Microsoft to ditch hundreds more workers in smartphone streamlining measures

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After the sale of its feature phone business last week, Microsoft is making further structuring changes. Announcing the "additional step of streamlining our smartphone hardware business" Terry Myerson says that up to 1,850 jobs could be impacted, with the vast majority of these (1,350) being in Finland.

He also says that the company will continue "develop great new devices", no doubt fueling rumors of the highly-anticipated Surface Phone. Microsoft recognizes that its success with phones have been "limited", and Myerson's memo to employees reiterates the company’s commitment to the Windows platform, and Windows 10 in particular.

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We have already seen a huge number of Microsoft apps popping up on iOS and Android -- often long before Windows Phone versions -- and this is something that looks set to continue.  Myerson says that "regardless of a person's phone choice, we want everyone to be able to experience what Microsoft has to offer them".

While the streamlining news will come as a disappointment to those affected, those on the outside will see this as a shrewd business decision. CEO Satya Nadella said:

We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation -- with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same. We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms.

In an internal memo to staff, reproduced by the Verge, Terry Myerson broke the news:

Team,

Last week we announced the sale of our feature phone business. Today I want to share that we are taking the additional step of streamlining our smartphone hardware business, and we anticipate this will impact up to 1,850 jobs worldwide, up to 1,350 of which are in Finland. These changes are incredibly difficult because of the impact on good people who have contributed greatly to Microsoft. Speaking on behalf of Satya and the entire Senior Leadership Team, we are committed to help each individual impacted with our support, resources, and respect.

For context, Windows 10 recently crossed 300 million monthly active devices, our Surface and Xbox customer satisfaction is at record levels, and HoloLens enthusiasts are developing incredible new experiences. Yet our phone success has been limited to companies valuing our commitment to security, manageability, and Continuum, and with consumers who value the same. Thus, we need to be more focused in our phone hardware efforts.

With this focus, our Windows strategy remains unchanged:

  1. Universal apps. We have built an amazing platform, with a rich innovation roadmap ahead. Expanding the devices we reach and the capabilities for developers is our top priority.
  2. We always take care of our customers, Windows phones are no exception. We will continue to update and support our current Lumia and OEM partner phones, and develop great new devices.
  3. We remain steadfast in our pursuit of innovation across our Windows devices and our services to create new and delightful experiences. Our best work for customers comes from our device, platform, and service combination.

At the same time, our company will be pragmatic and embrace other mobile platforms with our productivity services, device management services, and development tools -- regardless of a person's phone choice, we want everyone to be able to experience what Microsoft has to offer them.

With that all said... I used the words "be more focused" above. This in fact describes what we are doing (we're scaling back, but we're not out!), but at the same time I don't love it because it lacks the emotional impact of this decision. When I look back on our journey in mobility, we've done hard work and had great ideas, but have not always had the alignment needed across the company to make an impact. At the same time, Ars Technica recently published a long story documenting our journey to create the universal platform for our developers. The story shows the real challenges we faced, and the grit required to get it done. The story closes with this:

"And as long as it has taken the company, Microsoft has still arguably achieved something that its competitors have not... It took more than two decades to get there, but Microsoft still somehow got there first".

For me, that's what focus can deliver for us, and now we get to build on that foundation to build amazing products.

Terry

Photo credit: StockStudio / Shutterstock

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