If I Were Steve Ballmer

Opinion: What would you do if you wanted to keep your competitors guessing, your customers complacent and your shareholders content? How about a reorg?

Its that time of year. Microsoft midyear reviews are over. Summer vacations are winding down. And Microsoft execs are dreaming big.

Perfect time for a reorg, isnt it?

To most, such a move would seem counterintuitive at best and suicidal at worst. After all, Microsoft is right in the middle of some key product development/launch cycles. Before the end of this year, the company is set to roll out a new version of its Visual Studio tool suite, its SQL Server database, and its next version of Windows Server, and its Xbox 360 gaming console, along with a handful of other new products.

But if I were Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, I wouldnt be thinking conservatively. Shareholders are crying out for action. Loyal Softies are seriously considering retiring. New kids like Google are nibbling on Microsofts heels (shins, knees and more).

So why not try going back to yesterday? Realign the mother ship by returning the focus to Microsofts core strengths: Windows, Office and Everything Else.

The whole Microsoft universe used to revolve around the companys two cash cows: Windows and Office. But in April 2002, Ballmer chopped Microsoft into seven independent profit-and-loss (P&L) centers. They are: Windows Client, Information Worker (Office), Server and Tools, MSN, Mobile and Embedded Devices, Business Solutions, and Home and Entertainment. In 2003, Ballmer deigned that each P&L should have its own chief financial officer.

Microsoft execs moved to the seven-unit structure to help make the company more agile (among other reasons). But now that the Redmondians are coming under fire for failing to innovate quickly enough, why not try reassembling the Microsoft business units in a more sensible and realistic fashion?

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead the full column on Microsoft Watch: If I Were Steve Ballmer