The new Microsoft: How the reorg will affect you

If you use Microsoft products -- and who doesn't? -- there are some important changes ahead

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Where we're headed

With this massive change about to unfold, what can you -- as a user, a business, a developer -- expect? In the short term, not much. All the important product changes due to take place this year are already set in concrete. The reorg won't change any of them.

But looking out to next year and beyond, I think we're going to see a lot of changes, many as a direct result of this new organizational structure and the stripping of P&L responsibility from the engineering divisions.

With the alpha engineer in charge of Services, you can bet that Services will appear front and center in every Microsoft effort. Devices -- Xbox, Surface, Music, and maybe even TV -- will get a similar shot in the R&D arm.

In the same breath, it must be said that Windows and Office are in for challenging times. The dominance of Metro in Windows is complete: The man in charge of Windows itself is a Metro kind of guy. Those of us who held out hope that there would be some progress with the old Desktop can just kiss that dream good-bye.

Office has been languishing without a real touch interface. That has to change -- and it will to some extent in the near future -- but with the 800-pound cash cow now buried in the corporate structure, it's hard to imagine how Office will get enough respect (or money or manpower) to gain a top-notch touch interface. Ballmer doesn't seem to think of Office as a major Microsoft asset -- he didn't even mention it in the responsibilities breakdown -- and divorcing it from the Windows organization makes Office's transition to a multiplatform application a foregone conclusion. Perhaps Office will end up as a free giveaway with every new Windows sale: legacy lagniappe.

Oddly, Skype wasn't mentioned in the organizational breakout either.

For companies wed to on-premises Windows networks, your days are numbered. The real innovation is going to come with Microsoft in the cloud. You already knew that, but this reorg should shout that fact at you in capital letters.

Developers need to sit up and smell the smoke: Windows will be around for a long time, sure, but Desktop apps are going to look technologically more and more like Cobol. If you aren't headed to the cloud (or iOS or Android), you're missing one of those proverbial inflection points. Funny how we haven't heard a peep about Silverlight.

I don't know what to make of the future of Xbox. In the past few weeks, the choice for head of Devices has gone from a gaming marketing genius -- Don Mattrick -- to somebody who may have actually played a game on Xbox, once. Maybe. At least, Larson-Green won't make the same rollout mistakes that dogged Mattrick's last months at Microsoft. Maybe.

This much seems sure: Microsoft's been very successful at milking its old cash cows and coming up with profitable new products. I expect that Microsoft itself will continue to do very well, and the reorg may indeed help. The old guard is changing, old products are dying. This reorg demonstrates that, at least, Microsoft is smart enough to change course and face into the wind.

Some say it's too little, too late. I disagree.

This story, "The new Microsoft: How the reorg will affect you," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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