Former Apple exec: Has Microsoft gone nuts?

“Of all of the dramas currently unfolding in the tech world right now, Microsoft’s is undoubtedly among the most intriguing,” Zach Epstein writes for BGR.

“Years ago, just before Windows Phone was first released, industry watchers warned that unless Microsoft could make serious strides in the smartphone market, it would undoubtedly be doomed. Then the iPad and Android tablets began eating into PC shipments and analysts warned that unless Microsoft launched an immediate and aggressive attack on the tablet market, it would be steamrolled by Apple and Google,” Epstein writes. “Fast forward to today and Microsoft’s global smartphone market share still sits in the low single digits. Microsoft’s new tablet platform, Windows RT, is all but dead.”

Epstein writes, “Former Apple executive Michael Mace recently penned a piece on Microsoft’s current debacle. We covered some aspects of it earlier this week, but the broader, simpler theme is one that really is becoming an important question that more and more people are starting to ask: ‘Has Microsoft gone nuts?'”

Read more in the full article here.

Michael Mace writes for Mobile Opportunity, “It feels like the people who were responsible for the original Windows 8 vision and strategy have left the scene, replaced by folks who are tactically tweaking the products they inherited, with no sense of where they’re going long term.”

“In the tech industry we overuse the phrase ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,’ but in this case it really seems to fit,” Mace writes. “We should expect to see more odd behavior until MS picks a new CEO. Then it’ll be several months of strategic reviews, followed by ritual bloodletting and reorganization. So Microsoft is likely to continue to be confused for at least the first half of 2014, and that’s assuming they can choose a new CEO quickly, something they may not be able to do.”

“if Microsoft is to stay together, the new CEO needs to be either a product visionary or know where to find one,” Mace writes. “I wish them luck.”

Read more in the full article here.

36 Comments

    1. It’s the USA’s way of giving everyone job titles rather than pay rises that is to blame. It seems everyone you talk to these days is an Executive Vice-President. In the UK we call them Senior Managers, which is really what all these EVPs are.

      1. This isn’t politically correct, but I don’t care.

        The symptom: Sometimes things work better when they are optimized for a particular use; a jack of all trades can be useful for many things but is a master of none.

        Metro, rather than either being “male” for such desktop computing activities as creating CAD content, or “female” for tablet computing, does a vain attempt to be both. The result is analogous to a ” rel=”nofollow”>metrosexual, which is optimized neither for nursing babies nor performing heavy-duty construction work.

        The great high-tech firms, like Fluke, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple were controlled by the tight reigns of a founder (or founders) who were…

        A) intelligent,
        B) willing to take risks,
        C) deeply understood the technology,
        D) deeply understood the market, and
        E) had an innate appreciation for quality

        If such founders were in a meeting where the heads of marketing and engineering were pointing fingers at each other, the founder’s BS filter enabled him to instantly make a cogent decision and give one of those managers a kick in the butt.

        Microsoft reminds me of U.S. automakers in the mid-60s. They could get away with making cars that got lousy fuel efficiency, had exhaust system parts literally fell off onto the road, and which were essentially worthless after 90,000 miles. But they had a captive American audience and didn’t have to do any better. Their customer base would continue to buy their garbage and continue to replace it again and again with yet more of their garbage (“paid upgrades”).

        And like the auto industry, which was caught napping by the Japanese automakers (who made product for an indigenous customer base that demanded quality), so it has been for Microsoft, which napped while Apple slowly encircled them. The result for Microsoft reminds me of an anecdote about General Custer, whose famous last words were “Where’d all these f#%*ing Indians come from?!?”

        It may appear that rather than napping, that Microsoft is in a coma. Having sat in many a brain-storming meeting where engineering management attempted to solve trough problems via committee consensus—rather than be ruled by a über-powerful and genius technical lead—I can relate to what Microsoft has been going through. It is hard to replace a John Fluke, Steve Jobs, David Packard, or William Hewlett; I’m sure Microsoft’s board of directors has tried.

