Microsoft's New Mobile Boss Had Better Be Ready For All-Out War

Steve Ballmer

Microsoft is shaking up its mobile and gaming divisions in response to pitiful performance and surging growth from Apple and Google.

Whoever is tasked with taking over mobile at Microsoft had better be ready to go all-out to win, because in the past, Microsoft’s mobile efforts have been “a little bit more half-hearted” in the past, says Sun cofounder Bill Joy.

In an interview with Ina Fried at CNet, Bill says Microsoft went all-in with the Xbox and that’s why it succeeded. It didn’t pursue mobile with the same vigor, though.

Now, Microsoft is stuck watching Apple and Google take off as consumers flock to their mobile platforms, which are two of the biggest threats to Microsoft’s Windows cash cow. In the long run, that’s a problem for Microsoft, which basically doesn’t have a mobile operating system right now. Sure, Windows Phone 7 is supposed to be out by the holidays, but in the mobile world, months are years.

While the mobile situation looks troubling for Microsoft, there’s a bigger-picture problem with the company. Bill thinks Microsoft is at a point where it’s not sure what it is:

“Is Microsoft a consumer company or not? In the categories that matter to consumers, where’s the music player, where’s the phone, where’s the tablet? It’s sort of gradually falling away. That’s OK. They don’t have to be a consumer products company; Samsung looks a lot more like a consumer products company than Microsoft to me. Maybe that’s not a good thing to be. It may be hard to be a consumer products company. Ask the Japanese consumer electronics companies.”

At Sun Microsystems, Bill says he saw similar problems. The company had a ton of cool products, but it didn’t execute on enough of them. He says, “Our technology got stranded. Microsoft similarly seems to have a lot of stranded technology.”

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