I realize by wall-street standards he is a great Ceo, since he has cut and slashed and returned microsoft to short term "profits" by being another IBM and going after enterprise.
But personally I think a company, especially tech, needs to be more than just profit.
I read that he never agreed with Balmer to acquire Nokia, so he basically decided to kill the phone division from the beginning. But that choice was choosing to make microsoft completely irrelevant to mainstream culture and will make microsoft completely irrelevant over time.
And I think consumer relevance is the ultimate driver of enterprise and not the other way around.
So it's easy to go for short term profits, but eventually google will eat them for lunch as everyone including enterprise will move on.
Microsoft seems to have an inability to commit and also doesn't seem to understand the value of a product line that isn't first place.
They should have kept the Lumia - it was a well respected product line with a loyal following. If they wanted to reduce expenses they could have just reduced the release cycle to a new phone every few years but staying committed to the OS would have had long term benefits.
Google has a single main income stream, next to which, all others are dwarfed: search. If anyone invents a better search that people adopt, or search becomes redundant, google could fall off the face of the earth.
Microsoft by comparison has a diversified profit portfolio. About 1/3 of profits come from from their games studios, who's names are various umbrella'd under 'xbox studios' formerly 'microsoft studios'. A larger share comes from cloud based services including block chain, which serve everything from informational databases to industrial factories IoT. Then there's the other portion; service subscriptions, windows, office and cloud storage.
In reality, for all the brand recognition google, or even apple have, they have never managed to get a significant foothold in any other industries. For google it's even worse; because their profit model is a new, and relatively untested advertising based model, and no one can guess how stable that is. But should for eg Google lose search, there would no longer be any benefit in them giving chrome or android away for free, and the house of cards collapses,as those are only vehicles to force people to view adds.
Around the time when Microsoft bowed out of the smartphone market, it was just years before we officially hit 'saturation' in the west. That's the point when instead of uptake, everyone already has one. This is the time when sales diminish significantly, when upgrade cylces grow longer, and when competition loves to price point and value proposition competition at the middle and budget teirs of device. It's a bad time to invest heavily in phones. Samsung is sinking, the mid teir is exploding, apple is about to sink and the whole profit from that industry will get thinner as people will start to 'buy just what I need, and only when my old phoe doesn't do it'
What you'll see in the next five years or so, is the collapse of apples profit model, largely based on the iphone. As deveoping nations like india approach saturation, there will be a massive sales collapse. If they aren't careful that could crush them.
This is why it's not just MSFT looking for 'the next big thing', in AR/VR, AI/ IoT, but all of these companies. Because whilst the next big thing won't grow as fast as smartphones used to, it'll be that growth.
MFST is actually doing very well, especially this year. Games are approximately a 140 billion dollar industry (profit, not gross), and growing, and lead ahead of movies, save for a few big franchises with toy sales etc. Games is a growth industry, unlike smartphones (and includes games ON smartphones). Cloud based computing and IoT has some major advances ahead of it, as the cloud becomes more intelligent. Companies deal in information, and nothing is keeping up with Azure. For services MFST does extraordinarily well next to most companies selling such things, partly because it's bundled and designed to work together, and best of all offline where it is reliable, responsive and feature rich.
Good news for MSFT too, not only is VR the fastest growing of all those new future techs, but windows mixed reality now has over 12% market share and growing because of it's efforts (and deal with steam). The Hololens borrows that momentum with it's UWP, windows core platform.
Whilst apple has yet not even really entered such markets, and google has focused on slower growing IoT, and yet to mature cloud based AI. Googles growth proposition is especially tricky as a near monolophy on search, and producing AI products that don't come at a fee. I predict some point they'll need something more to grwo.
The last part might be especially tricky given MSFT also has some stiff competition heading their way, with the next upcoming cortana, and it's TRUELy natural language interaction and contextual understanding pulled from an AI language startup, as well as MSFT's own AI api's, all of which can be adapted by thrid parties, and run with the cloud.
Technology and commerce changes moment to moment. These days, who's really heard of IBM, or nokia or blackberry or walkman? Apple nearly went bust pushing the apple mac until their cut everything and ran with the product that saved their company, the well executed but totally derivative ipod.
Brand regcognition only really gives you a second class when you product bombs.
My point is, the only thing is certain, is the winds of change are always blowing. You worry about the companies unaware of that, not the ones who've been through it, and know it quite well. The whole smartphone threat, now waning, that microsoft faced is exactly WHY they didn't put all eggs in one basket, some consumer, some business, and why they know when to be risk averse if a product isn't likely to have legs.