Online business is down. The mobile and gaming division - way down. These are the areas that need to be strong evidencing a bright future following where the industry is heading. It's Windows 7, Office 2010 and the family mule of Microsoft, the server business, that is carrying the moment. And I do believe this is just a moment. Microsoft had a great quarter catching the peak of a corporate upgrade cycle (it was long overdue, since so many were behind due to the Vista debacle).
Let's see if they can sustain these kind of earnings. Given the big drop in orders from PC makers (as I talked about yesterday on this blog), don't expect this kind of good news at the next earnings call.
Microsoft is too big not to make money hand over fist. Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor, did it fall in a day.
The first sign of a crumbling empire is the lack of vision and new frontiers of growth. And, it typically comes from lame leadership. Enter Steve Ballmer.
It's been the Ballmer decade and let's review:
- Windows Vista. No, that wasn't just a bad dream. It was three year nightmare.
- Apple has the iPhone. Microsoft has a mess of a mobile division, while Google scrambled and is now giving Jobs a run for his money with the Android. Plus, it has a formidable new platform to parlay into other devices yet to be like a tablet.
- Speaking of tablets, Microsoft doesn't have one. Don't wait under water for one, either.
- While Apple has transformed how we listen to music, etc. with the iPod revolution, Zune is destined to be a trivial pursuit question.
- Internet Explorer is still on top, but Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome (to name a couple) are looking a lot like the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. That part of the empire is shrinking by the day.
Why Bill Gates
First off, nothing would energize the troops faster and the 'softies need it.
We have all grown accustomed to Bill the nice guy who is off saving the world (and all kidding aside, I believe it's genuine and it has redeemed him and then some in my eyes). But, Bill the business guy is a whole different animal. That Bill put the Bill in billionaire.
Simply put, Bill plays to win in the business arena.
Back in the 70's, Bill set the goal to put a cheap computer on every desk running Microsoft and he was well on his way (over 90% market share) when the DOJ got around to throwing cold water on him.
The only reason Steve Jobs had an Apple to save upon his comeback was because Gates made a life-saving investment not long after his re-entry. Other Bill adversaries were not so lucky (anybody remember Netscape?).
Bill is at his core is a products guy, a bareknuckled products guy. Ballmer at his core is hot air.
Why I Really Want Bill Back
1. Who wouldn't want to see one more Bill vs. Steve match-up? It would just be good theater and Robert X. Cringley is still around to write about it.
2. I long for a sequel to "Revenge of the Nerds". I'm thinking "Grumpy Old Nerds".
3. Tech hasn't gotten way too cool. 10 years ago, a guy who couldn't get a date borrowed a dog to attract chicks. Now, it's an iPad. This is just wrong. For every Ying, there needs to be a Yang. Bill is the wool crew neck sweater Yang to Steve Jobs schprockets-era black turtleneck Ying. Enough geek chic, already! Good Lord, I want my Mom's jeans back! There I said it.
4. We need some new millenium version of ugly almond boxes to gritty up the place. Bill is just the guy to dream up the answer and force us to buy it at Wal-Mart prices.