Three Fixes for Microsoft's Bottom Line 'We' Want

Three Fixes for Microsoft's Bottom Line 'We' Want
Artwork: Chip Taylor
Microsoft's profits and revenues are down like everyone else's in this whirlwind economy, but don't cry too much for Redmond just yet. With the new Windows 7 and Office 2010 applications on the horizon, there are three key moves the company can make to ring up more sales and revenue.

How bad are things for Microsoft right now?

Well, they're still not too bad, all things considered. This Thursday, Microsoft is expected to report earnings of 36 cents per share on revenue of $14.38 billion, down from 46 cents a share on $15.84 billion in revenue one year ago. Still nothing to sneeze at and a long, long way from losing money, but dropping year-to-year revenue is not something successful companies like to see.

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To fix this, Microsoft needs to take advantage of its new opportunities and get us all revved and excited again about its products. By doing so, the huge software maker could even help carry part of the U.S. economy on its back across the finish line to better days.

Here's where to start:

1) Don't be late with Windows 7. Bring it out as promised on October 22 this year. Not in December, like your big operating system delays in years past, which crushed holiday PC sales due to your foot-dragging. Nope, this time Microsoft has to get it right the first time and get it out the door right on time to prop up sales, consumer confidence and to prime the pump for new PC sales to consumers and businesses. Man, the economy could sure use a big boost like a successful and highly-anticipated Windows 7 release right now. No excuses, Redmond. Make it happen or you may not want to even look at what would likely be your dropping revenue and profit numbers for a while afterward.

2) Be sure and make the upcoming free Web version of Office 2010 work with the world-standard Open Document Format (ODF) and the open source OpenOffice and its related alternatives from Day 1. The rest of the world believes in ODF and its lovely file compatibility to make it much easier for users anywhere to share their documents without vendor lock-in and problems. You began working on this in earnest with Office 2007 Service Pack 2, but its time to really hit the ball a mile. No more half attempts just to try to score some points. Instead, make ODF compliance a key feature and watch Office 2010 head out of the sales park. Besides, imagine the goodwill generated by such a statement of cooperation. Just do it.

3) And the last item Microsoft needs to do has nothing to do with code. Instead, it has to do with its not-so-warm-and-fuzzy attitude toward consumers. It needs to be friendlier, with faster updates and security patch releases, and it needs to find more ways to continue the consumer-friendly, cheaper upgrade route for Windows 7, even though the first such program ended July 11. Making it cheaper and easier for consumers to get Windows 7 -- especially after making them have to put up with the peripherals-compatibility-challenged Windows Vista for the past couple years -- would be a smart move for revenue enhancement in the long run. One promising move is the recent announcement about the upcoming new Microsoft stores which will be opening across the nation. Taking a page from Apple's very successful retail stores, Microsoft can use the brick and mortar stores to fashion closer relationships with its users. And guess what, happy consumers spend money.

So, Redmond, are you listening? The economy is waiting.

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