Archive for the 'Microsoft' Category
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, Yahoo have banded together to created the Reform Government Surveillance coalition saying spy tactics around the world need to change now.
“The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information,” the coalition website reads, “We strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.”
The NSA, the U.K.’s GCHQ, and others including Australia’s government have come under attack for their surveillance practices since former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden released many leaked documents about their spy techniques.
This includes blanket data collection orders to U.S. telecommunications companies, special data-sharing relationships with major tech companies, and fiber optic cable taps on unencrypted areas of these companies’ data centers. Many of the companies included in the initial PRISM leaks are represented in this reform group.
The reform government surveillance groups stands on 5 pillars:
- That governments’ authority to collect user information should be limited
- That there should be more oversight and accountability
- That there needs to be a lot more transparency around government demands
- That the “free flow” of information should be respected and not inhibited
- That governments should work with each other to protect their citizens’ privacy even where those laws may differ
Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and others have already lobbied the government to change its surveillance practices. More specifically, the companies have called for transparency from the government. This includes allowing these tech giants to publish exact numbers of government data requests made under the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Google CEO Larry Page, and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo all contributed their thoughts on the reform government surveillance page, which ends with an open letter to Washington. It ends:
“We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law.”
VentureBeat is conducting a 9-question survey on how you use social media at work. Please take it and share it!
Juniper released its top 10 tech trends for 2014 today. And if the research firm is right, our cities are going to get smarter, our money is going digital, and we’ll be printing a lot more products at home.
Here’s a quick overview:
Cities will get increasingly smart as sensors and cloud-enabled apps connect transportation, metering, health care, lighting, and environment data, and make it actionable.
See what Sensity is doing, building a billion-node planetary network of sensors — in street lights. Also, see what IBM is doing in San Francisco and Cisco is doing in Lake Nona, Fla.
2) Mobile money will continue to grow — as will ‘mAgri’
Mobile money is enabling banking and financing systems in the developing world via mobile wallets, which should continue to grow both there and in developing countries. And as mobile grows in Africa and Asia, so will the provision of data, including data on better crop management, yield, and product tracking.
See the latest data on how mobile penetration in Africa is reaching 80 percent and how African companies are using mobile payment solutions like mPesa.
3) Wearable devices will proliferate
Google has Glass, and Samsung has a smartwatch, but Apple’s iWatch and many other smart wearable technologies are coming out soon. Juniper says 2014 will be a “watershed year” for wearables — but privacy will be an issue as cameras go everywhere.
4) iPads and tablets will grow in education
Tablet computing is increasingly attractive and affordable in education, Juniper says, and are likely soon to go mainstream in place of full desktop PCs or even laptops.
5) Mobile fitness devices will grow even bigger
On my desk, I’ve got a sleep bracelet that someone snapped on my wrist at a conference, a Jawbone Up, and a Fitbit Flex. In 2014, these mobile fitness devices will start to focus on the whole range of health and start to enter the tougher and more challenging health care industry.
See more details on the proliferation of mobile fitness devices, a fitness bracelet that actually knows what you’re doing at the gym … and a smart shirt that knows your emotions — and if you’re having a heart attack.
6) LTE subscribers will double and 4G LTE will start to roll out
LTE will hit the big-time, Juniper says, with global users doubling in 2014. And even faster networks will debut. See how T-Mobile and other U.S. carriers already have most of the USA covered with LTE, and how you can even get free LTE data.
7) Device context awareness will accelerate
More wearables, more devices, and more intelligence: Our devices are going to get smarter about where we are, what we’re doing, and what they can do to help us. Google Now is a good current example, Juniper says.
8) Ouya and other ‘microconsoles’ will disrupt home gaming
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One may have captured all the recent headlines about gaming systems, but Ouya is only 20 percent of the cost of the latest Xbox. As such it — and other cheap interlopers like the GameStick — pose a threat at the low end of the market, while other computer-based gaming systems pose a threat at the high end.
See how Microsoft is turning the Xbox One into the center of your digital home and which of the two megaconsoles is likely to win. And why some feel the Ouya is a better buy.
9) Personal clouds will explode
The public cloud is the NSA’s playground, some might think. So they’re turning to private cloud solutions and network-attached storage devices, right in the home.
