Ballmer has appointed his own leadership team over the past few years. These were changes intended to imprint his mark on Microsoft’s culture. As many of those division leaders deliver products this year, all eyes will be on Ballmer to see if his management decisions were right.
Microsoft has no presence in the fast-growing tablet market. Ballmer and his team must work hard to bring tablets to the market this year, and make sure that they appeal to customers. If it can’t do that, it might not be long before Microsoft’s board shows Ballmer the door.
Windows 8 is a major departure from the designs consumers and enterprise users have grown accustomed to with Windows over the years. Microsoft says that’s a good thing and it will benefit customers. But not everyone is so sure. If Windows 8’s design turns customers off, Ballmer could be in big trouble.
Last year, Microsoft spent $8.5 billion to acquire Skype, promising that the VoIP provider’s services would be integrated across its product line and take on FaceTime to deliver the kind of communication users are after. Will that really happen? And will customers be happy about it
Windows Phone 7 actually watched its market share decline in 2011, and more consumers around the globe turned to Android and iOS. Ballmer says that this year will be different and Microsoft will start gaining ground. But if that doesn’t happen, what else can Microsoft really do to change things in the mobile space? It’s a real problem for both Ballmer and the company.
Last year, Microsoft struck a deal with Nokia calling for Nokia to make Windows Phone 7 the “principal” operating system on the handset maker’s line of devices. Those handsets are now starting to launch in the U.S. Whether they succeed or fail will weigh heavily on Ballmer’s future as Microsoft CEO.
Steve Ballmer likes to talk to employees, get a feeling for what they care about, and inspire loyalty in them that makes them more productive. However, in recent years, his employees have been watching Apple and Google workers run circles around them. Can Ballmer change that this year?
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is undoubtedly the most popular game console (and maybe even set-top box) in the U.S. right now. But it’s not enough. Microsoft has the living room and home-entertainment markets firmly in its grasp, but it has yet to block competitors out. This year, Ballmer must deliver a strategy for how Microsoft will dominate the living room and entertainment in the home beyond the Xbox.
There’s no telling what the future holds for Bing. But if anything is clear, it’s that Microsoft will need to continue to gain ground against Google. Too few people use Bing now and Microsoft’s advertising platform is an also-ran. Ballmer must change that and start putting pressure on Google.
Microsoft has a big opportunity with its many cloud services, including Office 365, to capture the cloud market. Google has only half-heartedly delivered enterprise cloud solutions and many other firms, including Oracle, are slow to get there. Now is the time for Microsoft to get the edge. Can Ballmer do it?