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posted by janrinok on Thursday January 13, @07:12AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Should Microsoft sell Windows and Office? This former exec believes so:

A former Microsoft executive has offered up some advice for current CEO Satya Nadella: spin off Windows and Office and focus on Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing crown jewel.

Ben Slivka, a 14-year veteran at Microsoft who left in 1999, gave the unsolicited advice to Nadella in an interview with CNBC, saying: "The right thing probably is to bet the future on the cloud."

[...] On top of this, Nadella invested heavily in building out Azure and other enterprise-focused offerings to compete with Amazon's AWS and Google Cloud. By some estimates, Azure hold 20% of the cloud market, below AWS' 32% and above Google's 9%.

According to analysts that CNBC spoke to, spinning off Windows and Office would make very little sense. Nadella has built significant and much-needed synergies between Microsoft's various businesses, in such a way that the rise of one boosts the others.

So what do you think?


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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by MostCynical on Thursday January 13, @07:44AM (1 child)

    by MostCynical (2589) on Thursday January 13, @07:44AM (#1212359) Journal

    check out his website [benslivka.com] (warning, design may generate vomit response)

    The man is irrelevant, but someone asked him a question on twitter - so he gave an opinion, that would generate controversy... and is 22+ years out of date.

    --
    "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by progo on Thursday January 13, @08:07PM

      by progo (6356) on Thursday January 13, @08:07PM (#1212507) Homepage

      What specifically is wrong with Slivka's personal web site's design? It looks fine to me.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Orion Blastar on Thursday January 13, @07:51AM (6 children)

    by Orion Blastar (5270) on Thursday January 13, @07:51AM (#1212361)

    would be to open-source Windows and Office. Azure is where the real money is at. Port Office to Linux and other platforms and let people fork Windows to do what they want with it.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by zocalo on Thursday January 13, @08:34AM (5 children)

      by zocalo (302) on Thursday January 13, @08:34AM (#1212369)
      Having seen how much a corporate is paying for Office subscriptions, and knowing how reluctant said corporates are to try cheaper (or libre) alternatives, I can assure you that there is *plenty* of money left to be milked out of the Office Cash Cow as well, and now that much of it is subscription based it's a lot easier for predicting future revenue for Microsoft too.

      They're also not averse to supporting other platforms - Apple (paid-for) and Android (free, IIRC) - so if Linux on the Desktop were to become a serious enough thing in corporates (I suspect individual users of Linux are more likely to use alternatives) to create a large enough potential market I don't doubt they'd want to try milking that subscription teat as well.
      --
      UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday January 13, @01:14PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @01:14PM (#1212395) Journal
        Yea, there's plenty of cow left.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DannyB on Thursday January 13, @06:23PM (3 children)

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @06:23PM (#1212458) Journal

        Making Office open source would not be mutually exclusive with getting big corporations to buy exorbitant extortionate maintenance subscriptions. Now with a $5 discount coupon per user!

        Making Windows open source may significantly improve Windows and at a more rapid pace. It would also make it easier to migrate more and more the the open source licensed Windows components into Linux until Linux IS Windows. To mollify some of the Linux crowd, systemd could be removed once and for all from this new Windows based Linux. Linux would now have excellent compatibility with Windows. A config file could specify which drive letter (default drive C) is used for pathnames that begin with only a forward slash.

        Another competing team within Microsoft could extend and expand the capabilities of WSL until all Linux distributions are just a point and click install from the Windows App store.

        --
        While in an airport, never use the word "balm".
        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday January 13, @06:50PM (2 children)

          by Immerman (3985) on Thursday January 13, @06:50PM (#1212477)

          Making Office open source would not be mutually exclusive with getting big corporations to buy exorbitant extortionate

          Maybe not, but it would make it a *lot* more difficult to charge as much. Especially since almost everyone recognizes that Microsoft customer support is virtually nonexistent. Really hard to convince the pencil-pushers that they should pay $100+ per seat, per year for dubious "support", especially when an open-source version would rapidly gain compatibility with alternate server-side services. Not to mention the organizations that would deploy hundreds of seats of OSS, and then buy a handful of subscriptions to qualify for what little support is actually available.