See how Pogoplug is now powering over one million personal clouds and how BitTorrent Sync is starting to displace public file-sharing and cloud storage companies.
10) 3D printer sales will jump
3D printers were hot in 2013, but they’ll increase significantly over the next 12 months, Juniper says, as HP, Samsung, and Microsoft join the party.
Most of Juniper’s predictions make a lot of sense, and you can see the budding trends right now. One, however, makes me wonder. Technologists have been promising smart cities for years, but the question is whether cities have the money to make it happen.
2014 will let us know.
I’ve been playing the next-generation video game consoles and talking to people who have bought them. For the first couple of weeks, everyone was pretty excited about the flood of new content that came with them. Each had 22 launch titles, more than the usual allotment at a console debut. Ostensibly, that meant there was something for everyone.
But just a short time into this cycle, I’m already hearing some grumbling from consumers that they’re bored.
The Microsoft Xbox One, which debuted Nov. 22, and the Sony PlayStation 4, which hit stores on Nov. 15, are the first new living room game machines from those companies in at least seven years. So how could users be tired of them already? Maybe they bought their favorite console and a couple of games and blazed through the single-player campaigns, which last maybe 10 hours. Now what are they going to do? It seems like we all have limited attention spans these days. And that’s creating a headwind for the consoles.
It’s not time to panic for the console industry. It certainly looks like demand is stronger than ever, based on the sales reports from the console makers and retailers. The new games boxes are scratching that seven-year itch, and they are selling above their retail prices on eBay. It’s getting hard to find them in stores, and they’re going to be scarce until after the holidays.
But then we’ll see a lull. The console makers will try to catch up with demand by keeping the manufacturing going. But when the gift-giving stops in January, we’ll have a better picture of the ongoing demand. John Riccitiello, former CEO of Electronic Arts, predicted at our GamesBeat 2013 conference a month ago that, based on his own research into stats such as preorder levels, these new consoles would sell more units in the first five months than they did last time in the first 14 months. That is a very optimistic view.
I suspect that such a pickup in demand is quite possible, given the kind of consumer enthusiasm we have seen for the coolest tech gadgets in recent years. But the upgrade cycle depends on having strong content. And that’s where this console generation is weak. If you look back in the past, most console launches haven’t had killer games available at launch. With the Xbox 360 (18 titles at launch), the big game was Call of Duty 2. For the PlayStation 3 (14 titles at launch), it was Resistance: Fall of Man. The original Xbox had a blockbuster with Halo: Combat Evolved. The Nintendo Wii had Wii Sports.
It’s not kosher for game fans to say they’re bored with games. The admission comes hard. And then comes the opprobrium. Mark Pincus, chairman of Zynga, said he was bored with games, and then everybody piled in on him, saying he shouldn’t be running a game company. I’m not trying to insult gamers by dismissing games that other people find to be fun. But I do wish that there was more innovation in the next-generation titles.
When Ubisoft postponed its innovative new Watch Dogs game, I was heartbroken. That game looked like it was highly original and was going to provide a great experience on both the current-generation systems and the next-generation consoles.
In advance of the console launches, I was interested in the exclusives such as Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall on the PlayStation 4. But both Sony games received weak reviews. Knack got 55 out of 100 on Metacritic, the review score aggregator, and Killzone: Shadow Fall got a rating of 74. Resogun, a downloadable action shooter game, has generated some excitement, but it’s rated only at an average of 83. Halo, by contrast, was rated 97 out of 100.
On the Xbox One, the situation isn’t much better. Forza Motorsport, the racing game, came in at 81. Dead Rising 3, a third-party game from Capcom, was rated 78. I liked Ryse: Son of Rome, the flagship game on the Xbox One. But other critics blasted it and rated it 60 on Metacritic.
Ryse was originally supposed to be a title that exploited Microsoft’s second-generation Kinect motion-sensing system. Microsoft built a lot of fidelity into that system for the Xbox One. But short of some exercise and dance games, there isn’t a killer app for Kinect. That’s sad, since Microsoft put a Kinect system into every console, raising the cost by an average $75 per machine. Kinect is why the Xbox One costs $100 more than the PS4. But it has no awesome games.
