Ballmer speaks of phone platform regrets

September 20, 2013 // 9:45 a.m.

Tags: #apple #ceo #chief-executive-officer #financial #iphone #microsoft #steve-ballmer #windows #windows-ce #windows-mobile #windows-phone

Outgoing Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has stated that his biggest regret during his time at the company was not getting in on the now-massive smartphone market during the turn of the century.

A fixture of the company since 1980, when he joined Microsoft as its first business manager and 30th employee overall, Ballmer's bombastic personality certainly kept him in the headlines. From the enthusiasm he showed for Windows 1.0 to his unique presentation style, Ballmer could never be accused of keeping his feelings a secret - even when those feelings resulted in alleged chair-throwing and death threats against his company's competitors.

With his retirement looming, however, Ballmer has turned introspective during his last call to investors and analysts and has offered an insight into what he feels is his biggest disappointment during his time at Microsoft: the missed opportunities in mobile.

'If there's one thing I regret,' Ballmer explained during the call, 'there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device form factor called the phone.'

That simple mistake has caused considerable heartache for Microsoft: a failure to produce a compelling smartphone product to round out its Windows offering left the door open for Apple and its iPhone, which has boosted the company from bit-player to one of the richest in the world - with almost all of that cash coming directly at Microsoft's expense.

Microsoft isn't the only company to be caught on the hop by the smartphone boom, of course: Intel's new chief executive Brian Krzanich admitted the same during his first speech, echoing comments made by his predecessor Paul Otellini.

As his parting gift to the company, Ballmer has vowed to resolve the mistakes: the company's Windows Phone platform is enjoying considerable growth thanks to a smart partnership with Nokia, and now that the Finnish company has sold its phone arm to Microsoft itself the company has a real opportunity to gain a foothold in what some in the industry are terming the post-PC era.

As part of that, Ballmer unveiled the long-promised refreshed financial reporting structure during the call: the company is to be split neatly into two halves: Devices and Consumer, which will include Surface, Xbox, Windows OEM, Windows Phone, Office consumer, IP licensing, Office 365 Home Premium, Bing, MSN and first-party games divisions; and Commercial, which will take care of Windows Enterprise, server products, non-consumer Office products, unified communications, enterprise services, Office 365 and the Azure cloud platform.

The new structure, it is claimed, will help Microsoft - and, arguably more importantly, its investors - see which areas are growing and which are not, as well as better matching its renewed focus on services and physical products rather than its traditional core competency of licensed software.
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