Jean-Louis Gassée: Enormous differences between Apple’s 1997 and Microsoft’s 2013 reorganizations

“There are enormous differences between the scorched-earth reorganization of Apple ’97 and the ‘far-reaching realignment’ of MS ’13,” Jean-Louis Gassée writes for Monday Note. “Apple came up with a string of monumental hits after Jobs’ return in 1997– iPod/iTunes, Apple Stores, iPhone, App Store, iPad. All of these offerings were facilitated by the company’s now celebrated functional structure, but none of them were created by the reorganization. Put another way, functional structure is a necessary but not sufficient condition (a point to keep in mind when considering Apple without Steve Jobs).”

“I greatly admire Ballmer’s determination to never give up, never admit failure, always look forward, attitudes that are well-served by his imposing physical presence, impeccable speech, and unshakable composure. But this change isn’t the sort of organizational tune-up that he has perfected over the last three years,” Gassée writes. “Removing a loyal but obdurate contradictor, sanctioning bad performance and foul politics is one thing. Reshaping the culture of a huge organization (97,000 employees) is a qualitatively and quantitatively different task. Habits of the mind and, even more challenging, of the heart are extremely hard to change. And, certainly, Microsoft’s culture needs an overhaul. It has caused the company to miss or mishandle Search, Social Networks, Advertising, Smartphones, and Tablets, and to make a meal of the latest version of their iconic Windows product.”

“The decline in Windows PC/tablet sales are bound to have a cascading effect on Microsoft’s business. Fewer PCs means smaller Windows licensing revenue and, in turn, diminishing Office dollars. The once powerful tie-in between Windows and Office now turns against Redmond,” Gassée writes. “And the cascade continues: Smaller Office volumes result in lower demand for extremely high-margin Exchange and Windows Server products. In the meantime, non-Microsoft tablets and smartphones continue to invade formerly Microsoft-only Enterprise customers.”

“The market has voted: Tablets that are just tablets are trouncing Microsoft’s hybrid tablet/PC devices,” Gassée writes “To reverse this downward spiral Microsoft needs to come out with a real tablet, not the insincere and unsuccessful ARM-based Surface RT device. This means a tablet that’s powered by Windows Phone with Office applications that are specifically, integrally designed for that OS. Once this is done, why not go all the way by selling iOS and Android versions of the same productivity suite? This would protect the rest of Microsoft’s Enterprise ecosystem, and would be much better than today’s half-baked Office apps on the iPhone, or their absence on the iPad and Android devices.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote last week:

Microsoft had a chance to preserve one of their cash cows by making Office for iOS and Android. That window of opportunity is closing, if it hasn’t already.

The world has or soon will realize that, no, actually you do not need Microsoft Office to word process or create spreadsheets and presentations.

The failure to create Office for iOS and Android in a misguided push to sell tablets and phones running Microsoft OSes will be looked at as one of, if not the, biggest mistake Microsoft made during their ill-fated attempt to recover after being repeatedly, unmercifully steamrolled by Apple’s Steve Jobs with the iPhone, iPad, iCloud, App Store and the rest of the formidable iOS ecosystem.

Hoist! May Steve Ballmer remain Microsoft CEO for as long as it takes!

Related articles:
Microsoft Steve Ballmer’s latest labyrinthine reorg doomed by contradictions – July 12, 2013
Ballmer tightens death grip on Microsoft with major revamp – July 12, 2013
Steve Ballmer’s Jobsian ‘vision’ is for Microsoft to work like Apple – July 12, 2013
Microsoft is the new Apple – July 12, 2013
Steve Ballmer’s reorganization email: ‘One Strategy, One Microsoft’ or something – July 11, 2013
Captain Ballmer working hard on rearranging S.S. Microsoft’s deck chairs yet again – June 3, 2013
Microsoft said to again reorganize marketing operations; may include hundreds of job cuts – February 1, 2012
Ballmer rearranges the deck chairs again; seeks to get engineers into executive ranks – February 8, 2011
Microsoft rearranges the deck chairs again; reorgs cellphone, games division – May 25, 2010
Microsoft rearranges the deck chairs – February 15, 2008


  1. In 1997, Apple had nothing to lose and Steve Jobs had the vision, discipline, and motivation to turn his long-lost baby around. In 2013, Microsoft has EVERYTHING to lose, and they’re about 12 runs down in the bottom of the 9th – not an impossible challenge to overcome, but it will take a lot of hard work, luck, and SMART management – so yeah, they’re doomed. 😛

  2. I find it troubling how Gassee exalts Ballmies personality traits as great qualities. I call them reckless enthusiasm.

    It’s great to be around that sort of person for a while, but after the 2nd meeting, they are still shucking the same jive, it gets old really fast.

    1. “always look forward, attitudes that are well-served by his imposing physical presence, impeccable speech, and unshakable composure”

      In other words, the sales guy.

  3. If they had stripped out all the crap features that people don’t use on office and would be complete overkill on an iPad they could have had a killer product on iOS which would have been successful purely because of the predominance of people still using office (unjustified or not). They haven’t and if they did it would sadly be lumbered with crappy attempts to integrate with other services, or they’d charge a fortune.

    1. I have been a heavy user of Excel since 1995, and yet probably don’t use 2/3s of what it can do.

      Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

  4. I greatly admire Ballmer’s determination to never give up, never admit failure, always look forward, attitudes…what is this Galaxy Quest or a software company?

  5. Microsoft forgot the second part of it’s own name, MicroSOFT.

    Sell software for every viable platform out there and drop the delusions of domination in every possible market.

    They thot that Intel CPUs, Office and Windows would always be their Holy Trinity for supremacy in every conceivable computing scenario, now they are mostly boat anchors holding them back in the mobile computing speedboat race.

    (Sorry for the mixed metaphors.)

  6. Microsoft needs to stop looking at the rear-view mirror and focus on the road ahead.

    If the future is iPads/iPhones then write the best iOS apps imaginable. Android? Exploit it! Never ignore an opportunity.

    Note to Ballmer: It’s now the 21st century and has been for some time. Stop re-arranging chairs and get on with the business of writing software that people want to buy. You guys used to be good at that.

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