Players may very well have a different view than the critics. But nobody is going to play 22 games this season. They’re going to play a few games at most during the holidays. If they’re like me, they’ll play a few games all the way through and then look for more of the same. I played Ryse: Son of Rome, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Battlefield 4. Now I’m wondering what I really want to play next. Whatever it is, it’s probably not going to be a game that is rated 90 or more. They just aren’t there.
With just 22 titles available on each of the next-generation consoles, the best option might very well be a current-generation game for one of the older consoles. Sony has a big game coming in that respect with Gran Turismo 6 on the PlayStation 3, while Microsoft has World of Tanks for the Xbox 360.
I suppose it’s not so bad for the game industry if we play current generation games and next-generation games during the holidays. But it is a letdown. We don’t have a killer app on a console that is viable. Nintendo came through with the 93-rated Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U. But I have a feeling that’s not going to move the needle much for the Wii U, which has sold poorly in the past year.
And that brings me to multiplayer …
Multiplayer is going to be important in carrying this generation of game consoles forward — it’s what’s supposed to entertain us when we get bored. I’m putting some hours into playing both Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 on multiplayer. But Ghosts is a disappointment to me compared to last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II. And while Battlefield offers a better experience, it crashed on me a couple of times in an evening on the Xbox One. And others have reported problems with online play.
I know. Poor me. This is a first world problem. Compared to past launches, this generation has a lot of decent titles available, and I should appreciate this abundance. But I’ve become harder to please. It seems like I am whining because I don’t have enough ways to entertain myself.
Actually, I do. I see some very interesting new technologies coming down the road, and they’re not for the consoles. The reason that it is dangerous for the consoles to bore consumers is that the mobile game industry is coming on strong. Just before Dec. 20, we’ll see a spate of new mobile game launches that will take advantage of all the holiday gifts under the tree: smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets. On Nov. 21, one of the remarkable new mobile games debuted: Clumsy Ninja from NaturalMotion. After a decade of research into artificial intelligence, NaturalMotion launched the game with the cute sentient character, who reacts to you. The free-to-play game got 10 million downloads in its first seven days.
My point isn’t that this game will stem demand for consoles. It is that we are in a nanosecond entertainment economy. Our propensity to get bored is higher. Our attention span is shorter. The consoles play out over a very long time. But they have more competition for entertainment time than they’ve ever had. Smartphones and tablets are wonderful at stealing our time. Titles like Clumsy Ninja are potentially disruptive. And new tech such as Oculus VR’s virtual reality goggles could steal the show.
I see some possibility of rescue for the next-generation consoles with titles like Respawn’s Titanfall and Bungie’s Destiny coming. But they’re not here yet, and a lot can happen between now and when those games debut in 2014. I really hope to hear soon about the next wave of next-generation games. I know it’s coming. But I’m one of those consumers who just doesn’t want to wait.
It’s not often that you see Sony and Microsoft collaborating. But Sony’s digital music division Gracenote is providing music recognition, metadata, and other features for the music-matching service in Microsoft’s Xbox Music.
Xbox Music is Microsoft’s cross-platform music service, which got a big overhaul in advance of the launch of the Xbox One game console. Xbox Music is available on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows 8, Windows RT tablets, PCs, iOS devices, Android phones, and Windows 8 smartphones.
It’s not clear why Sony would partner with Microsoft. Clearly, Sony can make money doing this. But sometimes the enemy of your enemy is your friend. And in this case, the main foe is Apple and its iTunes music service. Microsoft’s willingness to use Gracenote suggests it is getting over its not-invented-here syndrome and is being realistic about what it can achieve on its own.
Users who purchase an Xbox Music Pass can get the Gracenote-powered feature. It will let them identify music albums and tracks they already own, unlock them in the cloud, and stream them across their devices. Xbox Music subscribers will be able to unlock digital music files in the cloud regardless if albums and songs were purchased from other services, such as Amazon and iTunes, or even if they were ripped from CDs.
This nearly eliminates the need for fans to spend time manually rebuilding their entire collection every time they get a new device. In addition, subscribers can use Emeryville, Calif.-based Gracenote’s collection of music metadata to receive music recommendations, edit song and genre information, manage collections, and fill in missing album cover art.
