Truth: Duncan Bell
Satya Nadella’s appointment as CEO of the Big M shows why it would have been mad to ditch Xbox, Surface and Bing
At the end of 2013, it emerged that some of the candidates vying for Steve Ballmer’s old job as Microsoft chief wanted to flog off its Xbox, Surface and Bing arms. Now, a prime driving force behind Bing and Xbox Live, Satya Nadella, has got the top job. So why did those other candidates not “get” the firm’s most exciting divisions?
Microsoft is big. Speak to many of its top brass and you realise how out on the fringes its consumer products, other than Windows and Office, actually are. It has a businessfirst mentality that drove it to ignore the web in the early days and, regardless of how good an idea it seemed to the numbers men, dumping Xbox and Surface would have been a further error.
It’s no surprise departments that are scraping profits or losing money would be put under scrutiny, but making money is not the only goal in tech. Look at Google and the way it juggles projects, many of which make little dosh and never will. It sees value in a different way, knowing that you may learn something from a barely-breaking-even service that will make you serious cash down the line.
The war has moved on from the office and the back room, and tablets, set-top boxes and phones are where the future of computing is now fought. The Xbox may have cost Microsoft billions, but it helped give it a toehold in this new world. Then the 360, Kinect and One made the megacorp that got it wrong about the web and touchscreens into a major force in online content delivery, cloud computing and interface innovation. Similarly, Surface and Windows Phone may be “failures” by many metrics, but you don’t give up on today’s key markets lightly.
That’s why MS would be unwise to dump Xbox, Surface or Bing. These are the areas where it looks not to its past, but to the future.