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Summary:

Microsoft under Ballmer has poured billion after billion into Windows Azure which is now, by all accounts, a pretty impressive, massively scaled cloud. Now is not the time to retrench.

The news on Friday, mercifully early in the day, was that Microsoft CEO Ballmer is transitioning out of that role in a process that could take a year. But hopefully it will take much less than that, given the distraction an executive search of that magnitude will mean.

There’s no shortage of speculation about who will get the nod — some even speculate that the head of the search committee, former Symantec CEO and Microsoft director John Thompson, might act as interim CEO. But one thing the new top dog should do is make sure the build-out of Windows Azure continues apace.

For all Microsoft’s woes — the mis-steps in phones and tablets which led to a mind-boggling $900 million write-down last quarter; the 2007 Vista debacle  that Ballmer conceded was his biggest regret — don’t forget that Microsoft is one of a handful of companies with the resources, in cash and in talent, to build a truly massive and scalable infrastructure. Microsoft’s profit last quarter was $5 billion compared to $3.2 billion for Google and $6.9 billion for Apple, according to The New York Times. 

And, for the last full fiscal year ending June 30,  it logged profit of nearly $22 billion on revenue of $78 billion and averaged $150,000 in sales every minute, the Wall Street Journal pointed out.

Chew on that for a minute.

Microsoft’s problem is that the market it dominates a market in decline. The problem is that, while Windows still owns the market share lead on traditional PCs, it runs just 15 percent of all devices including PCs, smartphones and tablets, according to Gartner.

So here’s the deal; reviews of Windows Azure (finally) are good. Microsoft is one of maybe 3 or 4 companies that can give Amazon Web Services and Google(s goog) a run for their money in brute cloud infrastructure. And what do next-gen mobile applications and games need to run well? Massive infrastructure.

It still makes some of the biggest money-gushers in the technology business, including its Windows operating system for personal computers and Office applications like Word. Its profit last quarter was nearly $5 billion, compared with $3.2 billion for Google and $6.9 billion for Apple.

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The pro-forma Structure Show plug

And, in case you missed it, check out our fourth (!) Structure Show podcast with Greg Demichillie, director of product management for the Google Cloud Platform.

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  1. Roger Jennings Sunday, August 25, 2013

    Hi, Barb,

    I believe it’s unlikely that any serious candidate for Steve Ballmer’s job would tighten the reins on Windows Azure, which is one of Microsoft’s only two conspicuous successes in the services business. (The other being Office 365.)

    Cheers,

    –rj

    1. i agree — but you never know. Azure is definitely not profitable as far as i can tell.

  2. Windows Azure (hate the name) is really a great product. Too bad no one gives it the time of day.

  3. Yeah, be sure to keep that Prism module up and running on Azure. You wouldn’t want to miss out on any sensitive corporate data………

  4. Considering that people actually say good things about Azure, why not make its leader the new CEO – and quickly.

  5. “don’t forget that Microsoft is one of a handful of companies with the resources, in cash and in talent, to build a truly massive and scalable infrastructure”

    – They definitely have the cash.. They’ve been extorting it from their consumers for decades.

    – As for talent.. Well, within their walls are surely some talented employees (as for some reason or another, they’ve had to accept working there — I suspect many with true talent would never sell out their souls to work for such a monopoly otherwise). But in the end, the greed of the corporation will almost certainly squash and ruin the results of those talented people.

    The only true good thing is that it forces more competition so that other services (like AWS. Google, etc) can’t gouge their customers [as badly], and makes it cheaper for me to use one of them.

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