More than four years ago, I gave up my cell phone. I dropped the plan and ditched the phone for two main reasons, including:
- Style of phone no longer offered. The industry stopped producing military type candy bar phones.
- Dumb phones no longer supported. Correspondingly, the industry embraced smart phones, which generated more gross, and net profits.
Microsoft, though, gives me great hope that the phone I want could soon be offered because of (a) two acquisitions and (b) a change in leadership. In first quarter 2011, Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion for reasons that no one can understand. In third quarter 2013, Microsoft bought Nokia's handset unit for $5 billion and another $2.1 billion for various patents held by Nokia. Similar to the Skype purchase, this deal makes little season to industry pundits and watchers. Except for the Xbox, Microsoft's forays into technology hardware have been met with failure including Zune and Kin.
In the mobile market, Google and Apple have maintained a lock on customer and share of market. In turn, Microsoft's hand-held, and tablet devices cannot gain traction.
The departure of CEO Steve Ballmer offers some hope that Microsoft can avoid a long, slow slide into irrelevance with the hiring of a new CEO. Ram Charan enumerates three criteria that the next CEO must offer for Microsoft, including:
First and foremost is ability to lead the integration of hardware, software, and advanced analytics with a focus on the consumer… Second is the skills to mobilize the ecosystem. Third is a record of knitting together a divisive culture.
A military grade cell phone running Skype's software would reflect the integration of Microsoft's ecosystem and justify those two purchases. Plus, it would bring consumers like me into the market. A partnership with T-Mobile or Sprint would allow a retailer such as Best Buy or Target to sell this Microsoft market offering. Alternatively, the device could run only through Ethernet and/or WiFi network.
To create growth, Microsoft will either attract consumers from Android or iOS devices, or convert non-users into users. The latter would be easier for Microsoft than the former. With such a market offering, I would be enticed to return to the handset market while buying my first piece of Microsoft hardware.