Is Microsoft going the way of the Apple?


Last Thursday, Microsoft announced that they would be dissolving their current structure and reorganizing. They currently have eight different product divisions, and plan to restructure with four new ones that will be organized around broader functional themes. The main reason for this is to allow for eliminating redundancy and waste, as well as to encourage their nearly 100,000 employees to work more closely with collaborative efforts to build future products. This will make Microsoft look more like its rivals (such as Apple and Google) as an organization – though on a much larger scale – and help it become more competitive in the product areas where it has been losing ground in recent years.

The organizational model used by Microsoft is one that was popularized by Apple (of course), and it focuses on software, hardware, and services rather than individual products or product groups as they had in the past. For example, one executive will be in charge of operating systems now, rather than separate teams developing products like Windows, phones, tablets, and Xbox. In the past, this sparked many rivalries between divisions, and project managers even went to great lengths to avoid dependency on other groups for software, so as to not be “at the mercy of someone else’s development schedule.” This resulted in things like software being developed for one product that had similar functions and features as another existing product. While this should lead to greater efficiencies in product development and can allow better integration among products, it does not address some of the more pressing challenges affecting Microsoft’s current and future revenue stream; for example, as personal computer sales continue to decrease, how does Microsoft plan to adapt its product line?

In my company, we have also begun to realign our departments and personnel around functional groups and are moving away from compartmentalizing each product group within its own line. Is it just coincidence that Microsoft has started doing the same? It certainly is, as Microsoft is the juggernaut of the tech industry and Invivo is a very small subsidiary of a sub-business unit of a division of Philips. In any case, one of the biggest moves came at the end of last week, when it was announced that our already small marketing department would be losing a few members, and everyone else was reorganizing into functional groups where everyone would cover the full product line as it fell under their area of responsibility. As some of our other departments and developers have also realigned similarly, I hope that it will do for us what Microsoft hopes it does for them – increase efficiency and effectiveness.

In light of the above, is your company more like old Microsoft or new Microsoft? If like “old”, do you find that project managers often butt heads with other departments on which they have dependence for aspects of their products or projects? If like “new” do you find that aligning by function rather than products yields better results?


The Xbox Kinect in Healthcare

I saw a blog post on here a couple weeks ago about Microsoft and their Kinect gaming console.  The main idea of the article was that whether or not gaming consoles are sustainable as gaming on smart phones continues to increase rapidly.  I thought to myself that the Kinect has so much more potential than the “typical” gaming console where all you can do is play video games on a television screen while sitting on your couch.  So I thought I’d do a little bit of research and see what was out there, and I came across this article:


Healthcare has progressed pretty rapidly since our grandparents and even our parents were kids.  From the polio vaccine to face transplants, more can be done than ever thought possible before.  So how about bringing a video game console into the operating room or into a group therapy session?  Sound far-fetched?  Maybe it does, but it’s happening in Canada.  At Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Canada, surgeons and other medical staff use the Xbox Kinect to browse patients’ files, test results, pictures, etc without ever having to touch a single foreign object.

When surgeons, doctors and nurses have to stop the medical procedure and touch a foreign object, the risk of contamination and infection increases.  By using the Xbox Kinect game console, the doctor can use his or her hand to flip through the pages of the patient’s electronic medical file.  This also saves valuable time for both the patient and the doctor.  This way the doctor does not have re-scrub his or her hands and arms before he or she can get back to the patient’s procedure.  That may be precious time that the patient does not have and cannot afford to lose.  It may free up the doctor’s time so that he or she can perform more procedures in a day and help save more lives.

Furthermore, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer, announced that the Xbox Kinect can be used to help patients remotely with therapy sessions, both physical therapy and group therapy-type settings.  In fact, the Kinect’s sensors are so refined that the doctors can actually see facial expressions demonstrated by the patients!  An additional bonus is that the remote nature of the group therapy sessions allows people the anonymity to open up and be honest without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious.


So does this mean that we will never have to take another day off work to go the doctor’s office?  I doubt it, at least for now anyway.  One thing to keep in mind is that the Kinect is an add-on to the Xbox 360, which will cost you $200 to $4001.  The Kinect is an additional $150.  And then there are add-ons such as the wireless adaptor, hard drive and annual memberships.  This may not seem like a very large investment for a doctor’s office or a hospital, but when you consider that each household would have to purchase these items, the cost savings of taking the day off of work and the transportation costs saved may not justify the investment of the materials purchase.

Another thing to consider is that technology is always improving.  So while the Xbox Kinect may be today’s “new developments in IT”, it could very well be surpassed by another company’s newer, better invention or even Microsoft’s (the maker of Xbox) latest and greatest model.

