In this final section of my series from the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting, I will give my impressions from the final two Industry Analyst-only meetings. The content was NDA, but I'll share my impression of the people presenting and then provide a wrap-up of the event.
There was a meeting with Robert Youngjohns, President of Microsoft North America, who is ex-Sun and ex-IBM. Clearly showcasing a focus on displacing the Sun and IBM footprints, he came across as very confident and loyal to Microsoft. He is new to the role but was surprisingly articulate on everything Microsoft. He could make a big difference at the company if he stepped out of his role, but he clearly isn't that kind of an executive. He should, however, be effective and focus Microsoft's field at the opportunities created by a collapsing Sun Microsystems.
There was an NDA dinner put on by the new Windows Mobile team. This is arguably the best team Microsoft has ever fielded on the mobile platform. This platform, I think, may be the most important to assuring Microsoft's position in the tech world. Microsoft has had a revolving door in this area and lacked either the focus or the will to succeed in Mobile until now. If it hadn't made changes, Windows Mobile was on a similar path to Plays for Sure and Microsoft would have had to build its own phone and likely would have failed at doing that.
The new team is competent and confident but they are well behind Google, Apple and RIM. I still think they are underfunded given that they are chasing fast-moving leading players, but they are in far better shape than they were.
In general, I actually think this was one of the best events I've ever attended of its type because I got a sense for the people and their aspirations for their part of the company. Most of these things are so highly prepared it feels like a general BS session. Not that these folks weren't talking the company line, clearly they were, but enough of their personality was still baked in that I actually got a sense of reality, as well.
With that thought, I wonder if who was not showcased may also say something about the company. Often, in events like this, there is often a marketing component with a showcase of the running marketing campaigns. The lack of this suggests that the marketing function in Microsoft remains critically weak organizationally.
If I were to net this out, I think Entertainment and Devices needs to be a separate company. The firm is arguably more hardware than software and it will never have the margins it needs to compete effectively for internal resources. Inside Microsoft, it exists at the whim of the CEO. A new CEO, coming from outside, would likely cut it loose fast.
Server & Tools remains the star of Microsoft, and Windows is the most at risk. While Windows 7 is a great product, it felt like Microsoft was drinking too much of its own Kool-Aid and, as a result, may not do what needs to be done to make the offering as successful as it otherwise would have been.
I was probably most impressed with Project Natal, Research and the Hosting Services demonstrations because they were all incredibly innovative and exciting. The speed in which they can build a data center would impress IBM and HP, suggesting they are really pushing the envelope here.
I left the event with a better understanding of Microsoft and its leaders and a better sense of how it will perform in the future. I hope, from this, you have as well.