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Summary:

Two star hires and a well-reviewed phone-and-tablet operating system do not necessarily remake a company, but they do ease the perception — prevalent in recent years — that Microsoft is on its last legs. Could the once-dominant software giant be on the comeback trail?

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Two star hires and a well-reviewed phone-and-tablet OS do not necessarily remake a company, but they do ease the perception — prevalent in recent years — that Microsoft is on its last legs.

There appears to be a big change in that perception compared to last year when there were public calls, based on Microsoft’s sluggish stock performance,  for CEO Steve Ballmer to step down. Several attendees at this week’s Structure: Data 2012 conference seemed newly bullish on Microsoft’s prospects. Here are six reasons why:

1: Embrace of Hadoop

Even hard-core Microsoft skeptics are impressed with the company’s new found Hadoop love.  Since October, the company’s worked with Hortonworks to make Hadoop work well with Windows — sacrificing its own Dryad big data framework in the process.  Hadoop is already available in beta on Microsoft Windows Azure. (Azure also won a big customer in Movideo which is moving its online video archives to the Microsoft platform.)

2: Works better with others

Kay Young, CEO of Mortar Data, a New York-based startup, said he’s seen a big change in Microsoft’s behavior towards other companies and that has softened his previous perception of the company. “I came up hating Microsoft and hating the fact that I had to use Internet Explorer but things have changed,” he said. “I wonder how much Ballmer has to do with that.”

Microsoft has been reaching out to help startups beyond Seattle, hosting events and seminars for startups at its New England Research and Development (NERD) center in Cambridge, Mass., for example.

3: High-profile hires

Bringing aboard a highly respected technologist like former Yahoo chief scientist Raghu Ramakrishnan and the re-hiring of  James Whitaker, who had left for Google, are two signs that Microsoft can attract top talent.  It seemed for a while that there was a one-way flow of talent out of Redmond.

4: Strong Windows 8

Even Microsoft haters admit that Windows 8 looks like a for-real OS for tablets, phones and desktops. Windows 8’s inclusion of Hyper-V also will give Microsoft a much stronger story in desktop virtualization, and Hyper-V in general is more powerful on the server side.  “We’ve seen people with multi-hypervisor strategies who walked away from Hyper-V adding it back in,” said Dave Asprey, VP of cloud security for Trend Micro, another Structure: Data attendee.

5: Consumer credibility

Xbox and now Kinect have become the focal points in many homes, giving Microsoft some much needed heft in the hot consumer technology market.  The company’s sweetheart deal with Nokia on mobile phones could very well give Windows a much-needed boost in mobile.  “I think Nokia might save them there,” Asprey said.

The new Windows Phone interface is more intuitive, more what a phone interface should be than the iPhone’s iOS, said Dave Ryan,  CTO of General Dynamics Information Technology,  another Structure: Data attendee. Of course, Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up in htis market where it lags far behind iPhone and Android.

6: Stock price

A recovering share price can cover a lot of flaws and Microsoft stock has done better of late trading at about $32 per share,  up 20 percent on the year. Nasdaq is up 16 percent for the same period. People don’t call for a CEO’s head if the stock is heading in the right direction.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Microsoft Sweden

  1. Wow, really? “Well reviewed phone and tablet OS”? Sales numbers radically differ from reviewers perceptions…and the “tablet OS” you refer to is NON-EXISTENT! Yes, there is a “consumer preview” of Windows 8 available, but there isn’t a tablet on the market that will run it, and there WONT be one until fall at the earliest, 4 years after the iPad was introduced!

    Nokia is Microsoft’s biggest partner with WP7, and their market share has TANKED since they moved to the platform…how long can Nokia survive on Windows Phones alone? The only reason Samsung and HTC are on board is that they were FORCED into it to avoid litigation, so they are not the most enthusiastic of partners. Cell phone salespeople avoid it like the plague, and even former Nokia execs say the platform is doomed. And while the Xbox 360 and Kinect are selling well, the Xbox is not the best example of “consumer credibility” as it had probably the highest failure rate of ANY consumer electronics device EVER! Microsoft’s track record with consumer electronics is DISMAL (see WebTV, UltimateTV, original Xbox, Kin, etc.). And yet, somehow, they think THIS time, it will be different…not bloody likely! Microsoft missed the boat when the internet came along, and now they missed the boat with mobile computing. Windows Phone and Windows 8 WILL be a turning point for the company…just not the one this author thinks! These products mark the END of the Ballmer regime, and the end of Microsoft as a company setting the standard for everyone else to follow. They are a DEAD COMPANY…they just dont know it yet.

