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

Australian T3 - - CON­TENTS -

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.

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