Microsoft had some big product successes and a number of flops under Steve Ballmer.
He spent over 30 years at Microsoft, helping shape the company’s products and culture.
The era of Steve Ballmer’s leadership at Microsoft is coming to a close: the CEO said Friday that he plans to retire in the next year, and the company is on the hunt for a successor.
[Thank you MIT Technology Review | By Rachel Metz 08.23.13]
Ballmer, 57, who came to Microsoft in 1980 as its first business manager, was the first CEO after founder Bill Gates left the post in 2000.
In his 13 years at the helm, Ballmer has led some smash-hit products and a number of flops, ranging from computer operating systems to gesture-control gaming hardware The following is a list of some notable successes and failures.
Xbox and Kinect
Introduced in November 2001, the Xbox gaming console was a rapid hit—NPD Group estimates that Microsoft sold 1.5 million units in North America in the first month and a half of its availability. In November 2005, Microsoft released the successor to the device, the Xbox 360, which has also proved popular: though sales dropped slightly year over year, the company said it shipped out a million of the consoles in its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended June 30. A new version of the console, Xbox One, is expected to go on sale in the fall.
In November 2010 Microsoft began selling Kinect, its gesture-based Xbox controller, which has gained a legion of fans on the Xbox platform and beyond. Some researchers and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the hardware as an inexpensive, readily available way to test their own gesture-control software.
Intended as an iPod challenger, the Zune music and media player was unveiled in September 2006. While the device had plenty of music and video-playing features, it wasn’t able to duplicate the iPod’s style and cachet (nor the mammoth app marketplace that Apple built), and it never caught on with consumers.
While it turned out to be a market failure—sales of the product and its related services were all shuttered by last year—the Zune did influence the look of the software in Microsoft’s later mobile products.
The Kins weren’t pricey smartphones, but they weren’t cheap feature phones, either. Rather, they straddled the line between the two, confusing potential customers. When unveiled in 2010, the original two Kin models ($50 and $100 with a wireless contract) were touted as a tool for teenagers and twentysomethings seeking a handset that was good mostly for calling, texting, and social networking. Unfortunately, the phones necessitated a full-price data plan but didn’t have a number of the features you’d normally get with such a plan. Less than two months after their release, the Kin phones were discontinued.
Evolutionary biology confirms that ‘nice guys’ actually finish first.
In a dog-eat-dog world it is encouraging to have scientists confirm that machiavellian and self-serving behavior ultimately backfires. Being cooperative, loyal, and altruistic is not only good for your individual well-being it builds social capital, resilience, and is good for the collective.
This is the ultimate win-win.
[Thank you Psychology Today]
[ By Christopher Bergland | 08.02.13]
The new study titled “Evolutionary Instability of Zero-Determinant Strategies Demonstrates That Winning Is Not Everything” was published August 1, 2013 in Nature Communications. Adami and Hintze say their research shows that exhibiting only selfish traits would have caused humans to go extinct. "We found evolution will punish you if you're selfish and mean," said lead author Christoph Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. "For a short time and against a specific set of opponents, some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness isn't evolutionarily sustainable."
Adami and Hintze’s research focuses on game theory, which is used in biology, economics, political science and other disciplines. There has been a lot of research over the past 30 years investigating how cooperation has evolved in various species. Cooperative behavior is the key to the survival for many forms of life, from single-cell organisms to people. Mutualistic cooperation is at the core of human interdependence and key to the survival of our species.
Winning Isn’t Everything
Game theory involves devising games to simulate situations of conflict or cooperation. It allows researchers to unravel complex decision-making strategies and to establish why certain types of behavior emerge among different individuals.
s/art/urday: beautiful designs from The Desktop Wallpaper Project: http://www.thefoxisblack.com/category/the-desktop-wallpaper-project/
Setting strategy is elegant. Execution is a minefield. Effective strategists aren't full of themselves. They realize their ideas are just that — ideas.
[Thank you Harvard Business Review]
[by Doug Sundheim | 08.22.13]
Setting strategy is elegant. It's a clean and sophisticated process of collecting and analyzing data, generating insights, and identifying smart paths forward. Done at arm's length in an academic fashion, tight logic is the only glue needed to hold ideas together. The output is a smooth narrative in a professional-looking document made up of Venn diagrams, 2x2 matrices, and high-level plans of attack. Jettison this business. Focus efforts here. Build up this organizational capability. Executives buy into the plan. The strategists, confident in their intellectual prowess, quietly recede into the background.
Then the trouble starts. Execution is a minefield. The clean and elegant logic of strategy gets dirty in the real world. Agendas compete. Priorities clash. Decisions stall.
Communication breaks down. Timelines get blown. It's never a question of if these problems will happen; it's a question of when and to what degree. Managing these challenges takes street smarts and muscle. Overwhelming success means you take a few punches, but still make the plan happen. The process is always a little ugly. The executors' dirt-in-the-fingernails view on the ground is much different from the strategists' high-minded view from the air.
The implication is obvious — strategists and executors must work together better to bridge these two worlds. It's common sense. Unfortunately, it's far from common practice. What typically happens is an awkward hand-off between the two. In the worst cases the strategists adopt an elitist, disconnected mindset: We're the idea people, someone else will make it happen. They don't bother to truly understand what it takes to implement the ideas. They don't engage the executors early and ask, "How will this actually work?" The executors contribute to the trouble as well. Often they don't truly understand the thinking behind the strategy. They take it at face value and don't ask enough tough questions.
When things fall apart, each points a finger at the other side.
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