“A big frustration for music fans is having to completely rebuild their collections when switching between streaming or download services,” said Stephen White, the president at Gracenote. “Gracenote music recognition and data will make it easy for Xbox Music users to migrate their collections to the cloud without searching, repurchasing, or even uploading.”
Xbox Music lets users migrate their collections to the cloud, then add more music, enjoy playlists, and discover new artists. It leverages Gracenote’s database of “audio fingerprints” to identify and match the millions of songs in the Xbox Music catalog. When Xbox Music fans scan their music collection, these fingerprints are matched to the Gracenote database to pick the correct albums and tracks in the Xbox Music service. An Xbox Music Pass costs $10 a month.
Sure, it’s a little soon to declare a champ, but everyone’s bound to have an early favorite. Or, like some of our responses show, maybe people plan to stick around with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for a little while longer. Oh, and didn’t Nintendo release a system last year or something?
Anyway, let’s get to your responses:
— Jonboy (@RetroRaconteur) December 2, 2013
@GamesBeat I’m mostly playing Resogun (PS4) and Dead Rising 3 (XBO), but my Xbox One is on more often due to the cable-TV integration.
— Shoe (@DanShoeHsu) December 2, 2013
— Chris Landry (@honoluluboo) December 2, 2013
— DCS1122 (@DCS1122) November 29, 2013
— Cornelius Turner (@Beam626) November 29, 2013
The Xbox One is only a bit more than two-weeks old, but the baby console has already done so much.
Microsoft revealed that gamers have already spent 50 million total hours “in games and entertainment on Xbox One,” according to an Xbox.com blog post. The company also released an infographic that covers some more extreme statistics from the console’s launch lineup. Check it out:
While fun metrics like these show that people are definitely enjoying the new console, Microsoft isn’t updating the sales performance for Xbox One. That’s opposed to Sony, which earlier today revealed that it already sold 2.1 million PlayStation 4s worldwide.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft to ask for an update on the console’s sales, but the company only provided us with the following statement from Xbox marketing boss Yusuf Mehdi:
“We are humbled and gratified by the overwhelming response from our fans to the launch of Xbox One. Eleven days in we are seeing record breaking sales and are selling every Xbox One we can make. Demand is far exceeding supply in the 13 countries we’ve launched and we are sold out at retailers around the world. We are seeing incredible usage from our engaged fans who have purchased Xbox One with more than 50 million hours spent on Xbox One games and entertainment.”
Some early reports following the Black Friday sales suggested that Microsoft’s Xbox One might have outpaced PlayStation 4 at stores like Walmart and Target. This comes after Microsoft claimed that it sold more than 1 million Xbox Ones worldwide in less than 24 hours.
Microsoft’s Xbox One was the most popular video game console on Black Friday, according to a survey of early shoppers by shopping market research firm InfoScout.
The Xbox One video game console dominated the rankings at Walmart and Target, coming in No. 1 with a 31 percent share even though it had the highest purchase price at $499. These rankings may not hold up, but they’re they earliest indicator in a console war that will go on for years to come.
The news isn’t entirely bad for Sony as sales were evidently constrained by limited availability of its new PlayStation 4, which launched on Nov. 15, one week ahead of the Xbox One. But it does suggest that Microsoft succeeded in preparing its supply chain for a torrent of sales.
At No. 2 was Microsoft’s older Xbox 360 console, which had a 30 percent share. The Xbox 360 sold for $180 at Target and at a door-buster price of $99 at Walmart. Meanwhile, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 tied for third with a 15 percent share each. The PS3 sold for $149 at Walmart and $199 at Target while the PS4 sold for $399 at both chains.
Nintendo’s Wii U console came in a distant fifth place with 6 percent market share. It sold for $299 at Walmart and $275 at Target while Nintendo’s older Wii console was sixth at 1 percent market share, selling for $99 at Walmart and $129 at Target.
Together, the Microsoft consoles had 61 percent of the market, and the next-generation consoles (the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) had a total of 46 percent of the market.
Meanwhile, Call of Duty: Ghosts was the No. 1 selling game by a large margin, based on the chart from InfoScout. Of those who bought a console, 85 percent said they plan to purchase two or more video games during the holiday period.
