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Post-Ballmer, Microsoft Must Focus on Products to Avoid Extinction

With the Ballmer era ending, it’s time to reinvent the company
Post-Ballmer, Microsoft Must Focus on Products to Avoid Extinction
Photo illustration by Alis Atwell; Source: Alamy (7) Microsoft (1) The Natural History Museum/Alamy (7)

Whip out the elegant, light, superthin Asus Zenbook on an airplane, and you’re sure to attract stares. The PC stands out even more with Microsoft’s Windows 8 software, its touchscreen full of colorful tiles promising a glimpse of the future. But that view starts to get foggy when Windows 8 tries to work with Microsoft Office 2013, lagging or freezing up as it attempts a task as ambitious as saving a document. This divide—between how good Microsoft’s products look and how badly they still behave—partly led to Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer’s Aug. 23 announcement that he’ll leave within a year.

Ballmer will hand his successor Windows 8, the Windows Phone mobile operating system, and the forthcoming Xbox One video game console. These are good and often beautiful products. Really. The not-so-small task for Ballmer’s replacement will be to turn those innovations into something more: easy, fun, useful products that don’t disappoint.