          Just look at Red Hat, Ubuntu, etc - the paid-for versions account for only a small percentage of the total installed base. That may be fine when your "boutique" distro is carving a profitable niche out of a free ecosystem - but Microsoft is currently raking in the dough over their entire ecosystem, what possible motive do they have to surrender a huge portion of that?

          Making Windows open source may significantly improve Windows and at a more rapid pace.

          Almost certainly - but how does that benefit Microsoft? Improving Windows is not their goal - it's a means to accumulating money. The only reason they care about improving Windows is to (A) keep people from migrating to another OS and (B) keep people buying new versions. And at this point it's become clear that a negligible number of people are seriously considering migrating, and that the only reason most people upgrade is because they either bought a new computer with a newer OS pre-installed, or because Microsoft stopped supporting the old version. While they've made a few stability improvements, it's been 20 years and they still haven't delivered any of the actual functionality improvements that were supposed to provide a reason to upgrade to Longhorn (aka pre-released Vista)

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @12:01AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @12:01AM (#1212547)
            Why do idiots keep posting this shit. Microsoft has licensed plenty of the software in Windows and Office, and cannot open source either of them.
            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday January 15, @05:09PM

              by Immerman (3985) on Saturday January 15, @05:09PM (#1212950)

              Of course they could - just not the bits they licensed from someone else. Nothing says you have to open source 100% of your code, unless you're using GPL or similar. And actually not even then, unless they're integrating *other people's* GPL code without requiring contributors to transfer copyright or grant Microsoft a more permissive license.

              The GPL puts no restrictions on the copyright holder, only on the third-party redistributors who only gain distribution rights if they comply with the license.

              It would mean that nobody else could distribute an alternate Windows distro without replacing all the non-included non-OSS bits, or at least removing the features that rely on them, but that would likely be seen as a benefit by Microsoft.

              You could certainly argue that doing so violates the spirit of Free Software - but Open Source eschews that spirit by design in favor of more practical concerns, and lots of companies have used variations on the theme over the years.

              I believe Open Office was essentially in that position prior to the donation to The Apache Foundation, and subsequent permissive re-licensing that allowed for the Libre Office fork to exist. And there's lots of dual-licensed projects that have exploit a similar arrangement that allows them to sell non-OSS licenses, often including extra features not included in the OSS version. (I want to say QT was one of those?)

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by driverless on Thursday January 13, @08:00AM (6 children)

    by driverless (4770) on Thursday January 13, @08:00AM (#1212363)

    The only thing Microsoft have done for at least the last ten, if not fifteen years, is fuck up both Windows and Office more and more. If it was moved out of their clutches it might be safe from further fuckery. So: Roll back to Windows 7 and pre-Ribbon Office, spin them out, and run them in maintenance mode without fucking them up again by adding more and more crap that no-one ever asked for or wanted.

    • (Score: 2) by looorg on Thursday January 13, @10:24AM

      by looorg (578) on Thursday January 13, @10:24AM (#1212383)

      From a user/consumer perspective I would like this. That said I don't think this is in the interest of Microsoft. There is still plenty of cash on the table so to speak in Windows and Office to just walk away from it. I guess there would also be a lot of QQ about it from the alternatives then if Windows and Office became free. I guess it would practically kill all the other options on the spot. No need to run those office clones anymore when the MS office suite is free. I guess Linux and Apple wouldn't complain, they have their locked in userbase already. But a lot of people would probably be fine with Win7 (the last good one) be free. But still it would probably be the whole Netscape Navigator vs Internet Explorer saga in a rerun as far as Office was concerned.

      They could even make it free for consumers while still charging companies and other agencies for it. After all they are usually the once that also get support. So they sort of get what they paid for. But I don't think it's an option really.

      Betting all their option on "the cloud" tho sounds like a great idea .... /sarcasm/

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday January 13, @06:26PM (3 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @06:26PM (#1212460) Journal

      Microsoft needs to ditch the Ribbon interface in Office and other Microsoft software.

      Introducing the new Donut interface. A large Ring pops up (the "donut") in the center of the monitor, taking up most of the visible monitor. With the mouse, you can rotate the donut like a "wheel of fortune" until the correct function is at the top of the wheel ("the winner"). Once the correct function is in the winner square, releasing the mouse button executes it.

      --
      While in an airport, never use the word "balm".
      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday January 13, @06:54PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Thursday January 13, @06:54PM (#1212481)

        Spinning seems utterly superfluous when you can simply move your cursor in the correct direction.

