There’s been a lot of fuss made about a memo from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to staff outlining his plans for the company’s future. Basically, he’s opted for the “one vision” approach so memorably defined by Queen back in 1985 – although his version is quite a bit longer.

According to the memo, the plan is to “reshape how we interact with our customers, developers and key innovation partners” and concentrate marketing, advertising and all customer interaction “to reflect one company with integrated approaches to our consumer and business marketplaces”. Microsoft also intends to focus on four key areas: OS, apps, cloud and devices.

The first thing that occurs to me is that the idea of adopting an integrated approach to the consumer and business markets is something taken straight out of the Apple manual. It’s a funny time to play this particular card given that Microsoft has been trying to use its prominence in the business market as a selling point for its devices into corporates against a certain tablet and smartphone from that crowd in Cupertino. Still, it appears that Microsoft has realised that in the BYOD future, it will be important to win over consumers rather than just focus on their employers.

As to the engineering strategy of focusing on OS, apps, cloud and devices, the only surprise for me is that Microsoft wasn’t already doing this seeing as it appears to be a perfectly sensible thing to do.

There are questions about whether an organisation the size of Microsoft will be able to undergo a strategic overhaul without unnecessary disruption but that’s something no one can really predict at this stage.

However, one thing Microsoft could and should have done before Ballmer sent out his memo was to check some of the grammar. He seems to have gone down the Tony Blair route in one paragraph by refusing to write proper sentences, opting instead for the likes of “A new structure to bring these to market faster”, “Priority focus areas, short and long term. New characteristics of how we work together”, “Lots of change.” While they might sound alright when spoken out loud, they don’t work as standalone sentences.

Ballmer also promises that Microsoft will “immerse people in deep entertainment experiences that let them have serious fun in ways so intense and delightful that they will blur the line between reality and fantasy”. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks there’s a bit of a contradiction in putting the words “serious” and “fun” together. Blurring the line between “serious” and “fun” doesn’t sound like fun to me.

The Microsoft supremo ends with the following exhortation: “Let’s go.” Given the company’s performance over the past few years, there are quite a few disgruntled people out there whose probable response would be: “Please do.”

This was first published in July 2013

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