Canadian Manufacturing

Microsoft reorganizes; new structure to mimic Apple and Google

CEO Steve Ballmer said in a memo to employees Thursday that the changes mean the company is "rallying behind a single strategy"

NEW YORK—Microsoft Corp. is reshuffling its business in an attempt to promote faster innovation and a sharper focus on devices and services.

The move by the world’s largest software maker comes amid lukewarm response to the latest version of its flagship Windows operating system and a steady decline in demand for PCs as people turn to tablets and other mobile gadgets.

CEO Steve Ballmer said in a memo to employees Thursday that the changes mean the company is “rallying behind a single strategy” and organizing by function. While it has been widely anticipated, it’s too early to tell how well the reorganization will help Microsoft compete with more nimble rivals like Apple and Google.

“You don’t make massive, sweeping changes like this unless something is wrong,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial, pointing to recent reports of declining PC shipments around the world.

Worldwide shipments of personal computers fell 11 per cent in the April-June period, according to data from research firms Gartner and IDC. Gartner Inc. said the PC industry is in the longest decline in its history, as shipments dropped for the fifth consecutive quarter. Analysts blame a massive consumer migration to tablets and other mobile devices. But observers also believe Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system—which comes installed on most new PCs—has turned consumers off.

“We are ready to take Microsoft in a bold new direction,” Ballmer said in a conference call with reporters and analysts. “We need to make the right decisions more quickly,” he said.

The company’s new divisions include engineering, marketing and business development. Microsoft named veteran executive Julie Larson-Green head of its devices and studios engineering group, overseeing hardware development, games, music and entertainment. She had been promoted in November to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering after Steven Sinofsky, the president of its Windows and Windows Live operations, left the company shortly after the launch of Windows 8.

Terry Myerson will lead Microsoft’s operating systems and engineering group, namely Windows. Qi Lu will head applications and services.

“Although we will deliver multiple devices and services to execute and monetize the strategy, the single core strategy will drive us to set shared goals for everything we do. We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands,” Ballmer wrote.

The shake-up is being driven by competitive pressures as two of Microsoft’s once much-smaller rivals, Apple and Google, have emerged as the technology trendsetters. In a world that increasingly revolves around mobile devices and Internet services, Microsoft has been scrambling to adapt while protecting the personal computer franchise that has always generated most of its revenue.

Microsoft’s lacklustre stock performance has amplified speculation that the company might consider replacing Steve Ballmer, who took over when co-founder Bill Gates stepped down as CEO 13 years ago.

The reorganization could be Ballmer’s attempt at placating shareholders with a dramatic overhaul that appears to borrow elements of Apple’s and Google’s set-ups.

At the same time, Ballmer appears determined to eliminate bureaucracy in hopes of making Microsoft more like a nimble startup able to quickly innovate—a goal that Google CEO Larry Page set out to achieve when he took over leadership of that company two years ago.

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