        Whats-his-bone-cone (Ballmer) isn’t in the same league as those other guys. And with Metro, he took a gamble. But he was only able to parse the magnitude of the technical challenges from an Engineering Ivory Tower®™© point of view; Ballmer had no deep, detailed technical appreciation to enable him to instantly intuit how a jack-of-all-trades Metro compromise would suck.

      1. I’ll give one… I just got finished browsing the new app Fantastical 2.0 that was recently released. Have you seen the new one compared to the earlier version? While I was not necessarily an advocate and staunch defender of skeuomorphic design, I fear we have gone from too much green felt and faux wood and iconic buttons, to too much white and text and skinny arrows for my tastes. Fantastical just released a new version of their app for iOS 7. Too much white and rather bland and lacking of character when stacked up to its earlier version. Now of course that is my opinion, but hey, I’m the one going to be using it or not. Steve Jobs once said, “People don’t know what they want until you tell them.” Jony Ives told me when describing iOS 7 that “there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more then just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It about bringing order to complexity.” Well, when I look at the new iOS 7 Fantastical app and some other apps, I don’t see ‘order to complexity’, I see bland. I see white! But I at least have gotten to where the app icons are accepted freely with no reservation. I’m not dissing iOS 7. I’m not here to say it sucks. I’m not here to say it is unstable. I am saying that my visual tastes and Jony’s just aren’t exactly on the same page and iOS has gone from one far end of the spectrum to the other far end in my opinion, but I hope some day it finds a happy medium somewhere in the middle!

        Okay, flame away… But before you do, I have a question…

        Anyone know if the iOS apps that require iOS 4.3, or iOS 5, or iOS 6 as download requirements when I first installed, would they work on an iOS 7 device as is or do the apps need to be recoded or rewritten or tweaked? I’m just wondering when I update to a new iPad Air or iPhone 5s, if I’ll lose a majority of my current apps if not iOS 7 approved? Thanks to all.

        And Merry Christmas to my fellow MDN’ers

        1. Nicely written, with a very reasonable point of view. No flaming required!

          As for your question, I think most if not all of your Apps should work in IOS 7. I don’t recall any of my older Apps not working in IOS 7.

          1. You are correct sir!

            The main reasons an old app would not run on a new device would be if:

            1. The hardware (esp the CPU) had changed so radically that it could not read, interpret and run the app’s code. Example: Apple dumping 680xx CPUs, Apple dumping PPCs, moving on to new CPU tech.

            2) An API (application programing interface) used in the app code is no longer supported in the OS, firmware or hardware. Example: Microsoft deliberately removing support for OpenGL and Java from Windows.

            3) An aspect of the application’s code behavior was specifically forbidden in the new OS. Example: Apple forbidding apps from polling, transmitting and storing location data from its users.

            There are others. Please post if you remember them. Three is my limit today. It’s Sunday. 😉

        2. As time goes by, iOS apps increasingly leave you looking at a particular screen and wondering; where do I go next? Nothing wrong with control buttons, No I will not be “distracted” by a “next” button. It might be ok for apps that you use every single day where you memorize where to touch the blank black screen to make something happen. Camera is one of the best of the bad examples. Third party iOS apps generally are better in that. Ives is obsessed with minimalism. For the visual look of the phone or tablet itself? Great, I do like the clean look, but app interfaces need to give feedback and controls should not require the user to click all around the edges of the screen to make something happen. Vague is not sophisticated, it is just vague.

    1. PoohBah. News Flash. You obviously lack true intellect. My point? Lead, Follow OR Get Out Of The Way! Embrace Greatness ie. AAPL. True Forward Thought Processes. You indeed lack the skills necessary, to adjust to more efficiency with iOS7. In a nutshell …. Because you are unable to come up to speed with iOS7….. Your FIRED! Get THE FCK OUT OF MY AAPL CAMP! Merry Christmas you BOZO!

