Thursday, January 27, 2011

Microsoft FY11Q2 Results

A quick check from the last Quarterly Results leading up to today's Microsoft Quarterly Results:

  • What's great: Kinect. We sold millions of Kinects and it's full of cool! And we have a 93% customer satisfaction rate with Windows Phone 7. Looking around, I think that's also assuming that 93% of Windows Phone 7 handsets sold are the Samsung Focus.
  • What's good: our reputation is working through the bothersome-hated-defeated-spurned-ignored-renewed-respected cycle compared to Google.
  • What's okay: Windows Phone 7: we sold some to non-employees and two-million licenses are in the channel. I have no idea what that means with-respect-to actually sold hardware. But it's no KIN, so... success! Yeah.
  • What's really, really bad: the iPad is gnawing away our laptop market. And a new version is coming out soon.

Hungry Hungry Cannibals: reading Ms. Friar's last beat-the-hell out of Microsoft Goldman-Sachs report just about made me permanently hungry for human flesh given the repeated fixation on cannibalization. I swear, I'd look up from my print-out occasionally and longingly eye my more fit co-workers.

It's the iPad baby, and - booga booga - it's going to destroy Microsoft. Well, at least destroy Windows.

First all: sure, Microsoft leadership deserves all the head-bashing it gets for both mobile and small form-factor markets. We had the jump on these markets with inelegant, uninspired devices that never had a chance of taking off with consumers and no one was bold enough to reboot the product line without successful leadership from Apple showing us the way.

Next: our iPad-compete strategy is unspoken. For good reason. Just about any application developer at Microsoft can tell you that it's a secret wrapped in red. Most Microsoft-observers have put the pieces together and figured out our strategy could be and realize who could be on point to deliver something exceptionally cool to compete with Apple. This will certainly could be our bet-the-company chance to validate the tortoise-vs-the-hare fable.

How have our past tortoises fared? I can think of three recent late to market responses: Zune HD (iPod - remember those?), Kinect (Wii), and Windows Phone 7 (iPhone / Android). All great devices. In order for our possible iPad compete story to be a success, it has to pull a Kinect and be beyond the competition vs. a me-too or, well, me-kinda-sorta.

CEO Changes: Mr. Ballmer's respect meter in the ephemeral tech-business... news (?) world is still low. Kinect has helped, but questions linger regarding what he's doing with his leadership team given Muglia's upcoming departure. I had always remarked to folks that Bob's a survivor. His time just finally ran out. It will be intriguing to see what leadership steps in or up and what happens to Bob's current team. And who might be next. Bets? Unless HR is about to unleash something huge that's been in the making my first bet is on LisaB. Also, Craig, I'd love to know what successes you've brought to the company as of late.

In the midst of Google and Apple going through leadership changes, you've got to ask: who is on the bench to replace Mr. Ballmer? What is the Board's plan? I have to reject Ms. Foley's point of view that there is no-one that can replace Ballmer. That's a too big to fail leadership jail sentence. Perhaps the decision is that his departure immediately results in a broken up Microsoft and the presidents he is putting in place now would be quite capable of running those sister corporations. Given the convergence and consolidation that is happening internally on a number of fronts for future development, such sister corporations would be much more dependent on each other, so it's not as whacky - or dog-eat-dog cannibalistic - as it might have seemed in the past. Given that the consent decree is considered over, Microsoft self-breaking itself up will certainly help prevent penalties when the inevitable violation occurs.

From another angle: if the Sinofskyfication of the company continues (IEB now with its massive re-org complete, post-Muglia Server & Tools next?) then Mr. Sinofsky ascending over a whole Microsoft will be a moot decision.

Interesting coverage after the results:

In general, no surprise to people that Windows/Live was down and that Entertainment was up on the Kinect. Online (aka Bing aka Partner-Level-Palooza) lost over half-a-billion dollars. And gained a bit of market share.

Pulling out my crystal ball that's covered with dust along with all the other Mini implements used to write this blog (oooo, an unopened bottle of Col Solare! Score!): Microsoft product groups should feel good about WP7 and the influence Metro is having around the company. Like I said, there's a big convergence ahead of us, and it will be good to start aligning a simpler development story, both for Microsoft and its partners. The biggest obvious concern is the development path for the mobile platform compared to the development path for Windows, but even there you can squint and see on the horizon the possibility for that to be successful, too.

IE9 is great technology that yes, has a way to go to score some high compliance number across a bunch of random folk's assessment sites. Still: wow. WP7 is a modern joy to use and is slowly building an app catalog. Kinect. And a whole bunch of developers hunched over and hammering bits to create the next big "Wow." Yeah, "Wow" might be inscribed on the back of a tortoise, but sometimes... the tortoise wins in the end.

The only thing that concerns me right now is (and you're going to love this): hiring. We've got great successes that excite people about working at Microsoft, but really, how many more people are we hiring to work on Kinect? My friends and I have never been so courted by other companies. Not since 2000. And I've got to say, the culture that Ballmer and LisaB have created is really weary. It's enlightened for the mid-1980s. But if crazy stock price jumps are no longer enthusing your employees, you've got to reboot the culture.

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