Turning Microsoft Around -- Again

Steve Ballmer, echoing Bill Gates' famous internet memo of almost 20 years ago:

The results are in. Windows 8 hasn’t taken the market by storm. The Windows 8 tablets manufactured by our hardware partners are sitting in warehouses. We just took a $900M write-off on our RT tablets, now on fire-sale.

It doesn’t matter who actually proposed or implemented the failed strategy, I endorsed it. What matters most — the only thing that matters — is what we’re going to do now.

I have a plan. It’s conceptually simple but I won’t sugarcoat the situation. It will be extremely difficult to execute, particularly given the urgency.

First, I am tasking Terry Myerson, our EVP Operating Systems, with creating Windows Mobile 9, a tablet-capable version of Windows Phone 8 that will serve all of our mobile products. Until last week’s reorg, Terry was leading our Windows Phone group and is therefore ideally suited to the new task.

Qi Lu, EVP Applications and Services, will work with Tim to deliver a full, real Windows Mobile Office without the limitations imposed by RT. And, in keeping with our strategic need to spread Office everywhere and to provide the widest base for our on-line Office 365, Qi Lu will also produce Office versions for Android and iOS platforms.

Just kidding -- that's not Ballmer. Instead it's Jean-Louis Gassée writing the memo Ballmer ought to write, if he wants a shot at making Microsoft relevant in mobile.

What's interesting to me is, Gassée is echoing the advice I've been handing out for a year or so now: That Surface was going to flop, that MS is producing too many mobile operating systems, that Windows Phone ought to be scaled up to tablet size, and that desktop Windows ought to be left a desktop OS.

Whether or not Microsoft should actually build its own hardware is another matter. It's one thing to manage a supply chain to build and distribute and sell 77 million Xbox 360s over the course of seven years; it's quite another to build and distribute and sell 100 million phones or tablet each and every year. Nobody is better at operating at that scale than Tim Cook, and even he runs into problems with almost every single launch. I don't know that Microsoft has anyone with that skill set.

But first, Microsoft needs a leader with something close to Gassée's vision.