Microsoft's week revolved around rumors of employee layoffs, reportedly small in comparison to the 5,000-plus cut from the company rolls in 2009. At the same time, Microsoft also dealt with fallout from the demise of its Kin social-networking phones.
Rumors of employee layoffs dominated Microsoft's week, along with discussion
about the short life and brutal death of the company's Kin phone.
Microsoft officials declined to officially comment on rumors that the
company is laying off a small number of employees, following the July 1
beginning of the new fiscal year, but online reports and blogs frequented by
Microsoft employees both suggested that cuts were indeed under way.
On the blog Mini-Microsoft
favorite online meeting place for company employees looking to vent their
concerns, commenters have been calling out the cuts to various departments.
"Like many others, I was not laid off due to performance (I am a strong
performer)," one anonymous ex-employee wrote
in response to a July 6 posting
, "someone else decided to cut many
marketing positions to save a little."
such as TechFlash
have reported through their anonymous sources that the
cuts will be relatively small in number, especially compared with the
5,000-plus employees who were axed in 2009, when Microsoft's revenues sagged in
the midst of a global recession. Microsoft currently has 88,180 employees.
However, Microsoft's declining to officially confirm the rumors also makes
it difficult to determine the true scope of the cuts, if they are indeed
systematic. A company spokesperson told eWEEK in a July 7 interview that
Microsoft had added nearly 2,000 employees in the first quarter of this year,
further suggesting that any current cuts are less out of economic need than an
That contrasts somewhat with 2009, when a Microsoft spokesperson said that
thousands of employees were being cut to "reduce costs and increase
efficiencies" in order to "realign our resources [with] our top priorities."
That reorientation also involved cutting many underperforming and legacy
programs, along with increased corporate focus on flagship properties such as
the Windows and Office franchises.
The subsequent success of Windows 7, paired with a somewhat healthier
economy, helped reverse Microsoft's revenue declines. A
July 6 article in The Wall Street Journal
quoted an unnamed source familiar
with the Microsoft layoffs as "consistent with small reductions in staff the
company has done in the past."
also continued to wrestle with the demise of the Kin
, its social-networking
phone discontinued on June 30 in the wake of anemic sales and lackluster
reviews. Introduced on May 13, the Kin One and Kin Two featured hardware and
applications tailored to deliver a constant stream of social-networking updates
to the user's phone; however, the devices were criticized for their expensive
carrier plans and lack of features, including an inability to download
third-party applications and games.
"Microsoft has made the decision to focus on the Windows Phone 7 launch and
will not ship Kin in Europe this fall as planned," reads
a June 30 statement from Microsoft. "Additionally, we are integrating our Kin
team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and
technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to
work with Verizon in the U.S.
to sell current Kin phones."
With Kin dead, the autopsy by various tech-media outlets promptly began. For
many, the first order of business was guessing how many Kin units had shipped
before Microsoft pulled the plug; as pointed out by sites such as Pocketnow.com
there were 8,810 "monthly active users" of the Kin Facebook application, which
can only be used by an actual Kin phone; however, at least a portion of those
users could be Microsoft employees, meaning the number of devices actually sold
at retail could be far lower.
pundits said that Kin's death hinted at a greater dysfunction within
Microsoft's mobile unit
. If that proves true, then the company could have a
serious issue on its hands, as it plans on releasing Windows Phone 7, a total
revamp of its smartphone operating-system franchise, later in 2010. Meant to
regain Microsoft's market share in the mobile space against competitors such as
the Apple iPhone and Google Android, Windows Phone 7's user interface features
a series of "hubs" that aggregate Web content and applications into
subject-specific categories, such as "Office" or "Games."
"Microsoft did not do an adequate job of differentiating itself from the
other vendors and defining Kin's value proposition," Jack Gold, principal
analyst of J. Gold Associates, wrote in a July 1 e-mail to eWEEK. "I think they
now realize that Windows Phone 7 has to be a big success if they want to stay
in the mobile game."