    2. As you may recall from our previous episode:
      Generic anonymous coward paid-by-whoever, had chosen his fake-nick-of-the-day and false-flamed iOS 7 at MDN.

      Returning to today’s episode:
      Generic anonymous coward paid-by-whoever chose his fake-nick-of-the-day and false-flamed iOS 7 at MDN.

      Join us for our next episode when:
      Generic anonymous coward paid-by-whoever chooses his fake-nick-of-the-day and false-flames iOS 7 at MDN. You’ll be on the edge of your seat with SuSPenSe!

      *yawn* 🙄

      1. Yes Xerox/PARC. But don’t miss the fact that Xerox monkey-barred their way from previous tech. Example: Douglass Engelbart inventing the computer mouse.

        Then Apple monkey-barred their way from licensed Xerox/PARC tech to create the Lisa OS, then Mac OS.

        Then Microsoft partly licensed, but mainly poorly plagiarized, Mac OS to create Windows.

        And so on. It’s very rare that something entirely unique, not based on previous tech, is invented. Sometimes I wonder if even the wheel was based on something previously invented.

  1. Microsoft appears to be doomed at this point, because they (the people in charge of selecting the next CEO) are unwilling pick someone who will come in and clean house. The next Microsoft CEO needs to be brutally honest, and tell the world how screwed up the previous regime has been (which includes the current Board).

    That CEO must “apologize” for the Windows 8 kludge, which alienated and even insulted the majority of existing Windows users, who want nothing to do with touching their screens as an integral part of the user experience. Windows 8 is not the victim of the current stagnant PC market, it is the reason for it; most customers do not want to upgrade hardware to get a new PC with Windows 8. Quickly release a new Windows version with the well-established and familiar interface transplanted from Windows 7. Concurrently, take Windows RT and make it the touch-based OS for both tablets and smartphones. Kill Surface, and stop competing with “partners.”

    Once the cash cow (Windows for PC plus Office) is resuscitated, Microsoft can think about new ventures.

    Instead, I think Microsoft will pick a new CEO who continues with the strategy of Ballmer and the current Board. That’s probably why it is taking so long to find the replacement. None of the viable candidates wants to be handcuffed to anything that resembles the existing strategy, and be Ballmer 2.0. It may come down to Bill Gates stepping in, at least as the “interim” CEO (iCEO).

  2. “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” can never be an overused phrase. I chuckle with glee whenever I hear it used in reference to Microsoft. Microsoft has rearranged enough deck chairs for a ship ten times the size of the Titanic with the outcome being the same each time, splitting in two and rapidly heading to the sea floor.

    The only problem I see with this is that for the whole damn year, Microsoft has been convincingly outperforming Apple, so my glee has been somewhat tempered with equal bouts of sadness.

  3. This is what happens when the Board of Directors are damnable weaklings who were put in place as puppets by Gates and Ballmer at a time when MS looked like they owned the world.

    Then the “PC” model of business selling every PC an OS & most MSOffice started downhill.

    Changing the CEO is not going to work in my opinion.

    The Board of Directors must be changed by the shareholders before there’s a chance in hell of saving MS.

    1. ‘Not going to work’ is not really point… they have no choice. Ballmer obviously can’t be the guy, and frankly, I think his contagious gregarious personality took over the company, to the glorious heights of yesteryear, and to the downfall of today. They will be living with the ‘Windows Everywhere’ bullshit for the next 5-10 years.

      I seriously hope Android + ChromeOS + iOS wipes them out.

  4. “Has Microsoft gone nuts?”

    No – because Microsoft HAS ALWAYS BEEN nuts!
    Bill had a lucky hit at an incredibly special historical moment. He picked up QDOS, decided to license it, and shot to a massive domination of a new industry.

    With that massively dominant position as the foundation, they blackmailed, bought and bludgeoned their way through the following years. For a very long time, their operating strategy looks like, “How can we look like clueless scumbags this week?”.

    So I’d suggest they always have been clumsy, stupid – and nuts.

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