Software and hardware are getting even cozier at Microsoft—at least, that’s sure what it sounds like based on a new executive restructuring CEO Satya Nadella announced on Wednesday.
According to Nadella’s announcement, sent to employees and also posted on Microsoft’s website, Stephen Elop, the former Nokia CEO who helped broker the phone division’s acquisition by Microsoft, is leaving the company for greener pastures.
Meanwhile, Terry Myerson, currently executive vice president of operating systems, will take over for Elop as the head of a newly formed team within Microsoft called the Windows and Devices Group.
While Elop’s departure seems sudden, the move reveals a trend at the company that’s been gathering strength for some time now. Microsoft wants to ensure that its hardware offerings are the best showcases for its software—which could mean that Windows 10 on PCs, smartphones, Xbox, and even the HoloLens might be the next big developer frontier.
Hard And Soft: They’re Microsoft’s Unified Wares
We all know the story of Microsoft’s rise to power, and subsequent stumbles: Its Windows operating system and its suite of applications found ubiquity on PCs, and Windows became the default OS on most computers in the world. Only Apple remained as a holdout—and while its Macs never challenged Windows PCs in market share, the operating system they ran on, OS X, became iOS, the software that runs on iPhones and iPads. Together with Google’s Android, they upended the computing-device market and made Microsoft an also-ran in the smartphone and tablet era.
Since then, Microsoft has struggled to keep up with Apple and Google in the mobile space. Windows Phone still has only a single-digit share of the smartphone market. Yet the company found success in gaming, thanks to its line of Xbox video game consoles. Now in its third generation, the Xbox One, Microsoft’s Xbox division proved that designing hardware and software to work together could reap huge rewards.
Microsoft brought that concept to computers with its Surface line of devices—an initial miss that looks like it’s slowly transforming into a hit with the Surface Pro 3. Now Surface is a billion-dollar business at Microsoft, and Myerson’s promotion to the head of the Windows and Devices Group shows that the company is more serious about its marriage of software and hardware than ever before.
If Microsoft’s forthcoming mobile devices under Myerson’s direction can replicate the Xbox and Surface line’s previous successes, developers may want to start thinking about ways to fill in the dearth of mobile apps for Windows.
Microsoft’s Nokia acquisition gave it the resources necessary to make its own top-flight mobile hardware, but putting Myerson in charge of the whole shebang means that its handsets will truly be designed to work in concert with its software.
We can’t know for sure if Microsoft’s newest mobile initiative will break the Windows mobile curse. But the fact that Microsoft is getting a bit more Apple-like in terms of imagining how its software and hardware products can work as a cohesive whole means it might stand a pretty good chance.
Lumia and Surface images courtesy of Microsoft; Terry Myerson photo by David Hamilton for ReadWrite