Microsoft Is Its Own Greatest Obstacle

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Microsoft's (MSFT) fate will be determined this month.

Admittedly, Microsoft's chances look brighter than they did even a little while ago. Windows 8 has momentum behind it, momentum from big enterprises, from customers that long ago standardized on Microsoft solutions. There will be sales, big sales.

But Microsoft needs more than sales. It needs zing. It has not had zing since Bill Gates left to save the world. (The author is a big Gates fan.)

There is the stink of yesterday on Microsoft, reflected in this ComputerWorld story by Gregg Keizer. CEO Steve Ballmer is courting developers for Windows 8, but he should have been doing that ages ago, Keizer writes.

As of today there are fewer than 2,500 apps available for Windows 8, the vast majority of them free, and the software comes out on Oct. 26, writes Wes Miller of WinAppUpdate. Developers have had the final version of Windows 8 since Aug. 15, notes Brandon LeBlanc of Blogging Windows.

What have they been doing with it? Tell us, please.

It's a chicken-and-egg problem, one that has been faced by every second-rate software company since the beginning of time. Microsoft's success in the consumer market depends on getting more hot apps into its store, but who is going to spend time writing those apps when there is no market for them?

Microsoft has strength in the business market and in gaming, and its Azure cloud should be competitive. But it suffers from image problems in all these areas.

In business, it's seen as stodgy. The hottest thing in the enterprise area is business applications like customer relationship management, human resources and finance. We know about Office365, which seeks to turn office applications into something you buy every month, as a service. So how about some Azure Applications? Take what you have, run them from there and tell people about them.

Speaking of Azure, there remains the impression that Azure is proprietary and unfriendly toward open source. Not true, but then why not say so?

Microsoft is barely advertising the thing, let alone refuting this "Windows in the cloud" idea. Any wonder why Azure lacks traction?

In games, Microsoft is seeing a move away from consoles toward mobile and social gaming. How about getting your hottest XBox games onto your Windows 8 tablets? How about combining Kinect and mobility in some way?

Microsoft is doing a lot of work aimed at bringing more kids to computer science, and bringing more foreign programmers to the U.S. But many of its moves look late and half-hearted.

Mashable says Microsoft is going back into the news business. Has it heard of the Huffington Post and The Daily Beast? Does it have a take on the news, or is it going to be like CNN? Because that's not working.

Want my thought? Open some foreign "news" bureaus, collecting stories that no one else is bringing to America, and bring them here. Translate them. Build community around them. Build a global community and make stars of news people we've never heard of.

Back in February we got a flurry of news stories, like this one in Business Insider, labeling Tim Cook look-alike Steve Sinofsky, 47, as Ballmer's heir apparent. Changing the game means promoting the man to CEO, the sooner the better.

It used to be, a few years ago, that Microsoft dwarfed other tech giants in market cap. Today Google ( GOOG) is worth more than Microsoft.

Let me summarize, in case the folks in Redmond haven't heard me yet.Change the game or you're going to lose it.

At the time of publication, the author had a position in MSFT..

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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