Microsoft had a rather interesting 2011. On one hand, the company did a fine job of appealing to consumers with products like its Xbox 360, which continued to see skyrocketing sales. But on the other hand, it lost the tablet space to Google and Apple, and handset makers have largely balked at providing the company with their top smartphones for Windows Phone 7. Most device makers focused their efforts on Android, instead.
In other words, this year was a bit of a mixed bag for Microsoft.
But as one looks back at the past year and what could have been, it’s clear that Microsoft’s management, including Steve Ballmer, could have done a much better job of handling some of the many issues the company faced. From making strategic acquisitions to maybe even getting rid of its top executive, Microsoft had several more options at its disposal that, for one reason or another, it failed to see. And that led to the company’s troubles this year.
Read on to find out what Microsoft should have done in 2011:
1. Acquire RIM
Let’s face it: The quickest way for Microsoft to regain its lost mobile market share is to acquire a company. And perhaps the best acquisition option out there would have been Research in Motion. The BlackBerry maker has watched its market cap fall, making it cheaper and cheaper for any company to acquire it. With RIM’s help, Microsoft could have gone a long way in establishing itself in the mobile space.
2. Maybe even acquire Nokia
Microsoft should have also considered acquiring Nokia. Although that company, like RIM, is watching its market share fall, it has the emerging markets around the world totally controlled. And those markets could be huge for Microsoft’s Windows in the coming years. Plus, with Nokia’s help, Microsoft could have the hardware-development apparatus it needs to get serious about the mobile market.
3. Get into the tablet hardware business
Following that, why didn’t Microsoft try getting into the tablet hardware business this year? After all, as all the device makers went elsewhere to offer their products, Microsoft could have delivered its own Windows 7-based tablet and proven that it could actually work. The smart move would have been to launch the tablet in the enterprise, since that would have been the market most likely to find value in such a device.
4. Made Mango the first Windows Phone 7 version
When Microsoft finally released the Mango version of Windows Phone 7 earlier this year, the company proved that it really does know how to deliver a high-quality mobile platform. The only issue is, Mango was the second iteration of the software. Microsoft should have waited on Windows Phone 7 and given customers the full Mango experience this year, rather than waste its time with sub-par Windows Phone 7 installations.
Microsofts Management Could Have Done a Better Job
5. Focused more on the cloud
The cloud has become a key battleground for Microsoft. However, the company didn’t necessarily see so much value in it this year. Sure, it offered up Office 365, but what else is Microsoft really doing to ensure that companies like Google, IBM and others don’t block it out of the Web? The cloud is the future. And it’s about time Microsoft makes a strong move to prove it understands that.
6. Leveraged Windows’ success for mobile
Microsoft is sitting on a desktop operating system-Windows 7-that, at last count, has 500 million licenses running all over the world. And yet, Microsoft didn’t even consider trying to leverage that to help out with its mobile platform. Surprisingly, Apple did just that this year with the launch of the Mac App Store. It also links its desktop and mobile operating systems with FaceTime. When will Microsoft do something similar?
7. Dumped cash into the Web
Bing is an integral component in Microsoft’s plans. If the search engine can continue to nab market share, it could put Google’s business in jeopardy. Even better, it can help Microsoft generate far more in advertising revenue. However, Microsoft seemed to ignore Bing for much of the year. And in the process, the company did little to make Google scared. That’s a problem.
8. Less focus on Windows 8
Microsoft‘s focus on Windows 8 this year was rather odd. The operating system, which isn’t expected to launch until next year, could have waited to be unveiled at, say, the Consumer Electronics Show in January. With that plan, Microsoft could have made Windows 8 the focal point of its presentation and allowed for several more months this year of companies and consumers buying Windows 7 computers. Now that they know Windows 8 is launching next year, many customers will likely wait for that, rather than buy a computer now that will be obsolete in a year. Microsoft still needs to learn the art of maximizing revenue opportunities.
9. Attack Android
Microsoft recently made the smart move to offer a free Windows Phone 7-based device to Android owners who had experienced security woes. But it should have done much more of that this year. The time has come for Microsoft to go on the offensive against Android and prove once and for all why it believes Windows Phone 7 is superior. If it doesn’t start attacking Google’s mobile OS, Microsoft might never catch up.
10. Fire Steve Ballmer
Look, Steve Ballmer needs to go. Yes, Microsoft is still generating billions of dollars every quarter, but that shouldn’t be attributed to Ballmer. The fact is, he has watched Microsoft’s mobile market share plummet, he has yet to lead the company into tablets and, perhaps most worrisome for investors, he hasn’t been able to give a jolt to the stock. Ballmer has been largely ineffective over the last few years, and it’s about time the board sees that.