One of the hot topics buzzing on the Web in the past couple weeks has been the idea that Bill Gates is planning to return to Microsoft in a more active day-to-day operational role. Talk about your reorganizations!
While the rumor has since been widely dismissed as wishful thinking by Microsoft shareholders rocked by the near billion-dollar write-down of costs associated with the well-regarded but slow-selling Surface RT tablet, Microsoft continues to struggle to find its footing in the post-PC world it helped to identify and define.
Microsoft hasn’t helped itself in this matter, with a never-ending stream of moves that give the appearance that the company is floundering. Windows 8 was a bold departure that would revolutionize how we interact with our computers. Windows 8.1 caves in to those who complained they couldn’t find their desktop applications.
The company has been talking about how its software will change the way information workers do their jobs. Yet we still do not see a tight Yammer-SharePoint integration, and Microsoft’s cloud emphasis does not resonate with many customers uncomfortable with hosting data outside the firewall.
Then there is the reorganization. Microsoft announced last month that it is dissolving eight product units into four, in part to eliminate redundancies in engineering efforts as well as to more clearly align divisions with hardware, software and services. The notorious fighting between divisions for resources and credit for innovation is not to be part of the new Microsoft culture, CEO Steve Ballmer has decreed.
All of which gives the impression that Microsoft is struggling mightily.
But can we pause for a reality check here? In its latest financials, Microsoft reported quarterly net income of US$5 billion on sales of almost $20 billion.
Meanwhile, it’s not as if Apple and Google haven’t had their share of recent troubles. Apple has had to deal with the perception that innovation and creativity died along with founder Steve Jobs. It is getting waxed by Android in the smartphone wars (yet still posted record quarterly sales of 31.2 million units), while recent hacks and downtime have exposed its infrastructure as vulnerable. And Google’s stock took a hit when the company reported that its cost-per-click price declined 6% year over year. And, in spite of that, they remain among Wall Street’s highest flyers.
We have this fascination with over-scrutinizing these companies, wringing our hands to see if we can read something into our culture, our economy and our sense of self through their performance.
Here’s my takeaway: Among the three, there is almost $1 TRILLION in market capitalization. Profits for one quarter alone are in the tens of billions. We continue to consume everything they’re offering up at a phenomenal rate of uptake, and can’t wait to get our hands on the next thing out the door. Google Glass? Chromecast? The Xbox One? Apple’s new iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks?
Sign us up for all of it.
David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.