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Summary:

Joachim Kempin is the former Microsoft exec who handled the company’s interesting relationships with OEM partners. Now he’s weighing in with ideas to bring Microsoft back to power.

Joachim Kempin has some ideas about how Microsoft, his former employer, can achieve greatness again and they go beyond his already widely publicized call for the company to deep-six CEO Steve Ballmer.

Kempin, who left Microsoft in 2002, was the exec who ran the company’s cash cow OEM business. He was the guy who cut the deals with hardware makers who bundled Microsoft Windows and Office on their machines. Those negotiations were by most accounts joachim kempinbrutal, leaving hardware partners like Dell and HP reeling. They also led some to call Kempin Microsoft’s Dark AngelAnd now he’s peddling a book on Microsoft and is penning a series of blogs for ReadWrite.

Here are the some of his suggestions for Microsoft from his first post:

1: Microsoft needs a tech guru. 

Kempin writes:

“The company needs a bold and charismatic executive with bona fide technical credentials to head all of its product divisions. This dynamic leader must not only serve as the main spokesperson for all products, but he or she must also inspire and command the respect of developers. (Unfortunate Ray Ozzie did not survive in this role, and the one who came after him, Craig Mundie, was from the beginning the wrong person.)”

No kidding. This is true, and it was also true when Bill Gates started stepping back from day-to-day duties at Microsoft. Even when he dubbed Ozzie his successor as chief software architect in 2006, many wondered why he didn’t go for a younger, new-age thinker; a response to the Google guys. No one doubted Ozzie’s tech vision, but by that time Microsoft had already “missed” the internet and had to make up for lost time. Ozzie was of the same generation as Gates and Ballmer. The feeling was Microsoft really needed an infusion of new blood. Ozzie was new to Microsoft but he was rooted in the same client-server world they came from. For what it’s worth, Microsoft is bleeding many of its long-time execs with Robbie Bach, J Allard and Steven Sinofsky all exiting over the past two years.

2: Go easy on the enterprise schtick

Kempin said Microsoft’s focus on enterprise customers was lucrative but hurt the company with consumers.

“… its reputation as an innovative tech leader deteriorated in the public eye. Once cool, today Microsoft is a well-oiled money machine, but the contagious excitement around the time when Windows 95 launched is long gone …. That torch has passed to the Apples, Googles, Twitters, and Facebooks of this world.”

My take: I’m not sure anyone ever thought of Microsoft as “cool.” The big flash-bang Windows 95 event was fun; but cool? Hardly. Jay Leno hosted and even in 1995 Leno was your father’s talk show host. Even many language and compiler geeks found Borland a much more amenable culture than Microsoft.

It’s true that Microsoft has gotten too enterprise-oriented. In fact, it appears hell-bent to replicate Oracle and IBM at a time when many question the relevance of those companies in a consumer IT focused world.  Even Microsoft Surface is painted with an “Office” paintbrush. Exceptions to this rule: Xbox and Kinect — which probably doesn’t carry the Microsoft brand on purpose. The reason companies update Windows and Office is to stay legal, not because of any compelling new features. Sad but true.

3: Microsoft needs to go back to school.

Kempin writes:

“The US school system is antiquated and needs to be brought into the 21st century. This presents an opportunity for Microsoft to engage and help teachers, parents, and children to excel.”

Assuming here that excel is not a pun, he has a point. Most students use Google Docs (and most of the students I know personally are using it on MacBooks.) And when is the last time you heard a student (or anyone) request a Dell (or HP or Acer) laptop running Windows?

Kempin thinks Microsoft (with help from its big cool philanthropic friend The Gates Foundation) should just underwrite a complete re-do of technology in the nation’s schools. It would be a bold move. But Microsoft still needs to make products that people want to buy, not products that they accept because they have to.

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  1. Reblogged this on SUSAN'S SPACE and commented:
    I use microsoft but I don’t love it – never wiil – but google chrome, love it.

  2. Microsoft should also take steps to ensure students today get the education needed to work at Microsoft! They constantly whine about the lack of “qualified” American software engineers and the need for H1B visas…so why don’t they DO something about it? Unless the H1B workers aren’t getting paid the same and it’s just a smokescreen to hire cheap labor…but MS would never do that, right? (sarcasm)

    1. that’s a good point. All this gnashing of teeth over more visas gets tiresome.

  3. I’m not sure about #2. You have to be true to yourself, and I agree with you, Barb – Microsoft was never a cool consumer brand. I think most of their recent missteps have come by trying to be what they aren’t. Let Xbox shine – that’s OK, and perhaps a great place to grow – but don’t try to pretend that your Office and Windows divisions are fun consumer products.

    1. Randall “texrat” Arnold Matt Eagar Wednesday, February 20, 2013

      I would call Microsoft a DEVELOPER brand. I think they want to be a PROSUMER brand, but are still trying to figure that space out (Xbox and Kinect are in there).

  4. if you’re in the hipster crowd, then yes, Windows 95 might seen not that “cool” to you ;)

    1. wow, no one has ever accused me of being hip!

  5. The author surely thought Steve Jobs should have been dumped by Apple as he was the same age as Ozzie.

    1. Not at all. The issue was more that folks thought Microsoft needed someone from the web, not the client-server era. Not really an age-ist thing, but a world view thing.

  6. André Rebentisch Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    I recently listened to Craig Mundie’s views on spectrum and he provided valuable input to European legislators. What matters is what inspires you, regardless the source.

  7. It’s written in the stars. Ballmer will remain as CEO and Microsoft will continue to lose clout in the marketplace.

    I’m fine with that. It gives BlackBerry a better chance.

  8. I worked at Microsoft for over 10 years and was an international hire (H1-B), I have to tell you that I was not underpaid – infact, I was making more than my American counterparts. This whole notion that H1-B workers are getting screwed is ridiculous. There are pay grades and pay buckets at Microsoft and it applies to everyone in the company. International hires usually work harder and have a better work ethic…their foundations are also much stronger (CS degrees, etc) that would be one reason why MS and the rest of the industry prefer international/H1-B hires. It’s not the money.

    1. Randall “texrat” Arnold H1-B Wednesday, February 20, 2013

      The emphasis on H1-B visas is serving to undermine prospects for US citizens. It’s a great big hypocritical red herring: the industry lays off hordes of highly-talented and motivated US citizens and then claims those very same workers can’t be found. I’ve seen enough cases first-hand to know it’s a load of crap.

  9. Microsoft should stop spewing black propaganda and smear campaign against its competitor. Instead, focus its resources on product innovation

    1. Randall “texrat” Arnold Kirk Mahoney Wednesday, February 20, 2013

      Agreed! Those negative campaigns don’t resonate with customers and even backfire. I cannot believe Microsoft thinks this activity is productive…

  10. Barb, your characterization of Ray Ozzie as being a “client-server” guy misses the mark. The company he founded prior to joining Microsoft, Groove Networks, built a collaboration product based on peer-to-peer networking. If anything, he was ahead of his time.

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