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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Microsoft re-orgainzes but where's the design guru?

A few days ago I had put out a post on Microsoft's attempt to make itself relevant again.  Microsoft is still a larger than life entity in the tech world but looking forward five years, ten years or twenty years from now, I pondered on whether they will still be able to carry the same sort of clout as they have for the last thirty years.  Microsoft has lost a number of senior people who were responsible for some fairly major projects including those heading the Windows and gaming divisions of the company.

Then on Thursday, Microsoft announced their reorganization and they shifted the focus back onto unifying the company.  Moving from a product centric structure and it has organized itself around specific functions.  That means engineering, marketing, business development, advanced strategy & research, finance, HR and operations get centralized for all product groups.
Microsoft's structure previously was designed to promote infighting
according to many industry experts.  Let's hope this changes now.
Image: http://gigaom.com/2013/07/11/one-microsoft-reorg-aims-to-break-down-silos-good-luck-with-that/

While I hope for Microsoft this is the right step forward, it was starting to clone the way companies like Apple today operate.  That is except for one significant difference, there is no apparent design guru waiting in the wings at Microsoft.  Sir Jony Ive at Apple is the Senior VP of Design and responsible for the hardware and software design of the products we see today.  Over at Nokia, Marko Ahtissaari heads their design unit where details such as hardware design, packaging and software come under his purview.
Apple design chief, Sir Jony Ives after being knighted.
Image: wired.com
In Microsoft's case, this still looks to be a divided function and if Microsoft wants to be the company that inspires us going forward, a design guru is a must.  The UI changes that Microsoft implemented with something like Windows 8 have been radical and this has been a problem with many users who failed to understand it.  Sir Jony Ive is battling the same issues with iOS 7 on the iPhone where he has also been vary of the fact that if you change too much, you risk abandoning the masses.

So Microsoft, if you're listening, centralize your design team and give us a design guru who can reach the same sort of cult status as Sir Jony.

Posted by: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics LLC