        Eliminate that and you've got a pie menu - they are actually quite nice and efficient to use, and I believe the b.s. patents on the idea should have expired by now.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @08:20PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @08:20PM (#1212510)

        WinTorus™

        Wait until they reinvent the ball from the IBM Selectric typewriter.

        Is there anything new since Word2K?

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by driverless on Friday January 14, @09:17AM

        by driverless (4770) on Friday January 14, @09:17AM (#1212645)

        Microsoft needs to ditch the Ribbon interface in Office and other Microsoft software.

        Maybe they could gamify it, I hear that's trendy. So you have all 857 buttons from the Ribbon floating around at the top of the screen and you have a cannon at the bottom controlled by the mouse wheel that you use to shoot the one you want to activate, that'd make using a word processor much more fun and engaging!

        Perhaps they could store them in the blockchain for extra cromulence.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @02:14AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @02:14AM (#1212571)

      The tech giant has added a feature which examines the language being used and highlighting any words that may offend an individual, The Sun reported.

      Word will now highlight no-no words with a purple line beneath any problematic words or phrases that focus on gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity or even "socioeconomic status."

      Red lines are for spelling errors.

      Green lines for grammar mistakes.

      And now, purple lines are politically correct language police alerts.

      If you type a bigoted word like, let's say... "postman," Word will offer less offensive, gender-neutral alternatives like "mail carrier" or "postal worker."

      - Microsoft Word introduces new "woke" feature to monitor your language [notthebee.com]

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by aristarchus on Thursday January 13, @08:04AM (5 children)

    by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday January 13, @08:04AM (#1212364) Journal

    Couldn't Microsoft just die in a fire, to atone for the sins they have inflicted upon general purpose computing over the years?

    --
    #Freearistarchus, again!!!!!1!!
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @09:18AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @09:18AM (#1212373)

      That is not enough. Their locations throughout the world must be surrounded, all employees (from C-level suite execs to janitor staff) hauled out into the open in chains, lined up, and one-by-one have their hearts torn out of their screaming bodies while the crowds cheer.

      • (Score: 5, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @03:20PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @03:20PM (#1212426)

        I got better. Oracle could buy them.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday January 13, @06:27PM (1 child)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @06:27PM (#1212462) Journal

          This could be a good thing.

          The entire .NET runtime system could be rewritten in Java.

          --
          While in an airport, never use the word "balm".
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @12:04AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @12:04AM (#1212548)
            >> This could be a good thing. The entire .NET runtime system could be rewritten in Java.

            Log4Shell wants a word with you.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @10:44AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, @10:44AM (#1212649)

          Touche. That indeed would be worse.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @09:04AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @09:04AM (#1212372)

    Office is actually selling Azure. Companies use Azure because they _need_ to look into Azure when using Office365.

    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday January 13, @02:01PM

      by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @02:01PM (#1212406)

      Exactly this. Office363, Exchange and Sh$$point as a bundle drives their market share. Without this, why not just go with AWS?

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by crafoo on Thursday January 13, @10:06AM (4 children)

    by crafoo (6639) on Thursday January 13, @10:06AM (#1212379)

    I've worked in an office. I've seen how tubby middle managers live on coffee, Outlook, and Power Point files. There must be millions of them. How could Office be bad business?

    Windows though. That must be a real PITA to keep up with, keep somewhat relevant, and to deal with all the daily BS of being the largest commercial OS. Lots of personnel, lots various interfaces with the public and organizations and various legal issues, routinely.

    But yeah, competing directly with Amazon, Facebook, Google for NSA/CIA contracts must be where the real money is.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @11:32AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @11:32AM (#1212387)

      "I've worked in an office. I've seen how tubby middle managers live on coffee, Outlook, and Power Point files. There must be millions of them. How could Office be bad business?"

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday January 13, @01:20PM (2 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @01:20PM (#1212397) Journal
        Somebody pays for that work. They obviously don't see it as being as bullshit as you do.
        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Thexalon on Thursday January 13, @04:59PM (1 child)

          by Thexalon (636) on Thursday January 13, @04:59PM (#1212437)

          Not as much as you might think.