In summary, on an individual-basis for appointments such as therapy, the Xbox Kinect may not be a viable alternative to the “old fashioned” doctor’s office visit.  That said, if it helps decrease the risk of infection and contamination in a surgical setting, the Xbox Kinect is a low-cost investment for operating rooms everywhere.  It could also save doctors and patients valuable time, which is priceless in comparison.

So to respond to my original thought about the Kinect having a lot more potential than other gaming consoles, I believe the answer is yes, the Kinect is more than just for video games.  Some gaming consoles may become obsolete as smart phone gaming continues to increase in popularity, but I don’t think that the Kinect is one of them.  What do you think?



The Future of Games

After approximately 7 years with the current generation of video game consoles, the upcoming holiday season is looking to be huge for Microsoft and Sony. In February Sony announced the Playstation 4 along with a variety of features and specs, games, and a general release window of holiday 2013. Microsoft has yet to announce their console, known to the press as Durango, but are expected to unveil it at E3 2013. (E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo where the major contenders in the industry each hold their biggest press events and announce the latest titles in their brand.)

Both of these companies must tread carefully, as a new system is both a considerable time and money expenditure. This past November Nintendo released the follow-up to their Wii, the Wii U, to a lukewarm reception. The line-up of games initially released with the console weren’t exceptionally outstanding or used the unique qualities of the system to display the potential of the Wii U. Perhaps the biggest mistake Nintendo made was not knowing their audience. Why was the Wii so popular? Because of the accessibility it presented to consumers of any age that could just pick up a controller and play. Clearly the higher-ups in the company could not recreate this unique selling point for the Wii U.

What are the challenges Sony and Microsoft face? There’s clearly a variety of them. They’ll most likely never gain the accessibility that a system such as Wii offers, and instead will aim for that through peripherals such as the Xbox 360’s Kinect. As a result of the economic slump there’s likely more emphasis on the system being affordable; however, the addition of recent technology in the new systems means that they’ll probably be selling for upwards of $400 to $500. Moreover the systems need a good set of exclusive games and developer names associated with them. If 2 different systems are released at similar price points and the features are relatively the same, oftentimes the deciding factor are the games that a consumer can only get on one system and not the other.

The final point I’d like to mention is that both Sony and Microsoft need to have awareness in the manufacturing of their consoles. Going back to the Wii example, during the initial release of the Wii units were often backlogged for weeks or months and would-be buyers had difficulty finding systems. This means there might’ve been a possible loss of sales as consumers gave up trying to buy a Wii. Sony and Microsoft need to ensure an adequate amount of stock for the first season of their new consoles.

Do you think the recent recession will have a huge impact on the sales of these new systems? Will Nintendo be able to recover from the mediocre release of the Wii U? What will be the deciding factor of what consumers choose to purchase?

It’s not an uphill battle that Microsoft is losing, it’s a mobile one

Microsoft recently revealed a revamped version of its Windows Phone software, appropriately deemed ‘Windows Phone 8.’  According to the company, which grabs slightly more than 3% of the international mobile market, the app store has been greatly augmented, though some of the applications will not be available until next quarter.  The article notes that Microsoft presenters mentioned their competitors several times during the unveiling.  It is apparent that Apple and Google-powered phones dominate this space and are setting the benchmark for competitors.  Realistically, however, is there anything to compete against?

Microsoft is, in general, good at what they do; they have a solid product, market awareness, and substantial resources.  This does not necessarily mean they are meant to operate in the mobile phone market, alone at least.  It’s becoming clear that they cannot compete with Apple or Google; consider the app stores: Microsoft now has 120,000 compared to Apple’s 700,000.  While Microsoft has stepped up its game and market share, they are nowhere near the size of the competition.  It is difficult to gain much traction with companies of that size working against Microsoft’s advances.  There is an alternative to the constant, losing battle: if you can’t beat them, join them.  It seems like Microsoft could benefit greatly from a partnership with a large competitor and they should consider exploring the possibility.  To do this, the larger player would have to get something out of the agreement – which might be Apple in this case.  Compatibility, as well as ease of use, between Microsoft and Apple software continues to be an issue, but a partnership could be a game changer in the mobile market.

There are a number of functions that I’m sure many Apple customers wish they had on their iPhones, namely the Microsoft Office product suite.  Business is partial to PowerPoint, Excel, and Word, not Pages or Keynote.  This is problematic for iPhone users when sending these types of documents.  Word becomes a pdf, Excel has limited functionality, and it appears that an independent app is necessary to view a PowerPoint presentation.  Consumers would likely agree with the added value if Apple and Microsoft could work together to solve this issue.

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