Aug. 26--Microsoft -- the largest software maker in the world and a critical Kendall Square anchor -- needs a new grand marshal following longtime CEO Steve Ballmer's sudden announcement that he is retiring within a year.
The Redmond, Wash.-based company needs a leader who doesn't want every product to be centered around Windows and Microsoft Office. Both have excellent brand recognition, but the problem is what people are actually recognizing -- something old and stodgy. If Microsoft wants to excel as a consumer electronics company -- an ecosystem of laptops, mobile technology and home entertainment via the Xbox -- it needs to promote one of the following three people to the top job:
Vice President for Windows Phone Program Management Joe Belfiore: He's created the best smartphone interface on the market -- and also the most under-appreciated, due to incompetent branding. But branding is something Belfiore understands. That's what is behind his recent hipster makeover, which has been striking for the few of us who watch Microsoft Windows Phone presentations. In fact, he kind of looks like a young Apple fan, with his greasy long hair and blazer. He's the perfect face for a company that needs to be cooler and hipper. He knows how to give a great presentation just like the late Steve Jobs. And it's an added bonus, at least for me, that Wall Street would absolutely freak.
Stefan Weitz, director of Bing: Imagine breaking into the search engine market and having to take on the absolute domination of Google? Weitz did just that and he did it well. Bing has clawed its way to just below 20 percent of search-engine market share, which is no small accomplishment given the barriers. But Weitz's vision goes beyond search. With Bing, he's building a knowledge base for a future mobile personal assistant that aims to leapfrog Siri and Google Now. In fact, he said in a recent interview that he wants to "recreate the physical planet inside of Bing." He's a sagacious thinker and would cause a similar stir on Wall Street, while simultaneously drawing the right buzz and attention to a consumer products segment that desperately needs it.
Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division: Also under 40 and an incredible technical leader, Guthrie isn't afraid to go open source -- meaning that he's led the quest to allow developers to build applications using any language, tool or framework and publish them on the Internet. His developer tools have been a huge boon to the startup community. If he could bring his entrepreneurial mindset to the upper echelons of Microsoft, the company could be really fun to watch.
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