          In big-corporation politics, headcount of your reports is one of the major measurements of a manager's clout (the other one being budget). How much work those reports accomplish, and the profitability of that work, isn't always all that important to said manager's position or prospects of promotion. What also matters a great deal to these sorts is the perceived loyalty or disloyalty among their lieutenants, and the manager's goal is to get said lieutenants to be loyal to that particular manager, not the company, because a loyal lieutenant will help the manager in their political battles, whereas a company-loyal lieutenant will undermine the manager if the manager is doing something that benefits themselves rather than the company. It's not uncommon to have employees whose sole real job is providing political support to their boss when they're asked to, regardless of what their job title and description says they're supposed to be doing.

          There are also, of course, nepotism hires and plenty of other kinds of corporate corruption out there.

          This kind of stuff tends to rear its ugly head once a company has reached the levels of sales that mean that major failures and dangerous incompetence don't actually jeopardize the company's existence. Sooner or later, you get managers who are good at playing the political game rather than good at actually running a business, and then that's what you're looking at, not the idealized profit-maximizing system of Adam Smith's imagination.

          And yes, I've seen this sort of thing in real life.

          --
          Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
          • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Saturday January 15, @01:45AM

            by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Saturday January 15, @01:45AM (#1212827)

            This kind of stuff tends to rear its ugly head once a company has reached the levels of sales that mean that major failures and dangerous incompetence don't actually jeopardize the company's existence. Sooner or later, you get managers who are good at playing the political game rather than good at actually running a business, and then that's what you're looking at, not the idealized profit-maximizing system of Adam Smith's imagination.

            It happens in businesses even when major failures and dangerous incompetence do actually jeopardize the company's existence. Middle managers in too many places manage to maximum their "performance" bonuses, not company profits. Those deciding what is worth giving someone a bonus for are making decisions based on their own set of numbers that they are trying to achieve. The reports that make it to the upper levels are often fantastical reports that are based on reports that are based, somewhere way down the pile of turtles, on reports of actual data. What shows up at the top is what those at the top want to see. There's a reason so many businesses go under or are sold off.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Thursday January 13, @12:56PM (2 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @12:56PM (#1212390) Homepage Journal

    There was talk of Microsoft diversifying years ago. I kinda chuckled when I first read it, because Microsoft really has nothing to sell other than software. Today they have Azure, but not back then.

    I've always wondered just WTF they do with all the data they collect. Telemetry is a common point of discussion these days, but even 25 years ago, they were quietly collecting data. That was the major reason I've always avoided Windows, I didn't know what they collected, or what they did with their collection. WTF were they doing with it?

    Microsoft, diversify? Azure is just a more efficient way to collect data, when you think about it. Why snoop on people's desktops, when those people are happy to 'trust' the cloud with their data? Maybe, maybe not. I'm sure that the most trusting of people have stuff on their desktops that they don't put on the cloud. Gotta keep tabs on all the data!

    But, where does that data GO? Straight to the NSA? That's some weird shit that no one has ever even attempted to explain.

    --
    “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” ― George S. Patton on Ukraine
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DannyB on Thursday January 13, @06:31PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @06:31PM (#1212465) Journal

      Microsoft can not only snoop on user's browsing, but Microsoft has its fingers right in the kernel of every Windows running PC on the planet. Talk about being able to snoop on every single program you run. What those programs do. How those programs are written. What data is being passed through those programs. Nevermind having unfettered access to all of the pr0n information stored on every PC in existence.

      --
      While in an airport, never use the word "balm".
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Common Joe on Thursday January 13, @08:02PM

        by Common Joe (33) Subscriber Badge <{common.joe.0101} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday January 13, @08:02PM (#1212504) Journal

        Other people throughout this post keep saying how useless Windows is and how much it costs and that is why Microsoft should just get rid of it. However, you just highlighted the exact reason why they won't and why it is so profitable to keep Windows. Whether the user uses Azure of AWS, 90%+ users go through Windows to do it.

  • (Score: 2) by theluggage on Thursday January 13, @01:52PM

    by theluggage (1797) on Thursday January 13, @01:52PM (#1212402)

    Anonymised seller: Psst! Wanna buy a market-leading operating system? Comes with matching office suite supporting industry standard ('cos we bought the standards body)? Past it's peak now, 'cos it missed the mobile bus, and the only way is down, but there's a huge locked-in customer base who you can keep milking for the next decade with minimal support, while you migrate them them your new, more profitable cloud platforms. Plus, if y...

