Ballmer schools SatNad on Microsoft's mobile strategy: You need one

Otherwise, everything's just fine and dandy

The world’s wealthiest activist shareholder, Steve Ballmer, has offered another critique of Microsoft, the company he helped build.

A Business Insider interview finds Ballmer – now an “outsider” – generous and complimentary on most aspects of Nadella’s leadership.

Ballmer thinks SatNad’s “cloudobile” pivot was something he couldn’t have pulled off. Microsoft now sees subscription revenue from the cloud as its top priority, and devotes its best efforts to writing good software for mobile platforms it doesn’t own. Office is now a service.

That’s fine – but not everything is well. Ballmer again complains that Microsoft is obfuscating its financial reporting, making a judgement of profitability in specific business units difficult. And he again has a pop at Microsoft’s mobile strategy. He thinks it needs one.

He also reminds Nadella that he thinks Xbox is as important as HoloLens, which is currently an expensive niche, but perhaps a gamechanger once the technology drops in size and price.

“The company really has to chart a direction in mobile devices. Because if you're going to be mobile-first, cloud-first you really do need to have a sense of what you're doing in mobile devices… but I’m sure they’ll get there.”

Ballmer saddled Nadella with an expensive acquisition which the latter clearly didn’t value: Nokia’s mobile devices unit. Once acquired, the unit bore the brunt of the cuts in 2014 and 2015, and last summer Nadella focused Microsoft's own device production on business and niche flagship devices.

A generous view of Microsoft's own mobile platform is that it's suffered as part of a multi-year turnaround based around a unified platform, with one code base for desktop, tablets and phones. A less generous view maintains that the shotgun compromise of desktop and phone UX styles is never going to satisfy a mobile market now accustomed to good design and performance – even from Google's Android.

Microsoft's two Lumia flagships officially shipped at the end of the last year but they were in such poor state they were unusable.

Ballmer lists his luxuries as his private plane and a weekly massage. More here. ®

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