About 80 percent of consumers said they purchased their machine as a gift, but 10 percent admitted they would likely open it up before Christmas. The survey was based on about 83,000 shopping receipts from about 3,000 people on Black Friday, which was about double the normal shopping trips that InfoScout tracks in a day. InfoScout’s mobile apps, Receipt Hog and Shoparoo, incentivize 125,000 Americans to submit pictures of their everyday shopping trips. The company processes this information and comes up with analyses within 24 hours of purchases.
While 2012 was a knockout year for tablets — with the introduction of the iPad Mini, Nexus 7, and Microsoft Surface — 2013 is actually somewhat boring in comparison.
Yes, tablet sales continued to grow steadily (up 53 percent from 2012, says Gartner), but this year is more about evolving last year’s killer tablets than breaking new ground. The iPad Mini got a killer hardware upgrade and a much-needed Retina Display screen, and the Surface and Nexus 7 both got major upgrades of their own.
Apple’s iPad Air, which is mainly notable for being incredibly light, is the only big tablet surprise I can recall this year.
What 2013 lacked in groundbreaking tablets announcements, it made up for in better overall value. All of the revamped tablets from this year offer far better hardware at reasonable prices, and they’re also run off better software. If you held off on a new tablet last year, now is the perfect time to upgrade.
Best overall tablet: iPad Mini with Retina Display
The original iPad Mini was my favorite tablet last year, so it’s not a huge surprise that I’ve fallen head over heels for its replacement. Apple’s new iPad Mini with Retina Display upgrades the original’s disappointing display, but it also manages to pack in all of the juicy hardware from the iPad Air, including the fast A7 processor and M7 motion processor.
But at $399, up from last year’s $329 iPad Mini launch price, the new model also makes it clear that Apple doesn’t see its smaller tablet as a budget device.
Best big tablet: iPad Air
Apple is now basically offering two high-end tablets, the new iPad Mini and the iPad Air, separated only by their price and screen size. The Air weighs in at close to a pound, closer in size to the iPad Mini than last year’s big iPad. That means it’s much easier to hold with one hand, which should be helpful for prolonged reading sessions (and it deftly solves one of my biggest issues with large tablets).
If you need a big 10-inch screen, go for the $499 iPad Air. But for everyone else, I’d recommend prioritizing portability with the new 8-inch iPad Mini.
Best budget tablet (& best Android tablet): Nexus 7
Once again, the Nexus 7 is the best tablet deal on the market — even after Google raised its price slightly to $230 (the original was just $200). While last year’s model was notable for being fast and cheap, the new Nexus 7 is much slimmer and easier to hold.
It also packs in the usual speed improvements, but really, the biggest upgrade with this new model is that it no longer feels like you’re holding an overweight slate. In the domain of tiny tablets, that’s key.
Best Windows tablet: Surface 2
After raising our hopes and swiftly dashing them with the first Surface, Microsoft has apparently learned from its mistakes. The Surface 2 ($449) is a fast and capable tablet — and together with its revamped keyboard covers (from $120 to $130), it’s also a productivity dream. While you’re stuck with Windows 8′s slim app ecosystem, the Surface 2 also includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Office, which means it will fit right into many corporate IT setups.
Check out VentureBeat's product data sheets for more in-depth information on tablets.
The battle between the Microsoft Xbox One and the Sony PlayStation 4 is well under way. Actual sales for the first selling season won’t be announced for a while. And it probably won’t be until next year until we find out which console is really winning the next-generation sales competition.
But thanks to market research firm IHS, we know what each machine costs to manufacture, and that tells us a lot about how this console competition will unfold in years to come. The cost analysis tells us a lot about the choices that the console designers on each side made, and how those will affect the competition for years to come.
About $75 of Microsoft’s extra cost covers the second-generation Kinect motion-sensing camera. Microsoft believes that this technology is the future not only of games, but also of TV, as you can use it to change channels while watching television. Sony sells its PlayStation Camera as a separate $60 option, so it clearly doesn’t have the same confidence in peripherals that Microsoft has.
