballmer was without any vision from a company that could only control by litigation and secunding other technologies. and not from any innovative and great new technologies. Bill Gates and Ballmer even poo-pooed the Internet and the Web at a time their use was expanding exponentially all around Microsoft.
Fortunately the European Union was astute enough to firmly halt Microsoft in anti-trust successes against the company's relentless, oppression stance against all competitors, the stupidity of which can be solely attributed to Ballmers over-sized arrogance and stupidity.
Those who closely follow and have extensive experience and and expertise in technology are fully aware of the paper dragon Microsoft was becoming.
"During his time in Redmond, Ballmer oversaw numerous projects and initiatives. Many succeeded. He preserved Windows' position as the dominant desktop operating system."
It felt more like the competition were unable to capitalise on windows falling reputation. I used several Linux distros during this period. they failed to be replacements for windows inasmuch that you didn't have to go very far and the the command line reared it's ugly head. The killer blow, the range of software was incomplete. The inertia of commerce deeply entrenched in windows technology was a further factor. Neither in the control of Balmer.
Microsoft Seems unsure who it's allies are .In Balmer's time it sided with big media against the consumer, whilst asking the consumer to pay the bills. reduction in media capabilities in windows 10 suggests this confusion still reigns.
Of course, the biggest blunder was putting Ballmer in the driving seat. I saw a YouTube video of Ballmer dancing at one of Microsoft presentations and thought then, OMG what’s he doing as a CEO??!!
This kinda reminds you of what a chicken does when it's head has been removed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8M6S8EKbnU
Only those who do nothing make no mistakes.
Ballmer may have felt, and the board was behind him, that Microsoft had to purchase Nokia when it did, to give a chance to Windows Phone.
I just do not understand why Microsoft did not try to sell all Nokia factories to smartphone producers, with a guaranteed number of orders per year from Microsoft.
In my opinion, aQuantive is the biggest mystery. I do not understand why Microsoft did not react faster to make the merger work, or exit and resell it after a year or two, seeing it was going nowhere.
Clearly, a few acquisitions were duds - and statistically most mergers have no economic justification anyway, but others went well.
And let's not forget the overall track record of Ballmer at Microsoft, which was outstanding.
Each one has been a disaster for different reasons and each ending up lagging competitors offerings
Xbox - prematurely given the can.
Xbox360 - massive failures rates and multi billion writeoffs
Xbox one, unloved flop due to poor hardware specs, betamax stylings and loads of about turns.
Steve Ballmer has, on his own and with Bill Gates made several critical blunders in shepparding Microsoft into 21st century.
While the company has grown, particularly in profitability under his tenure, that advantage should not be attributed to Ballmer but instead to the very shrewd and intuitive contract agreements Gates made with hardware manufacturers (OEMs) that effectively tied their financial obligation to Microsoft for every “computer manufactured” irregardless of quantity sold. This resulted in, for example, a large corporation purchasing 20,000 computer units “without” an Operating System (OS) installed, but for which the OEM still had to pay Microsoft for 20,000 copies of Windows (multiplied by) times Windows OEM price.
The principle reasons for Microsoft decline under Ballmer in minds of most technology and business related experts, stems from (a) Ballmer and Gates discounting early on the importance of the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) ,which was quickly emerging as critical and defacto technology in early 2000s for all electronic communications, and for which Microsoft had little or no expertise, or worthwhile experience on global level.
The second (b), and related (to first) reason for the difficulties now facing Microsoft was that the company was never a truly innovative tchnology entity, which gleaned it's software products and services for other creators and developers, sometimes by litigation that other entity could not challenge financially and/or by secunding technology through cooperative projects that Microsot controlled.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, even with a smart leader like Satya Nadela , it is already too late for Microsoft to be a leader or dominate in areas such as Mobile – smartphones, tablets , social networking services, mass geographically distributed data centers for Mobile services, mostly run on Lunux, advanced Virtualization and Cloud Computing Services with "must-have" “Containerization” technology.
Steve Ballmer was basically an ineffective, loud anf bullying type leader who has no place in new technology age.