This just in from the “Seriously, WTF?” Department:
Stephen Elop, Nokia’s ex CEO, has been appointed to lead Microsoft’s Devices and Studios division, the part of the company that looks after Surface tablets, the Xbox games console and all of Microsoft’s games. He takes over from Julie Larson Green, who is moving into the Applications and Services group which handles Bing, Office and Skype, as its chief experience office.
The problem is, when Elop was being considered for the position of Microsoft CEO it was rumoured that should he take over from Ballmer, he would kill off some of Microsoft’s major business units – including both Bing and the Xbox division – “if they weren’t critical to the business’s strategy”. Which, according to the outline he gave of his CEO strategy to Bloomberg last year, they wouldn’t be.
Elop’s vision for a post-Ballmer Microsoft was, apparently, one that punts Office and other super-lucrative enterprise technologies as hard as possible while steering away from costly and distracting pursuits like taking on Google with Bing, and Sony with the Xbox.
Worryingly, the Bloomberg report also said that Microsoft’s share price shot up to its highest level since the mid-2000s when an analyst from Nomura Holdings Inc. indicated that killing Bing and selling off the Xbox division would raise Microsoft’s 2015 fiscal earnings by 40%.
Fortunately, in his new role as Devices and Studios head, Elop’s strategy won’t be leading the company and so selling off the Xbox division isn’t his call to make. Still, that surge in investor confidence on even just the possibility of it happening, along with Elop’s clear lack of regard for the Xbox division is enough to keep the possibility alive, and hence our concern.
Lastly, he’s also clearly not a gaming man who understands the value of the Xbox brand. With any luck, Julie Larson Green and her team have convinced him of its worth during the handover, but that still remains to be seen.
There may be interesting times ahead for the Green Team with a new leader at the helm, but for the sake of gamers everywhere hopefully those times won’t be interesting in the Chinese sense.