The pricing difference is going to give Sony a cost advantage for years to come. Microsoft will have to sell a lot more games to make up for this gap. But the tough thing about that is that Sony’s games are going to look better at some point, as Sony invested more of its hardware dollars into creating a system with more graphics performance than Microsoft did. If Microsoft is to gain a technical superiority over Sony, it can only do so through the inclusion of Kinect in every base system for the Xbox One. That’s not a bet I would make, given the lackluster love that gamers have shown for motion-sensing games so far.
Another odd thing: Even though Sony has the better graphics performance, Microsoft’s processor from Advanced Micro Devices (the supplier of the microprocessor-graphics combo chip for both systems) costs $110, compared to $100 for Sony’s AMD processor. Sony deliberately spent more on its graphics memory chips, while Microsoft chose an older and cheaper memory system. Mark Cerny, architect of the PS4, explained earlier this year that Sony did this in the name of simplicity. Well aware that Sony’s PlayStation 3 was too complex to make games for, Cerny designed a system that was easy to understand and program games for.
The outcome will be interesting to watch. Any time that Microsoft decides to cut the price of the Xbox One, Sony will be able to react by cutting its price as well. That gives Sony a lot of competitive advantages in this generation. If Sony chooses, it has a chance to be the price leader in this generation, as it is showing at the outset. It could also choose to be the profit leader instead.
Rick Sherlund, an analyst for Nomura Securities, estimates that Microsoft will lose $1 billion on the Xbox One this year. Now that’s a loss leader, but it’s not so different from history.
Back in 2006, iSuppli (which was acquired by IHS) found that the PlayStation 3 with a 60-gigabyte hard drive cost Sony $840 to make. That was why Sony priced the initial machine at an untenable $600. By comparison, Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 Premium at a price of $399. The machine initially cost Microsoft $525 to make.
In those days, the console makers viewed the machines a loss leader. They embraced the razor and razor blades model, where they could lose money on the console and make money on the $60 games that they and their partners sold. But Microsoft had a big advantage on Sony, as it had the lower costs and Sony didn’t have much of an advantage, because game developers took too long to understand how to make games that ran on Sony’s eight-core Cell microprocessor. Sony never got a true competitive advantage over Microsoft in the entire generation, and it was always operating at either a unit or profit disadvantage to Sony.
In the first generation of the Xbox, launched in 2001, Microsoft sold its machine for $300 at the outset, even though the manufacturing cost was $425. That was too deep a hole, as Microsoft lost billions over four years. That machine was outsold by Sony’s PlayStation 2 machine by six to one. It led to huge losses, but Microsoft could afford that. And it accomplished the strategic aim of getting Microsoft in the console business.
The lesson of these numbers is that it is very hard to dig yourself out of a hole. If you start out at a cost disadvantage, then it is very hard to catch up with your rival.
On the other hand, the reason to create a more expensive machine is to gain a technological advantage. If Microsoft’s bet on version 2 of Kinect is a good one, then it will have something that entices gamers and gives Microsoft an edge over Sony for years to come.
Sometimes, cost matters. Neither company wants to sell a machine for below its costs at the outset in this generation. Will that cost them in the long run? It means that the gamer PC will outrun these machines sooner than it otherwise might. And it means that these machines may not “wow” gamers as much as they might have.
But neither company is going to be driven out of business by the upfront losses associated with each machine either. And that’s important. There are a lot of trade-offs in this generation of consoles, and the IHS numbers tell us a lot about the choices that each company made.
According to Bloomberg, the potential pool of candidates being considered for the role of next CEO of Microsoft has narrowed, at least for the moment. Ford CEO Alan Mulally and current Microsoft executive vice president Satya Nadella are said to be the two front-runners.
If true, it's hardly a surprising shortlist. Mulally is a longtime ally of current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; had a hand in designing its reorganization; and has secured a spot in business case studies for the next few decades due to his role in doing the same, successfully, at the Ford Motor Company.
Nadella, meanwhile, is a strong internal candidate. He's a respected technologist; and long-term Microsoft executive who has held a number of roles from developer relations through to building Microsoft's cloud business.
The bond between Ballmer and Mulally runs deep. When Mulally was named to the 2009 Time 100 list, Ballmer wrote his entry:
“It is extremely rare for one leader to play a major role in two of America's top industries,” noted Ballmer. “Alan Mulally is that rare case. [...]
