» ‘It’s Time to Split Up Microsoft’

Great post by Ben Thompson:

It was only a little over a year ago that Ballmer declared, “Nothing is more important at Microsoft than Windows.”

Last week, Nadella said “No.”

Enough virtual ink has been spilled on that memo from Satya Nadella so I don’t want to rehash the argument. Suffice it to say, I see what Thompson is saying but I still think Nadella would have made a better case if he had said it more directly.

As for Thompson’s suggestion that Microsoft be broken up between services and devices and operating system, it’s interesting and makes a lot of sense and I don’t think there’s a chance in hell it’ll happen. The reason is hedging. Now, you could also call that a lack of conviction in your beliefs and you would not be wrong. But businesses call that hedging. Look at Google: they’re an advertising company and they make not one but two operating systems. Admittedly, Google is kookie, but their whole raison d’être for Android was making sure they were not beholden to other companies in mobile.

I don’t know how well that’s really worked out for them in practice. They’re no longer the default maps provider and are on the way out as the default search provider on the mobile platform with the most web usage in the U.S., largely because they developed Android. For a services company, I always think your job is just to make the best damn service you can so that devices companies have to put you on their platform. That may be an overly naïve take on how the world works, however.

» Have yourself a very crappy Christmas

The Verge’s Tom Warren:

Microsoft is aiming straight for Google’s Chromebooks this holiday season. At the company’s partner conference today, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner revealed that HP is planning to release a $199 laptop running Windows for the holidays.

The perfect gift for that not at all special person on your list.

Microsoft will just have to ensure that its PC partners don’t turn this pricing opportunity into a second round of underpowered Netbooks, otherwise the simplicity and performance of Chrome OS might just tempt holiday shoppers away from Windows.

So, make them really cheap but not crappy. That should be easy.

» Whither Xbox?

The Verge’s Tom Warren:

Microsoft’s Xbox Originals, a series of original television projects, only debuted in June, but they’re already the casualty of CEO Satya Nadella’s new restructuring.

As Charles Arthur says:

 …unsure how xbox is about either productivity or “getting things done” but anyhoo

How is killing aliens not getting things done, Charles?

» Cut once, cut deeply

Mini-Microsoft returns to talk about the layoffs:

So if this truly drags on for a year: we need a new leader. This needs to be wrapped up by the end of July. 2014.

A year seems like a long time to conduct this unless Nadella means people are going to be notified their jobs are being eliminated within the year. I worked somewhere substantially smaller that laid off one-fifth of its workforce. Some people were told their jobs were being eliminated but offered better packages to stay until the end date.

One wants to think these things are one-time and that there will be an “All Clear” signal as Mini-Microsoft puts it. But the only thing that really signals “All Clear” isn’t the words of management, it’s the success of the business.

» Microsoft laying off 18,000

Satya Nadella in a much more to-the-point memo:

The first step to building the right organization for our ambitions is to realign our workforce. With this in mind, we will begin to reduce the size of our overall workforce by up to 18,000 jobs in the next year.

12,500 will come from Nokia and, oh, those Android phones?

In addition, we plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows.

The rest, one assumes, will be discontinued.

Making sense of Apple and IBM

An Apple and IBM partnership makes sense in the same way Apple selling its products through Walmart makes sense. Apple defended selling through Walmart by saying “Their stores are where ours aren’t.” The kinds of large enterprises where IBM has a presence are the places where Apple has the least penetration. iPads and iPhones are probably present in the executive offices and the sales force, but less so in other departments where central IT rules with impunity.

My corporate IT past makes me twitch involuntarily when thinking of the kind of apps IBM is going to produce, but parts of IBM have already been producing iOS apps for years. I used at least one of them in my corporate days and while it was no Castro or Tweetbot, it was pretty good for an enterprise app.

The other thing is, this doesn’t have to be the permanent solution. It’s possible this relationship is to Apple’s enterprise push as the Motorola Rokr was to the iPhone. Learn, then make it your own way.

I suppose you could make the case that a failure would make corporations even more sour on Apple, but I don’t doubt they’ll like the products. I’d wonder more about IBM’s apps and services but, then, these are already IBM customers. Maybe it won’t turn out to be as huge as Apple and IBM hope, but I still don’t see how it’s anything but upside for them.

» Overcast

Get your “Where’s the Android version?” jokes ready because Marco Arment has shipped Overcast, his podcast listening app. Free to download and use, with a $4.99 in-app purchase to unlock the more advanced features.

» ‘Apple and IBM Team Up to Push iOS in the Enterprise’

Arik Hesseldahl for Re/code details a pretty historic partnership that could be big for Apple:

“We’re good at building a simple experience and in building devices,” Cook said. “The kind of deep industry expertise you would need to really transform the enterprise isn’t in our DNA. But it is in IBM’s.”

» All the iWatches

Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty says Apple could sell 30 to 60 million iWatches in the first year.

Now, it might seem ridiculous to try to predict how many of a thing we know nothing about will sell, but it’s simple, really. You just take the total number of watches ever sold ever, take the cosine (always take the cosine… take it AND RUN AND NEVER STOP RUNNING), adjust for inflation, apply the least squares method (because only squares wear smartwatches) and then — and this is the part people always forget — take back  one kadam to honor the Hebrew God, whose iWatch this is.

Something, something, digging in the wrong place, something, something, bad dates and, yeah, you get numbers somewhere between zero million and 1,000 million. So she’s in the ballpark.

» ‘Microsoft’s New CEO Needs An Editor’

Jean-Louise Gassée gets to my real complaint about Satya Nadella’s message last week:

Satya Nadella is an unusually intelligent man, a Mensa-caliber intellect, well-read, he quotes Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, and Rainer Maria Rilke. Why, then, does he repeatedly break basic storytelling rules?

Two possible explanations come to mind.

First, because he’s intelligent and literate, he forgot to use an unforgiving editor. …

Second, and more likely, Nadella speaks in code.

Ben Thompson, on the other hand, had a more positive view of the email. My problem with Thompson’s defense is that almost all his high points come from reading between the lines, not things that Nadella said directly. Maybe the message resonated with Microsoft employees (and past employees like Thompson), but it didn’t work at all outside that group. That being the case, it shouldn’t have been publicly released. Maybe they figured it would have gotten out anyway and wanted to get ahead of it, but as a grand strategy statement it’s in dire need of an editor.