Recently, Microsoft announced Satya Natella as the third CEO in the company’s 38-year history, marking a new era for the American software giant. Although Natella inherits a company boasting north of $40 billion in revenue over the last six months of 2013, Microsoft’s influence in the post-PC world is waning, especially when it comes to tablets and smartphones. So what can Microsoft do to rebound in 2014?
Four Things Microsoft’s New CEO Needs to Consider
Stop trying to create an Apple-killer
The single biggest problem hampering Microsoft right now is that it’s no longer an innovative company: it’s a company stuck playing catch up to Apple and Google in just about every category. Sure, Windows-based laptops still sell a ton but when it comes to tablets and smartphones, Microsoft’s Surface tablets and Windows Phone offerings haven’t caught on with consumers, even with the revamped Surface 2 and their line of Windows-branded Nokia smartphones.
There are certainly things Microsoft can take notes from with Apple and Google – one of those things is creating public buzz. Part of the allure of iOS and Android products is the anticipation these companies create with consumers, “leaking” exciting new features and mind-blowing advances in internal technology to get the public drooling. Of course, this is one of Microsoft’s biggest problems: neither its hardware nor software is impressing anyone anymore. Until they can figure out a way to draw consumers to products besides super-snazzy smartphone cameras and cool-looking keyboards, it’s going to be a rough tumble to the bottom.
Pick a UI – and stick with it
When Microsoft launched Windows 8 and its Metro interface, it was a risky move for the company to try and align its desktop and mobile OS’s into one seamless experience. Except it didn’t work: the new aesthetics led to a major disconnect with its desktop devices and a touch-friendly OS that found itself running on mostly touch-less hardware. Yes, the Metro design has proved beneficial with Windows Phone (one cannot deny the functionality of live tiles) and the Xbox One. But when it came to its core audience, Microsoft was more confusing than revolutionary. It’s a problem they’ve only compounded with multiple desktop interfaces, the return of the Start button, and a number of other features that try and straddle the line between desktop and mobile without providing a coherent direction for the company. Given that, it’s no surprise Microsoft is already working on Windows 9 since Windows 8 was not the step forward they hoped it would be.
Develop to Microsoft’s strengths, and vigorously
Looking at Microsoft’s financial results from the end of 2013, two things become clear: Microsoft’s selling less Windows licenses and they’re selling more gaming systems, thanks to the release of the Xbox One in November. It appears Xbox is doing everything it can to promote the Xbox One from announcing exciting features and partnerships to creating television shows and entertainment enhancements. But the 2+ million people who bought the Xbox One are still waiting to see a lot of these new advancements come to light.
Right now, Microsoft’s biggest strengths are Microsoft Office (still a huge entity in the corporate world) and the Xbox. Instead of trying to make an iPad-killer, Microsoft should put an extreme focus on these two products. Continued integration of Office 365 with the cloud is a step in the right direction, as is Microsoft’s entertainment deals with CBS and the NFL for exclusive content on the Xbox One. But both Office 365 and the Xbox One are missing key features for enterprise users and gamers and until Microsoft can advance their new technologies and fulfill the promises they’ve already made (especially with Xbox One features), users are going to be hesitant to embrace the software giant once again.
To Bing or Not to Bing
What is Microsoft doing with Bing? No, seriously. Although it’s one of the most-used search engines in the world, that title comes with a huge caveat: it lags far, far behind Google in every single category. Over the last couple years, Microsoft’s appeared to embrace Bing, providing revenue opportunities for advertisers, a clean, socially-connected interface for users, and a lot of commercials and Xbox integration to make it seem “cool”. But it hasn’t worked. Unless Microsoft wants Bing to fade out into obscurity (which some argue it already has), they need to find a tangible way to truly establish itself as a valid alternative to Google, not just another Microsoft product viewed as a knockoff of a more popular service.