IDG's Paul Gillin interviewed Microsoft president Steve Ballmer via e-mail last week about what's behind the company's latest reorganisation.
IDG: What changes will customers actually see?
Ballmer: Hopefully, they'll see that the way we interact with them maps much more closely to the way they think about how their own businesses operate. But clearly, it will take a little time for the effect of all the changes to permeate through the entire organisation.
You and Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates said two weeks ago that the new business unit leaders are "empowered to drive product planning and marketing strategies". How is this different from before?
This reorganisation will give them even more freedom to run their own businesses - each of which are the size of large stand-alone companies. The net result should be that we can adapt to the changing needs of our customers even more quickly.
You've said that you want to delight the customer. Where were you not doing that?
It's clear that some of our customers have been unhappy with some aspects of the quality and ease of use of our software, with the service we provide them and with an organisation that many of them felt could have been more adept at meeting their needs. This reorganisation will hopefully go a long way toward addressing those shortfalls.
You're consolidating Windows products under one operating system kernel, yet product management will be distributed among more than one group. How do you expect to maintain consistency?
This goes to the heart of the reorganisation. In the past, the company was structured purely along product lines, which meant that a major part of Microsoft was organised entirely around Windows.
But that didn't reflect the reality of the marketplace, where Windows has several very distinct and very different kinds of customers: the enterprise itself, knowledge workers and consumers. If we address the needs of customers, I don't think consistency will be a problem.
How many customers will require significant preparation in migrating from Windows 9.x to Windows 2000?
Migrating to any new operating system means a lot of preparation by customers, and there are bound to be some teething troubles. We're working hard to minimise compatibility issues, and by the time the OS launches, we obviously aim to have them solved for all but the most arcane applications.