Microsoft should tap John Sculley to be the next CEO.
Good riddance. You could always either love or hate Microsoft and their products, but it was only after Ballmer took over that they started more and more to sell complete, utter shit.
Now now, the XBox ain't that bad. Win7 was great, and I actually liked Vista as well. Vista, Win8, and Xbox One have all failed to 'sell' their vision and goals to the media and the public. Microsoft (and certain other companies, like Nintendo) has a serious communication, marketing, and branding issue. Apple does fabulously in this area.
Ironically, Vista was a radical rebuild and step forward for the Windows OSes, but the public called it "XP with a sparkly GUI". Then Windows 7 came along, which was an incremental upgrade with a sparkly GUI, and the public called it majestic a leap forward.
Another major part of Microsoft's problem (and other companies, like the Xerox in the early days of Apple and Microsoft) is not being able to recognize innovation within its own departments and not giving the funding necessary to make those innovations into great products. I don't know whether Steve Jobs himself was a great innovator, but he certainly recognized great ideas when he saw it. Even Bill Gates did occasionally. Bill Gates recognized the same importance of GUIs that Jobs did; and Gates, slightly delayed but not too much so, understood the growing importance of the internet when someone brought it to his attention.
In particular, releasing alpha grade software as "final" product, such as has happened with Vista and Windows 8.
Microsoft releases some really top-notch software, but a third problem Microsoft has is that they aren't really-truly consumer focused. They make great software focused for people who are producers. I think that's why they scoffed at the smartphone and the tablets, and only in hindsight recognized the market size, because their response to the smartphone and tablets is: "lol, u cant maek stuf on dem!"
Microsoft doesn't seem to realize that the majority of consumers are, well, consumers.
You can count the major Microsoft consumption-focused products on one hand:
- Windows Media player
- Win Phone 7 (in response to iPhone success, years late)
- Zune (in response to iPod success, years late)
The only reason why they do well in the XBox category, in my opinion, is because games are almost entirely consumption focused so they could hardly do otherwise, and it's its own division that probably has a bit more self-governance because others in the company don't understand it, and because it hasn't been around as long as the Office and Windows divisions, and because it's not as directly inter-tied with the other divisions (one of the few times the silo effect is working in Microsoft's favor - keeping them from sabotaging their own product).
As fun as it is to bash Microsoft, their producer-oriented software is very good. Most of their products do suffer from interface-shock IMO, which seems to be common with certain more mature types of applications like database software and word processors and spreadsheets.
If you want to talk about a company releasing alpha-grade software as final products, look at Google. For all the praise everyone gives it, I feel like I'm somehow using a different Google Docs than everyone else. It's only been slow, buggy, and feature-incomplete. Having to fight against it to make even simple formatting look correct tells me that it's just not production-quality yet. Google slapping 'beta' on most their publicly released products is just a way to tell consumers that it's okay for it to be buggy. Have you tried the new Google Maps? Buggy, slower, and with a few non-intuitive interface mistakes (properly, it's opt-in, so I can't fault them their). They'll fix it over time, and it'll be even better than the old one, but right now it's just not the same quality as the old one.
Microsoft engineers can make good producer-oriented software but aren't good at: Interfaces, branding, communication, or nurturing the real innovation that does happens inside Microsoft. Definitely a management issue, definitely something to blame the CEO for, but Microsoft as a whole isn't half the junky-software company the internet likes to make it out to be.