“Changing industries can upset even the most seasoned executive. Not Alan. He understands the fundamentals of business success as well as any business leader I know.”
It's almost humorous how well Ballmer's accolade from four years ago suits Mulally and Microsoft today. Two top industries? Why not three. If Alan understands the core tenets of business so strongly, perhaps he could manage a software company as well as he's managed more industrial enterprises.
Nadella, on the other hand, is a technologist's technologist. I first met him, around a year ago, digging into how Microsoft's Azure was born, and how the cloud was set to change both Microsoft and the larger software market. Nadella's explanation sounds very prescient in hindsight, too:
[W]hat we're doing across the company between devices and the cloud and services is the front and center priority for us, and we are well on our way with that, given what we have done with Windows 8 and what we are doing with Windows Phone and Windows Azure. I think that represents the core of the reinvention and the re-imagination of the Windows franchise
What Nadella outlined a year ago has come to bear out in a number of ways. Cloud-based businesses and services at Microsoft have had a strong last year, with several cresting the $1 billion revenue mark. Lync, Office 365, and Azure are each now generating 10-figure top line for Microsoft. As the company's OEM revenue from Windows slows and slips, the fresh top line is more than welcome.
One catch in all this: Nadella may end up being considered too internal, or perhaps too important in his current role to move up to the CEO spot. Remove Nadella from his current rank atop Azure and the rest of his reports, and you have to find someone to replace him. That's not simple.
In that regard, one reason that Mulally could make a compelling chief executive is that if you like the way that Microsoft has set up its current roster of executive vice presidents (the folks one step below the CEO), under his tenure, that makeup could be maintained - assuming people stay on board with the new exec, and he decides not to shake things up.
AllThingsD's Kara Swisher made the point recently that Microsoft might hire Mulally to step in and manage the company, as it trains up an internal candidate to take over:
“[T]he idea [of Mulally is] that he will be more a "caretaker" type CEO, whose deep experience and inspirational charisma will get the company on the right path, while also training up a number of internal candidates to eventually take over from him.”
Under that rubric, Microsoft could end up first with Mulally, and second with Nadella. Perhaps.
However, as journalist Simon Bisson pointed out this morning on Twitter, “[t]he one point to remember is that Ballmer said they were looking for a CEO for the next decade.” That cuts at the idea that the board will pick someone to simply come over, holding things in place while an internal candidate is made ready.
Mulally had a hand in the rebuilding of Microsoft's internal structure. The Wall Street Journal has the scene in detail:
Mr. Ballmer brought a messenger bag, pulling out onto a table an array of phones and tablets from Microsoft and competitors. He asked Mr. Mulally how he turned around Ford. For four hours, he says, Mr. Mulally detailed how teamwork and simplifying the Ford brand helped him reposition it.
Reading that, it almost feels that Mulally may have already offered Microsoft his best advice, such that it led to the shape of the reorganization that may be key to Microsoft bettering its internal harmony so that its teams edify one another, and not harm one another as in the past.
Nadella's contribution to Microsoft is, by simplistic comparison, hardly complete. What he brings to the table is technical knowledge at a time in which the company is rebuilding itself. A sample from Microsoft's recent FAM day, when Nadella and other executive vice president's were interviewed:
“So one thing I would add is when we think about the platform as Terry and team are working on even bringing all our client platforms together and the tooling around it is, in fact, going to facilitate a lot of the sharing of the assets for the developers, which is very, very important for us.
“But there's no application that gets built today in the enterprise or in the consumer space that doesn't have a huge cloud element. In fact, even Office 365 is a programming surface area.
“So we're really building out our tooling across all of our assets and enabling these developers to exploit our broadest platform, and I think that's another source of innovation around our platforms that I think will translate into sort of unique app experiences for our platforms.”
The above is the simple gist of how Microsoft's platforms (which are increasingly harmonized) will sit atop the cloud. Would Mulally be able to understand the above concepts deeply enough to ensure that resource allocation remains appropriate, and even aggressive? His history indicates that even if he may not have the tech experience, he might yet have that exact moxie.
Top Image Credit: Robert Scoble