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    1. Wow. This story was based on person-on-the-street interviews at Structure: Data plus a few other conversations– all with people who are pretty much outside the usual Msft/ .Net world which is why it struck me that they’re now willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. Several brought up the new windows phone os in particular as something they would like to try –citing concerns over Android fragmentation … Although truthfully, non of the iPhone folks were willing to give up their favorite device for anything MSFT related.

      I don’t really have a dog in this fight but i do enjoy the debate.
      thanks for your note.

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      1. Anthony IamTiger Lee Thursday, March 22, 2012

        Microsofts worst OS, Vista, has sold more than every version of OSX, iphone and ipad combined…

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    2. Dear – Pls stop your rant/apple/elgoogleboyism…!

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    3. Are you still living with your mum???

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    4. Anthony IamTiger Lee Thursday, March 22, 2012

      What a dumb ass

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    5. you’re just a pissed off apple lover that needs to take a step back from their fruity holy grail and look at the company and realize that it has had a bad few years but has been for the most part up until then and now after; an everyday, Joe blow geared company that’s reliable and best in it’s league. It’s OS’ have been leagues ahead of apple and Linux for years in terms of availability, price, ease of use and overall craftsmanship.

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  2. @John Nemesh,
    Your rant is just pure nonsense.
    “Microsoft’s track record with consumer electronics is DISMAL (see WebTV, UltimateTV, original Xbox, Kin, etc.). And yet, somehow, they think THIS time, it will be different…not bloody likely”
    Micrsoft is NOT making any new consumer electronics. They are NOT making a phone or tablet. just the OS.
    “Cell phone salespeople avoid it like the plague”
    Sorry but the black Lumia 710 is the number two best seller smartphone currently on T-Mobile. The white Lumia 710 is number three.
    http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/phones/?shape=smp

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    1. “the black Lumia 710 is the number two best seller smartphone currently on T-Mobile. The white Lumia 710 is number three”.Where is the source to this statement that you are making.I checked all over and NONE have proved the statement you are making is true.The link that you provided proves nothing on how well the Lumia 710 sold.So please before you make statements like those provide a link at least or maybe you are just a Microsoft fanboy coming to the rescue while pulling false statements from where the sun don’t shine.

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      1. I suppose he meant: Go to the link provided and click “Sort by bestseller”, then they are on 3rd and 4th place. But as T-Mobile doesn’t show sales numbers, we won’t know how much they are behind numbers one and two (Android phones).

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  3. No. 7. Launching a never ending self marketing asking journalist to write something good about Microsoft, about how awesome their research is, and WP7 is better than android. While hitting its competitor with smear campaign asking every author to write how evil its competitor is with its privacy policy, smear android and apple foxconn labor situation, and so much more.

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    1. No one from microsoft prompted this story. I’m sure, if they read it, they were stunned.

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  4. Yea, MS got mojo (a hip term not used since the 70’s). Not! Everyone knows Win8 is gonna be a disaster as bad if not worse than Vista. MS’s real problem is that their reputation follows them. A monopoly that intimidates and bullies competition and OEMs, ruins companies for their intellectual property and applications. Sets up a patent troll company in Canada, Mosaid, gets former employees into the FTC and DOJ. Then wants to make an inadvertent patent violation a crime, and wants to make it so the DOJ does not investigate monopolistic anti-competitive practices. All the while using shell corporations to sue for alleged patent violations for obvious patents with a history of prior art and abstract concepts. Finally, they are years behind in producing products years after the tech is well established. No, MS has no mojo but they may had some in the 70’s.

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  5. One sign that it hasn’t. Wndows 8 would not install on my vanilla Windows 7 box. I wasted several hours on this. And the error I was getting is not uncommon, per other users.

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    1. that is definitely not a good sign. Did it ever load, or did you give up?

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  6. dead money, dead money, dead money and an irreversibly damaged brand linked to backward de-innovation

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  7. You guys crack me up on this. Microsoft is bringing out there mobile computers. Not a tablet that can only run apps from an app store it can run a full desktop interface with DirectX compatible gaming and rendering. I’m using windows 8 on my desktop right now even thought its not a fully polished OS yet it still beats any other OS on the market today I admit SOME Operating Systems were a fall through particularly XP pro 64bit and vista it can’t be compared to UNIX operating systems. And windows phones are great everything is at your finger tips easy navigation easy and awesome features. Microsoft is the future as it has been in the past.

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