    Microsoft: Shut up and take our money!!! Except... didn't we already buy Minecraft*?

    Oracle: Hold our beer...

    (* Windows-on-Redstone coming... very slowly... :-) )

  • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday January 13, @01:53PM

    by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @01:53PM (#1212403) Journal

    I didn't RTFA this time because it's like running to spend time reading about the latest twists and turns of IBM, as in, not particularly relevant...

    That said, the last time I did look into MS's earnings several years ago, MS Office was still that company's cash cow with Azure taking on a more important role. Nearly every other product and sector of the company lost money. With the way the tech landscape has developed, dominating the desktop is no longer the killer strategy it once was, but it will keep the lights on at that company for some time yet. It may linger like Unisys or Sperry did.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @02:28PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, @02:28PM (#1212410)

    I hate all of big tech pretty equally, just to be clear. But if I wanted Microsoft to thrive in the long term:

    The share of Microsoft's revenue coming from Azure and related services, and Office 365, is growing at a rapid rate. So in that sense, I think Azure is the future of the company. However, I think any sane technology company would be better off using AWS or dozens of other options. I believe the reason Azure is popular is because IT professionals, CIOs, and CTOs that spent the prior twenty years with Office, Sharepoint, Exchange, ActiveDirectory, and Windows desktop are running home to mommy. They go with Azure because the Microsoft ecosystem and products and sales representatives are what they already know.

    So Microsoft's future is Azure, but Windows and Office are critical pillars supporting the on-ramp.

    Now, by reputation, Azure isn't a great cloud. I know rumors can start in countless ways and a lot of the tech industry has a well-earned bias against Microsoft. But my suspicion is that the same corporate culture that leads to buggy experiences and inconsistent user interface features, confusing errors, and so forth in Windows desktop has been applied to their cloud. I'd probably go AWS first - if I'm going to sell my soul to the devil, I want the devil to be ruthlessly efficient prince of darkness and not a cross between Satan and the Three Stooges.

  • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Thursday January 13, @03:14PM

    by Freeman (732) on Thursday January 13, @03:14PM (#1212423) Journal

    Without Windows / Office, what would they have? XBox? Ah, Azure cloud would sustain them, if nothing else.

    --
    Forced Microsoft Account for Windows Login → Switch to Linux.
  • (Score: 2) by srobert on Thursday January 13, @03:23PM

    by srobert (4803) on Thursday January 13, @03:23PM (#1212428)

    So MS remaining business would be firmly anchored to the cloud. Why doesn't that metaphor fill me with confidence about their stock?

  • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Thursday January 13, @06:40PM (3 children)

    by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @06:40PM (#1212471)

    "Should Microsoft sell Windows and Office?"

      Most people will just pirate it instead.

    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Thursday January 13, @08:00PM (2 children)

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 13, @08:00PM (#1212501) Homepage Journal

      Relying on "piracy" is how Microsoft established its market in China.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by isostatic on Thursday January 13, @11:25PM (1 child)

        by isostatic (365) on Thursday January 13, @11:25PM (#1212543) Journal

        s/China/the world/

        Back in the 90s the casual copying of windows and office from the office to home, and from the computer expert to everyone in the street, meant that everyone used Microsoft

        This has two effects

        1) made windows/office the standard as everyone used it

        2) prevented any other system from gaining a foothold as it was always cheaper to use windows/office

        It wasn’t until the 2000s that Microsoft started to put even a modicum of effort into preventing copying it, and then onpy really in the west. “Piracy” was rampant in the Far East for years after that.

        • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Friday January 14, @10:52PM

          by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 14, @10:52PM (#1212790) Homepage Journal

          The Microsoft executive responsible for marketing in China was actually praised and rewarded for his strategy there, which consisted of encouraging "piracy".

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday January 13, @07:27PM (1 child)

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Thursday January 13, @07:27PM (#1212489)

    Office Commercial, Office Consumer, and Windows Commercial products revenue all grew by double digit percentages last year per the annual report. Why would you give away a money tree?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, @11:01AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, @11:01AM (#1213100)

      I had similar thoughts. Maybe his insights like this have something to do with the "former" part of being a Microsoft executive.

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